Merissa Magers of the Pickerington High School Central softball team already had struck out three times when she stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning with the scored tied at 3 against Pickerington North on April 23.

Merissa Magers of the Pickerington High School Central softball team already had struck out three times when she stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning with the scored tied at 3 against Pickerington North on April 23.

North coach Tabitha Furlong turned to an assistant coach and expressed her concern.

"She is the most dangerous person in Central's lineup," Furlong said. "Who strikes out four times in a row?"

Not Magers. She drove in teammate Kris Massey from second with a single as Central won 4-3.

"I hadn't been hitting well, I'm a senior captain and I wanted to step up and get the winning hit to score the run," Magers said. "It was a 2-0 count, I got a good pitch, I swung and it ended up being a good hit."

It was the first meeting between the two programs. The second will be today at North.

"In a game like that with the intensity, it was hard to stay calm," Furlong said. "We played well, but had a couple runs that gave them runs. Hopefully, once the crowd is on our side at home, we'll do a little better."

Not only was the game big in the Pickerington community, but also in the OCC-Ohio Division.

"We know every game in the OCC is important," Central coach Dan Drees said. "We have more tough games coming up, and to get one up on North, one of the league challengers, is big."

The novelty of playing one another has worn off, but the respect for each other has increased. Drees said the first game could have gone either way as momentum constantly was shifting. Although the Tigers won, it doesn't guarantee Central an advantage entering the rematch.

"Both teams have seen each other's lineups, pitched to them and know each other's strengths and weaknesses," Drees said. "You made adjustments as the game went on. It was at our place and now North has that added motivation to come back and try and beat us at their place."

Through 18 games, North was averaging 7.6 runs and had been held to a season-low three twice, with the other being a one-run loss to Liberty Township Lakota East on April 18. In order for North to win the second meeting the Panthers' offense must find a way to score more runs on Tigers pitcher Kelsey Long.

"We have to know we can't go a game without hitting," North catcher Ris McDaniel said. "We didn't hit as well as we should have. We played good defense, but had a few errors, but we know we won't go a game without errors.

"When we play (today) we need to hit and we need to have intensity to play the game. Our hitting is our biggest issue and hopefully we'll be able to hit better next time."

North will face a more confident Central team today as a result of last meeting. That should aid the Tigers not only in the rematch, but also within the OCC race.

"We'll have a lot more intensity and be more confident because we know we can beat North," Magers said.

"We feel we have the upper hand, but we can't get cocky and not play well. We have to play up to our best."

At a glance

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

CENTRAL

*April 22 --╩Def. Lancaster 15-1

*April 23 --╩Def. North 4-3 in nine innings

*Last Friday --╩Lost to Groveport 5-0

*Last Monday --╩Lost to Gahanna 4-1

*Last Tuesday -- Played Grove City

*Last Wednesday --╩Played Groveport

*Today --╩At North

*Friday --╩Home vs. Newark

Saturday --╩At Mason vs. Vandalia Butler

*Monday --╩At Grove City

*Tuesday --╩At Newark

*Wednesday --╩Home vs. Reynoldsburg

Of note: The Tigers were 12-3 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio before last Tuesday.

NORTH

*April 22 -- Def. Groveport 7-3

*April 23 --╩Lost to Central 4-3

Last Friday -- Def. Willard 10-0 in Stellar Classic

Last Saturday -- Def. New Riegel 10-0 in Stellar Classic

*Last Monday --╩Def. Reynoldsburg 8-1

*Last Wednesday -- Played Gahanna

*Today -- Home vs. Central

*Friday --╩Home vs. Lancaster

*Monday --╩At Newark

*Tuesday --╩At Grove City

*Wednesday --╩Home vs. Grove City

*May 7 -- At Gahanna

Of note: The Panthers were 17-2 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Ohio before last Wednesay.

*OCC-Ohio game