Forceful attitude inspires North
Jayna Binkiewicz of the Pickerington High School North softball team took full responsibility for an impulsive move in the eighth inning April 13 against DeSales.
Binkiewicz, a sophomore second baseman and shortstop, lined a hit to right field and ran around first base too quickly to heed any warning from assistant coach Shana Etter. Binkiewicz slid safely into second just ahead of the tag, hoping to eventually score the winning run in a 3-all tie.
She did not, but after the Panthers lost 6-3 in nine innings, Binkiewicz agreed her dash to second was fueled by a desire to continue the team's strong play.
"I definitely was not told to do that," she said, laughing. "But I felt like I had it and I wanted to go for it. I felt like I should go for it."
That aggressive attitude is making a difference for North. The Panthers, who started 0-3 in the Play It Again Sports Tournament in Clarksville, Tenn., but were 5-5 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division after defeating Reynoldsburg 15-4 on April 15, averaged 7.2 runs in their first nine games. They began league play by beating Newark 14-4 in five innings April 8 and Lancaster 12-9 on April 10.
"We like to take risks," senior catcher/first baseman Courtney Kelly said. "We don't have a bunch of really big hitters on the team, so we steal bases and get as much extra as we possibly can."
Junior shortstop Hannah Murphy's three-run home run highlighted a five-run fifth inning against Lancaster, but North needed another five runs in the seventh to win.
Coach Sarah Looker said her team wasn't fazed by the slow start in Tennessee. They rebounded to defeat Nashville (Tenn.) Father Ryan 12-4 and White House (Tenn.) Heritage 8-6 before league play began.
"Taking that trip really helped with our unity. Everyone put everything out there down there," Looker said. "We've continued to execute when we need to execute. We've been doing that very well. Everybody understands their role and all of them take that very seriously."
Looker quickly settled on a lineup led by junior outfielder Hannah Lucas, followed by junior second baseman/outfielder Alicia Hack, freshman catcher/second baseman Abbey Ebbrecht, Murphy, Kelly, senior third baseman Destiny Cornwell, Binkiewicz, freshman pitcher Tessa Jensen and freshman outfielder/second baseman Audrey Wilson.
The Panthers' game with Pickerington Central on April 12 was postponed because of rain and rescheduled for April 16 at North.
"We were upset it got rained out," Kelly said. "It's always important when we play them. We have some hard competition coming up, but hopefully we'll have some success."
Tigers still have strides to make
Central coach Carrie Eneix is pleased with where her team sits but knows where she wants to see improvement.
"I want to see us get some big hits and try to eliminate some defensive mistakes," said Eneix, whose team was 6-5 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Ohio after losing to Grove City 16-3 on April 15. "We've taken some lumps. I think we had more errors in (our first) 10 games than in 30 games last year. Some of it is girls being in new positions, and some of it is because we've only had one practice outside (through last week)."
Four errors helped doom Central in a 4-2 loss to Lancaster on April 8 in the OCC-Ohio opener. Two days later, the Tigers defeated Reynoldsburg 19-4 in six innings. Junior first baseman Allie Luther hit a solo home run and sophomore utility player Kylie Timbrook added a grand slam, both in the second inning.
"I knew we'd be able to hit the ball, but I want to see us get more hits in clutch situations, with girls on base," Eneix said.
"Against Solon (a 12-11 win April 6), we scored four runs with two outs in the seventh to win, but we left 10 girls on (base). I tell the girls they should want to be up (to bat) with runners on. A lot of it is the mental aspect."
The Tigers' OCC-Ohio game at Gahanna on Monday, April 22, begins a stretch of seven games in eight days and 12 in 18 days.