The Olentangy Orange High School softball team was inconsistent at the plate throughout the season.
That cost the Pioneers in a 2-1 loss to 11th-seeded Westerville Central in a Division I district semifinal May 21 at Pickerington Central.
Seeded fifth of 42 teams, Orange managed only four hits off Warhawks pitcher Paige McMenemy and gave up two unearned runs in the third inning. The Pioneers scored their only run in the fifth, as sophomore catcher Kyle Davidson drove in sophomore first baseman Jenn Kurelic with a double.
Orange, which finished 19-8 overall, had four errors against Westerville Central.
"Our defensive mistakes were uncharacteristic of our team because we've played good defense all year long," coach Bruce Leary said. "But that's not why we lost this game. The real story was we couldn't score more than one run. We've been inconsistent with our run production all season and it really cost us in this game."
The Pioneers, who defeated Westerville Central 5-0 on April 1, opened the district tournament with a 10-0, five-inning win over 23rd-seeded Upper Arlington in the second round May 16 after having a first-round bye. Senior pitcher Mason Robinson threw a no-hitter with four strikeouts and one walk and went 2-for-3 with three RBI against the Golden Bears.
Orange went 11-3 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Delaware for second, behind Olentangy (13-1) and ahead of Big Walnut (9-5), New Albany (6-8), Mount Vernon (3-11), Watkins Memorial (2-12) and Franklin Heights (1-13).
"We wanted to win the OCC, but hats off to Olentangy," Leary said. "Our division of the OCC was really strong with Delaware, us and Olentangy in there. We did beat Olentangy once and I feel good about splitting with the OCC champs."
Orange beat Delaware 4-3 on May 1 after losing to the Pacers 5-3 on April 15. It defeated Olentangy 8-1 on April 10 before losing to the Braves 3-1 on April 26.
Other highlights included a 2-1 win over Grove City on April 5 and a 3-0 victory over Mason on April 6. Both teams won district titles.
"We played the toughest schedule of any team in our district by far, so a 19-win season is a great accomplishment for us this year," Leary said. "Delaware was the No. 1 seed in our district and beating them at their place was huge for us."
Orange loses six seniors, including five regular starters in Robinson, Kaitlyn Brown (LF), Kelly Byrum (3B), Jamie Pence (CF) and Valery Rojas (RF).
Robinson went 18-4 in the circle and had a .448 batting average and was named first-team all-league. She finished with 60 career victories.
Byrum batted .293 and Pence was honorable mention all-league.
"Mason, Jamie and Kelly were all four-year starters who were an important part of our success," Leary said.
Among those expected to return are Davidson, Kurelic, junior Rachel Ramsey (2B), sophomore Emily Grabau (SS) and freshman Maicy Kirk (RF).
Davidson batted .506 with 22 RBI and 29 runs, had 16 stolen bases on 17 attempts and threw out 16 baserunners and was first-team all-league. Kurelic batted .413 with three triples, a home run, 18 RBI and 31 runs, and Grabau batted .395.
"We compete in a tough league and it isn't going to get any easier, but I think we'll be in the mix for it again next year," Leary said. "We've got some terrific young players coming back, including one of the best in the state in Kyle Davidson."
Patriots fall in district semifinal
Liberty lost to ninth-seeded Pickerington Central 5-2 in a Division I district semifinal May 21 at Pickerington North to finish 19-6 overall.
The fourth-seeded Patriots took 2-0 lead in the third inning but left 12 baserunners stranded, including three in the seventh inning after loading the bases with one out.
"We didn't hit very well the last third of this season and our hitting definitely let us down in this game," coach Bob Lee said. "We waited too long to string hits together and, when we finally started to at the end of the game, it was too late."
Liberty opened district play with a 2-1 win over 14th-seeded Central Crossing in the second round May 16 after having a first-round bye.
The Patriots went 11-3 in the OCC-Central to tie Marysville for the league title. Thomas Worthington (9-5) was third, followed by Upper Arlington (8-6), Central Crossing (6-8), Hilliard Davidson (6-8), Dublin Coffman (5-9) and Westland (0-14).
Liberty, which won its first 11 games, split its league games against Marysville, winning 3-1 on May 7 after losing 7-1 on April 23.
Among the Patriots' other victories was a 7-5 win over Olentangy on April 20.
"We got off to a roaring start and we beat some real good teams while winning our first 11 games," Lee said. "It was big to beat North Union (2-1 on March 30) in our first game and our win at Marysville was important because we were a game behind them in our league standings with only two games left to play."
Liberty loses three seniors, including two starters in Kayla Pfaff (1B/designated player) and Rosalyn Ransaw (CF).
Ransaw, who batted .300, was honorable mention all-league and Pfaff, who hit .326, was special mention all-league.
Among those expected back are junior Madison Kadlic (SS), sophomores Kristen Adkins (P) and Bailey Ankrim (C) and freshmen Tiffany Hart (3B), Keri Kelly (RF/LF), Rylee Kashmiry (LF/RF), Kaylin Lee (1B/designated player) and Randi Noday (2B).
Adkins was the co-OCC-Central Player of the Year along with Marysville's Kyleah Brey.
Kadlic was first-team all-league and Ankrim and Noday were second-team all-league.
"The experience our kids gained in winning our league in a tight league race was big," coach Lee said. "We're young, so I hope we can come back stronger next year."
Braves overcame slow start to season
Olentangy got off to a slow start, winning just two of its first seven games, and was 5-7 before winning 13 in a row.
The 12th-seeded Braves defeated 30th-seeded Hilliard Bradley 9-2 in the first round of the Division I district tournament before losing to ninth-seeded Pickerington Central 2-1 in the second round May 16.
Olentangy finished 19-9 overall and won the OCC-Capital title at 13-1 after going 8-17 overall last season.
"Our new coaching staff really believed in us and we went on a long winning streak that surprised a lot of people," senior first baseman Megan Beidelman said. "We came together as a team and picked up big wins against Delaware (3-1 on April 22 and 5-4 on May 8) and Orange (3-1 on April 26). I'm so happy and excited for our program. Winning our league is more than we could have asked for."
Olentangy loses three seniors, each of whom was a starter, in Beidelman, Megan Hupp (C) and Lindsey Michel (LF).
Beidelman batted .500 with nine home runs, 33 RBI and 29 runs and was first-team all-league. Hupp hit .347 with 11 RBI and 17 runs and was honorable mention all-league.
Among those expected to return are juniors Brooke Ring (2B) and Hailey Wilson (P), sophomores Missy Lee (SS), Jessica Lowery (CF), Emily Hoffman (RF) and Sierra Stults (3B) and freshman Maddie Edwards (designated player).
Wilson batted .402 with a home run, 11 doubles, two triples, 25 RBI and 29 runs and went 19-8 in the circle with a 3.59 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 175 1/3 innings. She was first-team all-league.
Lee hit .407 with three triples, 26 RBI and 28 runs and was second-team all-league, and Lowery batted .353 with 18 runs and was honorable mention all-league.
Hoffman (.341, 16 RBI, 12 runs), Ring (.325, 3 home runs, 26 RBI, 14 runs) and Stults (.302, 10 doubles, 10 RBI, 20 runs) also were key contributors at the plate.
"Our team set a few simple goals this season," said coach Alan Tharp, who was named OCC-Capital Coach of the Year. "In short, the first priority was to come together as a softball family, believe in each other and believe in ourselves.
"We believe we are on the right track for an exciting future."