Olentangy Liberty High School softball coach Bob Lee was concerned with how well pitcher Kristen Adkins' throwing arm would hold up last week when the Patriots had to play five OCC-Central Division games in five days.
As it turned out, Adkins was more than up for the challenge as she led Liberty to four victories to help the Patriots clinch a share of their third consecutive league title.
Liberty and Marysville each went 12-2 to finish atop the OCC-Central for the second consecutive season. Liberty won the OCC-Cardinal title in 2012.
"I was very worried because Kristen's our only varsity pitcher and she had to pitch five important league games in five days," Lee said. "She was tired and sore by the end of week, but she's a warrior, and she was still throwing the ball well through the end of the fifth game.
"The kids are real excited about winning our third straight OCC title. We feel real fortunate to have come out on top in our league once again."
Liberty opened last week's league action with a 3-1 victory May 5 over Hilliard Davidson, as Adkins pitched a four-hitter.
The Patriots defeated Upper Arlington 12-7 the following day, as Adkins held the Golden Bears to seven hits to help her team overcome five errors.
Liberty then beat Dublin Coffman 7-0 on May 7 behind Adkins' one-hitter.
The Patriots lost to Marysville 5-0 on May 8, as they made two errors and gave up three unearned runs.
But with the league title on the line May 9, Liberty defeated Thomas Worthington 5-1 as Adkins struck out nine in a four-hitter.
Randi Noday had three RBI and Adkins had two RBI against the Cardinals.
"Our kids weren't pleased with themselves after we booted the ball around against Marysville, so I was relieved to see us bounce back the way we did against Thomas Worthington," Lee said.
Liberty was 16-7 overall after losing to Big Walnut 2-1 on May 12.
Seeded eighth in the Division I district tournament, the Patriots open the postseason by playing host Thursday, May 15, to 25th-seeded Westerville North or 37th-seeded Whetstone in the second round.
The winner advances to a district semifinal Tuesday, May 20, at Pickerington North against ninth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne or 42nd-seeded Dublin Scioto.
"We have to play more consistent defense," Lee said. "We have been inconsistent lately, so we need to pick our defense back up again."
Leading the team at the plate through 22 games were Adkins (.420, 3 home runs, 33 RBI, 16 runs), Madison Kadlic (.419, 18 RBI, 23 runs), Noday (.377, 11 RBI, 22 runs), Bailey Ankrim (.368, 13 RBI), Meredith Bates (.345, 13 runs) and Keri Kelly (.342, 20 runs).
Adkins also was 15-4 with three shutouts, 17 complete games and a 1.67 ERA. She had 160 strikeouts and 39 walks.
"We need to score early to get our offense going instead of waiting to try and score in the late innings," Lee said.
Pioneers on roll entering tourney
Orange wrapped up its regular season by winning three of its last four OCC-Capital games to finish 8-6 in the league.
The Pioneers beat Franklin Heights 7-2 on May 5 and Olentangy 4-1 on May 6. The victory over Olentangy avenged a 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Braves on April 9.
Orange lost to Big Walnut 9-7 on May 7 after making two errors and giving up four unearned runs.
The Pioneers bounced back to defeat Worthington Kilbourne 5-0 on May 9, as Jenn Kurelic tossed a two-hitter and went 4-for-4 with three RBI.
"This was a great way to end the (regular) season," coach Bruce Leary said. "Jenn had a great game and our entire defense played well, making a lot of nice plays and having no errors."
The 23rd-seeded Pioneers were 11-11-1 overall before playing 33rd-seeded Zanesville in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 13.
The winner advanced to play at 18th-seeded Olentangy on Thursday, May 15, and that winner advances to a district semifinal Tuesday, May 20, at Pickerington Central against fourth-seeded Grove City, 28th-seeded Briggs or 38th-seeded Dublin Coffman.
"We had a slow start to our season in general, but we're playing good softball right now and we're hoping to have a nice run in the tournament," Leary said. "Olentangy is evenly matched with us, so that could be a good game."
Through 23 games, Kurelic was batting .557 with 17 RBI and Kyle Davidson was batting .447 with 19 RBI. Kurelic also was 10-8 with 103 strikeouts and nine walks and a 1.53 ERA.
"We've been hitting the ball a lot better as a team, and we've raised our team batting average from .270 at midseason to .300," Leary said. "We'll need timely hitting in the tournament because two-out RBI often win games."
Braves set for postseason
Olentangy lost to Delaware 6-1 on May 9 to finish 5-9 in the OCC-Capital and drop to 14-11 overall before playing Pickerington Central on May 13.
The Braves play host Thursday, May 15, to Orange or Zanesville in the second round of the Division I district tournament. The winner advances to a semifinal Tuesday, May 20, at Pickerington Central against Grove City, Briggs or Coffman.
Olentangy beat Coffman 1-0 on April 19, as Hailey Wilson pitched a five-hitter.
"We're having sparks of offense," coach Alan Tharp said. "But we are still leaving too many runners in scoring position."