The Pickerington High School Central softball team earned the ninth seed for the Division I district tournament, but coach Carrie Eneix isn't reading too much into the number in front of any team's name.
"There's not a big, clear-cut favorite this year in Division I," Eneix said. "There's not that big, dominant pitcher like Savannah Dorsey from Central Crossing (a 2012 graduate who plays at Ohio University) who has the ability to strike out 12 or 15 batters in a game. We've emphasized the importance of staying within striking distance and keeping ourselves in position to win."
The Tigers ended up with a seemingly favorable first-round game and, if the higher-seeded teams win out, would have a chance to play all four rounds of the district tournament in their home complex. Central opens the postseason at home against 42nd-seeded Columbus West at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14.
The winner plays 12th-seeded Olentangy or 30th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a second-round game May 16. Higher-seeded teams are host teams in the first two rounds.
Central did not play Bradley, Olentangy or West during the regular season.
A potential matchup with fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty, which plays Central Crossing or Pickerington North in a second-round game May 16, looms in a district semifinal May 21 at Central. Also in Central and North's bracket are top-seeded Delaware and 10th-seeded Teays Valley, neither of which the Tigers or Panthers would see until a district final.
Before a May 6 game at Groveport, Central had won nine of 11 games and was 16-7 overall and 8-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division. Its only slipups in that stretch were a 9-6 loss to Lancaster on April 25 and a 15-5 setback against Grove City on May 1. Against Grove City, which earned the second seed in the district tournament, sophomore infielders Alex Kidwell and Hunter Brancifort each had two-run home runs.
The Tigers ended the regular season with a league game against Gahanna on May 8.
Eneix thought her team's first game against Gahanna, a 14-7 win April 22 in which the Tigers hit three home runs, might have turned some heads across the area.
"It probably opened people's eyes seeing us beat Gahanna like that," Eneix said. "Gahanna had only lost two games to that point.
"We are very, very scrappy and we don't give up. We've talked about (that) we had to stay in games and be in games because our hitting is strong enough to carry us through, then (we have to minimize) defensive errors."
Panthers open tourney on road
North is seeded 22nd in the Division I district tournament and plays a first-round game at 14th-seeded Central Crossing at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14. The winner visits Liberty on May 16.
The Panthers did not play the Comets or Patriots during the regular season.
North was 7-15 overall and 5-8 in the OCC-Ohio after losing to Gahanna 13-3 on May 6. The Panthers snapped an eight-game losing streak May 1, defeating Reynoldsburg 14-4 in five innings, then defeated Newark 8-5 on May 2. North had 14 hits against Reynoldsburg and took advantage of seven errors, and added 12 hits against Newark.
Seven of the Panthers' losses entering the week were by four or fewer runs.
"It does become discouraging, but on the same note it's encouraging for us because we are fairly young," coach Sarah Looker said. "These girls are resilient."
Central Crossing was 10-10 overall and 5-5 in the OCC-Central before playing Marysville on May 6, having lost eight consecutive games. Top Comets include freshmen pitchers Cassady Coukart and Ally Gruen, junior shortstop Michaela Dorsey and junior pitcher/infielder Abby Rhodes.
"About 20 or 21 schools of the 42 (teams in the tournament field) were right about the same as us record-wise, so I figured we'd end up somewhere in the middle," Looker said.
"There are plenty of teams out there in our same situation, so let's make a run. Let's put it all out there and make a run for it. We have just as much of an opportunity to make a run as anybody else."