In the fourth game of the season, the Olentangy Liberty High School softball team opened OCC-Cardinal Division play with a trip to the defending co-champions, Marysville.

In the fourth game of the season, the Olentangy Liberty High School softball team opened OCC-Cardinal Division play with a trip to the defending co-champions, Marysville.

It was the beginning of big things for the Patriots in 2010, as they won 5-4.

"When we beat Marysville our confidence level went up," first-year coach Angie Thompson said. "They're a quality program and when we beat them at their place, it opened the girls' eyes that maybe we can do this and maybe we're better than expected."

Liberty would win 11 consecutive games and earned the 11th seed for the Division I district tournament. On May 18, Liberty lost to sixth-seeded Hilliard Davidson 2-1 in a district semifinal to finish 17-8 overall.

"(Davidson) had clutch hits and we didn't," senior Cara Hunsinger said. "We left a lot of batters on base. It was a close game the whole way, they just inched by us."

Liberty's season-ending one-run loss was fitting considering the Patriots had 19 of their 25 games decided by three runs or fewer. Liberty was 11-8 in those games.

"Personally, I wanted one more game," Thompson said. "I wanted to get to that district final. I could see it on the kids' faces. They expected more from themselves. It's frustrating, but it doesn't put a sour note on the season at all."

Liberty accomplished its first goal of winning the OCC-Cardinal. The Patriots tied Marysville for first at 11-3, ahead of Westerville Central (10-4), Westerville North (7-7), Olentangy (6-8), Dublin Scioto and Westerville South (5-9) and Dublin Jerome at (1-13).

"I'm so proud of them and how they did something a lot of people didn't expect," said Thompson, whose team finished fifth in the conference at 7-7 last season.

Liberty will lose five seniors in Kristina Campbell (OF), Kirstie Fehrenbach (SS), Amanda Hatfield (3B), Hunsinger (P) and Lillie Norris (OF).

Hunsinger (17-7) finished with a 1.50 ERA. In 164 innings pitched, she had 90 strikeouts and opponents batted .217.

As a team, Liberty batted .309 and were led by Fehrenbach (.610 with 15 RBI and 25 stolen bases), Norris (.337, 18 RBI) and Campbell (.309).

"Of course we'll miss Cara's pitching and Kirstie's batting," Thompson said. "But just their leadership on the field is something we'll miss."

Among those expected to return include juniors Caitlin Adkins (2B), Jessica DeWulf (C), Tara Rissmeyer (OF), Dani Rivington (OF) and Allyson VanGundy (1B) and sophomores Sarah Drosos (P) and Aoife Duffy (C).

DeWulf batted .400 and threw out eight out of 23 runners from behind the plate. VanGundy batted .282 with a team-high 20 RBI.

"I'm very confident in the five juniors we have coming back," Thompson said. "They were groomed by these seniors. They played with them the last two to three years and they saw what it takes to work hard."

At a glance

• Record: 17-8 overall, 11-3 (tied for first) in OCC-Cardinal •Seniors lost: Kristina Campbell, Kirstie Fehrenbach, Amanda Hatfield, Cara Hunsinger and Lillie Norris •Key returnees: Jessica DeWulf and Allyson VanGundy