The Olentangy Orange High School softball team has struggled to remain competitive, but coach Bruce Leary said it's not for a lack of effort.

The Olentangy Orange High School softball team has struggled to remain competitive, but coach Bruce Leary said it's not for a lack of effort.

The Pioneers opened 2-4 but won just one of their next 12, getting outscored 113-20 during that stretch.

"We're getting great effort
out of everybody," Leary said. "We're just a young team. We have a long way to go, but we're making progress. Most of the time we're playing four or five good innings but have one or two bad innings.
"Early on it seemed like scoring wasn't going to be a problem and then we hit a slump. That part of the game comes and goes in a season. Our team batting average is around .250. It
doesn't fluctuate all that much, but it was higher earlier in the season. I think .250 is a good average for a first-year team with a bunch of young kids."

Orange has no seniors and starts six sophomores in Katrina Constancio (RF), Alex Eschenbach (LF), Maureen Flanagan (2B), Taylor McConnell (C), Katie Moran (3B) and Alex Morgan (P) and three freshmen in Abby Davidson (SS), Lauren Hunsinger (1B) and Jenny Sims (CF). McConnell started for Liberty last season and is the only player with varsity experience.

"We're definitely struggling, but overall we're really pleased with how we're playing," McConnell said. "We're trying to be realistic about the situation. But we know what we're capable of. We're trying to push ourselves to play the way we're capable of.

"There are times when it gets frustrating and we start making errors. That's going to happen. It's usually the little mistakes that hurt us. We're trying to get rid of those. I think we're starting to play as a team and not make that many mistakes."

•VALUABLE EXPERIENCE - Olentangy's pride may have been bruised when it lost to Gahanna 14-2 last Saturday, but coach Marty Mearhoff believes the experience the Braves gained from playing the Lions is invaluable.

Gahanna, which was third in the Division I state poll last week behind Elyria and Greenville, improved to 14-0.

"I'm really pleased that we had the opportunity to play Gahanna," Mearhoff said. "The only way to become the best is to play the best. We saw good softball being played. We'll learn from it and be better because of it."
Still, Olentangy seems poised to earn its first winning season since 2005 and possibly capture its first OCC championship since 2004.

"We got off to a fast start in the OCC, but there's a long way to go," Mearhoff said. "I think (the OCC-Cardinal Division title) is up for grabs."

Through 13 games, Ally Bayless was leading the Braves with a .293 batting average and a .500 on-base percentage. The on-base percentages for Haleigh Breuer and Suzy May were about .400, Mearhoff said.

"We're finding ways to get on base and we're getting timely hitting," Mearhoff said. "And we're doing it collectively. It's a true team effort."