The Pickerington High School Central softball team was in familiar surroundings on May 20. The third-seeded Tigers, winners of district titles in 2007 and 2009, were playing in a Division I district final at home against 17th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley.

The Pickerington High School Central softball team was in familiar surroundings on May 20. The third-seeded Tigers, winners of district titles in 2007 and 2009, were playing in a Division I district final at home against 17th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley.

It was also Tri-Valley's second consecutive district title game appearance, but first time in Division I. Last season, the Scotties defeated Richmond Edison 1-0 in a Division II district final.

A year later and a division higher, Tri-Valley continued its winning ways, slipping past Central 2-1 in eight innings for the program's first Division I district title.

"Moving up to Division I, we really didn't know what to expect," Tri-Valley coach Sarah Slaughter said. "We played (at Central) last year and we were a little awestruck by the complex, the Columbus teams and all that. This year we made sure we were used to it, ready to compete and it showed."

Scoreless through five innings, Tri-Valley took a 1-0 lead against Central on an RBI-single by Lyndsey Kight scoring Kaylin Hanby. The Tigers tied Tri-Valley in the bottom of the seventh. Katy Bender led off the inning with an infield single and Kayla Boyer scored Bender on a sacrifice fly to right field two batters later.

Until Bender scored from third, Central stranded four runners on that bag in the first six innings.

"Our kids put the ball in play, Tri-Valley just made plays defensively when they had to," Central coach Dan Drees said. "We drove some balls, they just made some great plays on them. They came up with the defensive plays when they had to."

In the top of the eighth, leadoff hitter Alex Lawler drew a walk and later scored on an RBI-single by Kayley Bevard.

"Anytime a team gets the leadoff on, it gives them a lot more options," Drees said.

Central finished 21-9 overall. In the OCC-Ohio Division, the Tigers were third at 10-4 behind champ-ion Grove City (13-0) and Gahanna (12-2) and ahead of Groveport (7-6), Pickerington North (7-7), Lancaster (4-10), Newark (2-12) and Reynoldsburg (0-14).

Central entered the season with almost its entire lineup back, led by Ohio University-signee Erin Lashley. The Athens-bound shortstop is one of six seniors the Tigers will lose, along with Jenn Hewitt (CF), Megan Johnson (1B), Kelsey Long (P), Mallory Martin (1B/P) and Kris Massie (2B).

"(Losing the district title game) is extremely hard on these seniors," Drees said. "Kelsey, Erin and Jenn were with us when we went to state (in 2007) and they were on the team last year that went to regionals. They're used to expecting to keep moving on and we expected to win a district title."

Long finished 19-7 with a 1.69 ERA. In 160 2/3 innings pitched, she faced 676 batters, struck out 163 and walked 34. Offensively, Hewitt led the Tigers in batting average (.392), followed by Lashley (.376, 13 stolen bases, 30 runs scored) and Massie (.371, 10 doubles, 19 RBI).

Among those expected to return include juniors Bender (OF/C), Boyer (3B), Courtney Harry (OF), Amanda Jones (P), Casey Ortega (2B) and Kaylee Shoff (OF), and sophomores Lisa Cordova (OF), Hannah Dittoe (C), Kris Hamler (OF) and Lindsey Inkrott (1B).

Dittoe batted .319 with a team-high 21 RBI, as well as seven doubles, two triples and a home run.

At a glance

Record: 21-9 overall, 10-4 (third) in OCC-Ohio

Seniors lost: Jenn Hewitt, Megan Johnson, Erin Lashley, Kelsey Long, Mallory Martin and Kris Massie

Key returnees: Katy Bender, Kayla Boyer, Hannah Dittoe and Kris Hamler