Pickerington High School Central baseball coach Chick Campbell does not grow anxious when the opponent's hitter puts a ball in play. He can relax.

Pickerington High School Central baseball coach Chick Campbell does not grow anxious when the opponent's hitter puts a ball in play. He can relax.

"We're confident every time the ball is hit anywhere, especially up the middle," Campbell said. "It's nice having that comfort factor."

Central has built its defense up the middle with juniors Josh Kristoff (SS) and Isac Franklin (2B) and senior Nick Raymond (CF). All three started last season, with Kristoff and Raymond in their second season at their current position. Franklin has moved from third base to second base.

"Chemistry is important between all three of us, especially me and Isac," Kristoff said. "We have to be on the same page at all times. No matter what is going on in the game, we always know where the other is going to be. Between all three of us we have great communication."

The communication skills and trust in one another began last summer. Franklin was aware he would be moved to second base so he got to work with Kristoff. It has helped make for a smooth transition.

"Right when the season started we were perfectly good with each other," Kristoff said.

Raymond has played center field for as long as he can remember. The position has been a natural fit for him and he likes the communication he has with Kristoff and Franklin.

"Everyone talks when the ball is hit," Raymond said. "Everyone knows what to do because we're all communicating. Up the middle, everything works fine."

Hitting and pitching are ahead of the defense as weather limited the amount of outside practice time. As other teams have struggled for consistency in the field, the Tigers trust in their experienced trio.

"Up the middle this is the best combination I've had," Campbell said. "Josh and Isac are only juniors and they can only get better. They have a great repertoire and work well together. Nick is also one of the best I've had in center field. He can go and get it."

•TEAMS MEET AGAIN (FINALLY) -- Pickerington North won the first meeting between the two programs last season 17-4, and Central led the rematch 2-0 two weeks later before bad weather caused the postponement and eventual cancellation of the game.

With both teams in the OCC-Ohio Division, they were scheduled to play April 14, but that game was postponed because of bad weather.

Finally, last Friday, the two teams played and finished a game as North won 13-3.

"There was a little different feel this year," North coach Tim Thomas said. "It wasn't that new feeling, but the emotions were still there for both teams. We had an outstanding performance by Kyle Price on the mound and offensively we put pressure on North ever inning. It was one of those games that everything seemed to go our way that day."

Both teams entered the game undefeated in league play and expect to be in the mix as the race heats up.

"When we come to the field, we have to be prepared and focused," Franklin said. "If we do that, we have just as good a chance as anybody to come out on top in the OCC."

"Big players have to play big," Raymond said. "There is no margin for error."

North beat the favorite to win the OCC-Ohio, Gahanna, 6-1 on April 23 and played its rematch with the Lions last Wednesday. North had its rematch with Central last Tuesday.

"We played well but we still had nine league games to go after the Central game," Thomas said. "Give my kids all the credit in the world. Playing back-to-back games against teams like Gahanna and Central is tough. With this older group, they take each game as the most important game of the week, come out ready to play and compete. That's all I can ask."

At a glance

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

CENTRAL

*April 21 -- Game at Gahanna postponed. It was rescheduled for May 7.

*April 22 -- Game at Lancaster postponed. It was rescheduled for May 8.

*April 23 -- Defeated Lancaster 3-2

*Last Friday -- Lost to North 13-3

*Last Monday -- Lost to Gahanna 4-3

*Last Tuesday -- Played North

*Last Wednesday -- Played Groveport

*Today -- At Newark

*Friday -- Home vs. Newark

*Monday -- At Grove City

*Tuesday -- At Reynoldsburg

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg

Of note: The Tigers were 10-6 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

NORTH

*April 21 -- Game at Groveport postponed. It was rescheduled for May 8.

*April 22 -- Def. Groveport 13-2

*April 23 -- Def. Gahanna 6-1

*Last Friday -- Def. North 13-3

Last Saturday -- Def. UA 8-1; def. UA 9-5

*Last Monday -- Def. Reynoldsburg 14-7

*Last Tuesday -- Played Central

*Last Wednesday -- Played Gahanna

*Today -- At Lancaster

*Friday -- Home vs. Lancaster

Saturday -- At West Chester Lakota West vs. Lakota West and Moeller

*Monday -- At Newark

*Tuesday -- At Grove City

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Grove City

Of note: The Panthers were 13-1 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

*OCC-Ohio game