First-year coach Carrie Eneix is hoping to take the Pickerington High School Central softball team back to the level at which it consistently played when she was a four-year starting catcher for the Tigers more than a decade ago.

First-year coach Carrie Eneix is hoping to take the Pickerington High School Central softball team back to the level at which it consistently played when she was a four-year starting catcher for the Tigers more than a decade ago.

"I keep telling the girls about our great tradition," said Eneix, a 2000 graduate whose career with the single-school Pickerington team included four consecutive Division I district championships, the state title in 1997 when she was a freshman and a state runner-up finish in 1999. "It's obviously been more difficult since the (school district) split (in 2003), but that doesn't mean we can't get back there. It just takes the right kind of commitment."

Eneix, who went on to play at Kent State University, takes over a team that finished 17-11 overall last season and went 10-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division to place third, behind Groveport (13-1) and Gahanna (11-3) and ahead of Grove City (8-6), Pickerington North (6-8), Lancaster (4-10), Newark (4-10) and Reynoldsburg (0-14).

Seeded 11th in the district tournament, the Tigers defeated Columbus West 25-0 in five innings in the first round before losing to Upper Arlington 6-4 in the second round.

Central returns several key players, including seniors Lisa Cordova (2B), who has signed with Malone University, and Kristina Hamler (RF), who will play at Bluffton. Classmate Hannah Dittoe, a shortstop and four-year starter, has spurned multiple scholarship offers. Senior Lindsey Inkrott (P/1B) is expected to compete in swimming and diving at Ohio Northern and also might try to walk-on with the softball team there, according to Eneix.

Sophomores Sadie Cunningham (C) and Allie Luther (1B) and junior Molly Riggs (CF) also are back. Cunningham is expected to bat lead-off, and Luther brings a potent bat to the clean-up spot after having four home runs, eight doubles and 21 RBI a year ago.

Hamler and Inkrott made second-team all-league while 2011 graduates Amanda Jones (P) and Katy Bender (OF) made honorable mention.

The roster also features seniors JoAnn Kevelder and Sydney Schulo, sophomore Brittany Hardyman and freshmen Hunter Brancifort, Hannah Gilkey, Alex Kidwell and Madi Schott. Gilkey is expected to share pitching duties with Inkrott.

The Tigers open Tuesday, March 27, at Upper Arlington and begin league play April 2 at Lancaster.

"This team reminds me a little of the one that went to (the) state (tournament) in 2007," said Eneix, an English teacher at Central who was the junior varsity coach in 2005 and a varsity assistant the past six seasons under former coach Dan Drees. "It's one of the most athletic sports teams overall I've ever been around.

"The funny thing is that we've kept four freshmen on varsity, and I'm not sure if they were even born when we won state my freshman year. I know I'm really excited to be here and to get a chance to coach these girls. It's like a dream come true."

Looker likes North's veteran approach

First-year North coach Sarah Looker, who spent the past three seasons coaching Dublin Jerome after serving as an assistant at Hilliard Davidson for nine years, appreciates the help she's received from seniors Taylor Knore (C/1B), Ali Murphy (2B/OF) and Lacy Eigel (P).

Knore, who batted .345 with five doubles, three triples and 13 RBI last season, has signed to play at Wright State. Eigel, who was 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 12 innings a year ago, will play at Wittenberg. Murphy hit .304 with eight RBI last season.

North finished 12-11 overall last year and placed fifth in the OCC-Ohio. The Panthers defeated New Albany 7-2 in the first round of the district tournament before losing to Watterson 4-1 in the second round.

"I wasn't (school) board approved until December, so I'm coming in kind of late," Looker said. "But I've got a great group of girls who work well together in a practice setting. I don't have an assistant on staff, either. But everyone's been extremely patient and the girls have jumped in and really helped, especially the seniors."

Knore made first-team all-league last spring, as did 2011 graduate Linda Laeufer, who batted .415 with three home runs and 13 RBI. The Panthers lost four other key players to graduation, including Allyson Baldwin, who made special mention all-league, Kelsey Swain, who hit .426 with seven stolen bases and 16 runs and made honorable mention all-league, and pitcher Rachel Corrigan, who won six games.

"We still have a veteran group, though," Looker said. "Some of the girls are playing varsity for the first time, but they're very mature and conduct themselves like veterans."

Also returning are juniors Taylor Hollis (OF) and Courtney Kelly (C/1B) and sophomores Hannah Murphy (SS/P/3B) and Hannah Lucas (OF). Murphy pitched 24 innings a year ago, posting a 3-0 record and 3.50 ERA. She also was an offensive catalyst with a .304 average, 11 runs and seven stolen bases. Lucas batted .306 with 11 runs and six stolen bases.

The newcomers are juniors Destiny Cornwell, Kayla Kitchen and Emily Lynch and sophomores Olivia Goodin and Alicia Hack.

The Panthers open Tuesday, March 27, at home against DeSales and begin league play April 2 at home against Groveport.

"I feel very comfortable coming into this program," said Looker, a substitute teacher in three districts who is replacing Lindsay Bayless, who stepped down after two seasons. "I think we're all really excited to see what happens. We're ready to get started."