As the Pickerington High School North baseball team waited for Dublin Scioto to arrive for a game April 24, the Panthers passed the time by hitting. And hitting. And hitting some more.

As the Pickerington High School North baseball team waited for Dublin Scioto to arrive for a game April 24, the Panthers passed the time by hitting. And hitting. And hitting some more.

It is what they do best. Though 19 games, North had scored 181 runs for a 9.5 per game average. Among the area hitting leaders, the Panthers have five players with a batting average of better than .400.

"We started stressing to the players back in January to compete in every at-bat in every inning," coach Tim Thomas said. "Once we got into the cage and on the field, we talked about quality at-bats and how quality at-bats lead to positive things for the team. Some games we've gotten on a roll, had quality at-bat after quality at-bat, hit the ball hard and it led to big innings. We've been pretty good at that this year."

Was this expected?

"We all knew we were good hitters, but maybe not as good as we've been hitting," Jake Isabel said. "We've exploded for a lot of runs and hits every game."

Through 13 games, Byron Johann led North with a .458 batting average followed by Kyle Jeffries (.452), Adam Miller (.449), Alex Bayer (.447) and Isabel (.432).

Thomas concentrates his top hitters in the heart of the lineup, but with so many strong hitters, opponents are facing these tough hitters starting with Miller batting second and going to Jeffries batting seventh. Bayer hits third, Johann fourth and Isabel fifth.

"We have consistency one through nine," Thomas said. "I have confidence as a coach in 12 to 13 kids and that makes a big difference. We don't have two or three kids we have to count on each game to get hits. We have a lot of big innings started by the seventh, eighth and ninth hitters. That's been the key."

North's offense was on full display when the Panthers met Pickerington Central for the first time. North won 17-4 on April 18 and it made an impression on Central coach Chick Campbell.

"(North) was hitting the ball one through nine through their lineup," he said. "They hit it with authority and drove the ball out of the park and to the gaps."

Campbell can be credited for a routine North adheres to during away games.

"One thing we've always done for as long as I've been here or when it was one school is before we get on the bus for away games we hit," Thomas said. "It's 40 minutes of hitting and it gets the kids minds off school, off girlfriends and onto baseball."

North's players appreciate to the extra time spent hitting.

"We don't want to go into a game being stiff," Bayer said. "It helps us a lot."

"You get your swing going," Isabel said. "You know how you're hitting that day and how you feel. That extra hitting helps a lot."

When North has a home game, the team sets up stations for its hitters. There is an area located behind the third base dugouts with soft toss, tees and an enclosed cage. Finally, the rotation leads a group to face live pitching at home plate.

For all the time North spends on the physical aspect of baseball, Thomas makes sure to enhance the Panthers' mental toughness.

"As is anything else in high school baseball, it's all mental," Thomas said. "Every team has athletes, but where kids can make a difference is mentally. Some games we do well with it."

With the second round of league play taking place and the district tournament soon to start, North will see familiar teams and stronger pitchers. But mentally, the Panthers are not fazed by the challenges ahead.

"It's a matter of confidence," Isabel said. "We're already hitting real good and we want to keep it going. Our confidence is really high right now."

At a glance

Below are recent results and coming schedules for the Central and North baseball teams:

CENTRAL

*April 21 -- Defeated Mount Vernon 9-4

April 22 -- Def. Watterson 12-2

*April 23 -- Def. Worthington Kilbourne 10-5

April 24 -- Lost to Dublin Coffman 6-1

*Last Monday -- Lost to Dublin Jerome 4-1

*Last Wednesday -- Played Olentangy

Today -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial

Friday -- Home vs. Pickerington North. In the first meeting April 17, North won 17-4.

Saturday -- Home vs. Groveport and Utica

*Monday -- Home vs. Westerville South. Central won the first meeting 17-4 on April 16.

*Wednesday -- At Mount Vernon

Of note: The Tigers were 9-7 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Cardinal game

NORTH

*April 21 -- Def. Thomas Worthington 6-5

*April 23 -- Def. Marysville 7-0

April 24 -- Def. Dublin Scioto 7-0. Jake Isabel hit a first inning grand slam.

Last Friday -- Def. Lancaster 20-10

Last Saturday -- Def. Utica 3-2 and 13-3

*Last Monday -- Def. Westerville Central 4-1

*Last Wednesday -- Played Delaware

Friday -- At Pickerington Central

*Monday -- At Central Crossing. In the first meeting April 16, North won 17-7.

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

Of note: The Panthers were 15-4-1 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Central before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Central game