When rain began pouring in the first inning of a Division II district final between the Lakewood and Olentangy high school softball teams on May 19 at Pickerington Central, Braves coach Marty Mearhoff figured it equally would hinder both squads.

When rain began pouring in the first inning of a Division II district final between the Lakewood and Olentangy high school softball teams on May 19 at Pickerington Central, Braves coach Marty Mearhoff figured it equally would hinder both squads.

But after second-seeded Lakewood took an 8-1 lead before the game was suspended in the second inning and went on to beat sixth-seeded Olentangy 11-1 in five innings when the game was completed May 21, Mearhoff said his team didn't adapt as well as the three-time defending state champions.

"Those were horrendous playing conditions that affected both teams, but Lakewood handled it and we didn't," Mearhoff said. "The pitchers had to deal with mud on their cleats and a wet ball, and (junior) Haleigh Breuer had trouble getting the ball over the plate and controlling her pitches. She gave up five hits, three walks, two home runs and eight runs and hit two batters in two innings in the rain, and that's not a typical performance for her at all. We had two passed balls in the rain, too. But we had our chances and didn't capitalize on them. We had the bases loaded in the top of the first and fifth innings and stranded those runners, and we stranded runners at first and third in the top of the third."

The loss ended a season in which the Braves finished 20-8 overall and 9-5 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.

Olentangy tied Westerville Central (also 9-5) for third in the OCC-Cardinal behind co-champions Marysville (11-3) and Westerville North (11-3) and ahead of Westerville South (6-8), Liberty (6-8), Dublin Scioto (2-12) and Dublin Jerome (1-13).

The Braves rallied from deficits to beat West Jefferson 4-3 on April 30, Liberty 4-3 in 12 innings on May 5, Marysville 2-1 in nine innings on May 9 and Big Walnut 9-8 on May 12 during the regular season.

After opening the district tournament with a 1-0 win over Granville on May 8, Olentangy also rallied from a three-run deficit to beat fifth-seeded Hartley 8-7 in eight innings in a semifinal May 16 at Pickerington North.

"We had several comebacks and we won our fair share of one-run games, which is a credit to our battery and defense," Mearhoff said.

The Braves will lose four senior starters in Athena Amick (2B), Ashley Forsythe (LF), Kate Matias (RF) and Lindsey Stanley (C).

Stanley batted .327 with 10 RBI and 23 runs to earn first-team all-district and second-team all-league honors.

Starters who are expected back are juniors Dani Bigham (1B/RF), Biz Brehm (CF), Breuer (P) and Amanda Wojta (SS), sophomore Megan Beidelman (3B) and freshman Hailey Wilson (P/1B).

Breuer went 18-7 with a 1.60 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 170 innings to be named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Breuer batted .295 with a .460 on-base percentage, 17 RBI and 19 runs.

Beidelman batted .301 with 14 RBI and nine runs and was named special mention all-league.

Wilson was honorable mention all-league. Brehm batted .288.

"Pitching is still a big part of the game and we're going to have a senior pitcher with good experience, so I think we're going to be good again next year," Mearhoff said.

Orange lost to Canal Winchester 10-4 in its Division II district tournament opener on May 11, but finished 12-11 overall for its first winning season.

The Pioneers beat Liberty 3-1 on April 30 and swept Mount Vernon in its OCC-Capital series, winning 8-3 on April 5 and 4-1 on April 21.

Orange finished third in the OCC-Capital at 8-6 behind Delaware (14-0) and Hilliard Bradley (11-3) and ahead of Big Walnut (7-7), Mount Vernon (7-7), New Albany (5-9), Watkins Memorial (3-11) and Franklin Heights (1-13).

"Beating Liberty was big because it's the first time we've beaten one of our sister schools in six attempts," coach Bruce Leary said. "Beating Mount Vernon twice was a big step up for us, and the way we played Delaware twice, even in losing (3-1 on April 18 and 7-6 on May 6) was good, too."

The Pioneers will lose three senior starters in Alex Eschenbach (LF), Kate Moran (1B) and Alex Morgan (P).

But 10 players who started multiple games are expected back in juniors Abby Davidson (SS), Alexis Evanko (2B), Lauren Hunsinger (C) and Jenny Sims (LF), sophomores Kaitlyn Brown (RF), Kelly Byrum (3B), Jamie Pence (CF), Mason Robinson (P) and Valery Rojas (RF) and freshman Rachel Ramsey (2B).

"We're looking really good for next year," Leary said. "I can't wait for next year to begin because I think we can compete for a league championship with the players we have coming back."

Liberty lost to Grove City 9-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament May 12 to finish 8-13 overall.

The Patriots went 6-8 to finish sixth in the OCC-Cardinal, but defeated Westerville Central 4-2 on April 15 and Westerville North 3-2 on April 28.

Liberty also played Olentangy tough on May 5 before losing 4-3 in 12 innings. The Patriots then opened the district tournament on May 10 with a 2-1 win over Dublin Coffman.

"We beat Westerville North and Westerville Central, who were two good teams," coach Bob Lee said. "Our two biggest highlights were the way we played against Olentangy and in the tournament against Dublin Coffman."

Liberty will lose four senior starters in Caitlin Adkins (2B), Jessica DeWulf (C), Tara Rissmeyer (CF) and Danica Rivington (RF).

Six starters are expected to return in juniors Sarah Drosos (1B), Aoife Duffy (3B) and Ashley Kelley (LF) and freshmen Katie Flanagan (P), Madison Kadlic (SS) and Hannah Worth (P).

"We're losing our No. 1 through 4 hitters, but we've got some key players coming back and our junior varsity team went 12-4, which is encouraging," Lee said. "This was our first year here for our coaching staff and the kids will be more familiar with our philosophy and system next year, which should help."