First-year Pickerington High School Central softball coach Carrie Eneix believes her team's lineup in a 4-0 loss to Central Crossing in a Division I regional semifinal May 23 at Ohio State points to a bright future.

First-year Pickerington High School Central softball coach Carrie Eneix believes her team's lineup in a 4-0 loss to Central Crossing in a Division I regional semifinal May 23 at Ohio State points to a bright future.

"We started four freshmen, two sophomores and a junior," Eneix said. "We definitely have a lot coming back and a lot to look forward to."

The Tigers finished 25-6 overall and went 12-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish second, behind Grove City (13-1) and ahead of Gahanna (10-4), Lancaster (7-7), Pickerington North (6-8), Groveport (6-8), Newark (3-11) and Reynoldsburg (0-14).

Central loses six seniors, including pitcher Lindsey Inkrott, who plans to swim at Ohio Northern. Seniors Lisa Cordova and Kristina Hamler will continue their softball careers at Malone and Bluffton, respectively.

Several seniors gave up their starting positions as the Tigers, who defeated Canal Winchester 4-0 to capture a district title on May 19, seemed to grow younger every day.

Freshmen Hunter Brancifort (3B/OF), Hannah Gilkey (DP), Alex Kidwell (OF) and Madi Schott (2B) all ended up playing key roles, and Gilkey likely will step in as the top pitcher next spring. Junior Molly Riggs (OF) and sophomores Sadie Cunningham (C), Allie Luther (1B) and Brittany Hardyman (OF) also are expected to return, among others.

Senior Hannah Dittoe (SS) and Luther were named first-team all-league while Cunningham and Inkrott were second team and Riggs was honorable-mention. Dittoe, who hit six home runs and led the team with 35 RBI, and Luther made first-team all-district while Inkrott was second team and Cunningham honorable mention. Dittoe also made first-team all-state.

Luther hit six of her team-high eight home runs in OCC-Ohio play, including a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Tigers edged Gahanna 2-1 on April 25. Eight Central players combined to hit a program-record 25 home runs, including Brancifort's grand slam in the bottom of the seventh in an 8-5 win over ninth-seeded Gahanna in a district semifinal on May 14.

Seeded third, Central had a first-round bye in the district tournament and defeated Upper Arlington 5-0 in the second round on May 9.

"It's been a fun year," Eneix said. "I told the girls we made the sweet 16 in Ohio and that a lot of other teams would like to be here."

Injury to Lucas challenged North

North had to overcome its share of adversity this season, beginning with first-year coach Sarah Looker's late hiring to replace former coach Lindsay Bayless.

"I came in late, and I didn't have an assistant," Looker said. "The seniors, they were great about it and jumped right in to help all through the year. We sort of just looked out for each other. I couldn't have asked for a better group of girls to work with."

The Panthers, who played without injured center fielder and leadoff batter Hannah Lucas during the second half of the season, finished 13-11 overall, losing 11-1 to top-seeded Central Crossing in a Division I district semifinal on May 14.

North defeated Westland 4-2 in the first round May 7 and beat Hilliard Davidson 5-2 in the second round May 9.

Lucas, a sophomore, was batting .395 with six stolen bases when she suffered a broken hand.

"She's definitely an up-and-comer," Looker said. "You'll be hearing a lot about her in the next couple of years."

Senior catcher Taylor Knore, who batted .556 with 17 doubles and three homers and had a .917 slugging percentage, made first-team all-league and all-district and honorable mention all-state. She will play at Wright State.

Sophomore Alicia Hack, who batted .346 with seven stolen bases and was second-team all-league, moved from shortstop to center field after Lucas' injury.

Senior second baseman Ali Murphy, who batted .304, and sophomore Hannah Murphy, a pitcher and third baseman who moved to shortstop to replace Hack, were named special mention all-league. Hack also was honorable mention all-district.

Senior Lacey Eigel, who will play at Wittenberg, had seven wins and was honorable mention all-league. Hannah Murphy had six wins.

Looker said she's hopeful Hannah Murphy can return to play third base next season, but she may have to be the top pitcher.

"She's a great team player," Looker said. "She's willing to step up and take any role that helps the team."

Other key players expected to return include juniors Destiny Cornwell (3B), Taylor Hollis (LF) and Courtney Kelly (1B) and sophomore Olivia Goodin (RF). Cornwell batted .370.

"The program started with (former coach) Molly Feesler taking the team to the (state tournament in 2004)," Looker said. "I really think Pickerington North can do that again."