Neither Justin Childers nor his Pickerington High School North baseball teammate, Clay Ebbrecht, heard the other estimate why the Panthers have hit their stride the past few weeks.
North had won seven of eight games before playing Dublin Jerome or Westerville South in a Division I district tournament second-round game May 14. The Panthers had put themselves into position to win the OCC-Ohio Division but fell short, but even so, Childers and Ebbrecht attributed their team's success to thorough offensive production.
"Some guys that weren't producing early started hitting, and we're a pretty tough team when we're hitting well," said Childers, a senior pitcher and infielder who was batting .500 with a team-high 37 hits and 15 RBI before May 14. "Winning a lot of games late in the year has given us a tremendous amount of confidence. We've had a few tough innings, but we got our bearings back. We think we can do big things in the tournament."
North was 15-8 overall and 9-4 in the OCC-Ohio before its tournament opener.
Before May 14, the Panthers' only loss in May was a 12-0, five-inning setback against Grove City on May 7. That loss also dashed North's hopes of clinching its second consecutive OCC-Ohio championship, as the Greyhounds clinched the league that night.
North visits Grove City on Thursday, May 15, in its OCC-Ohio finale.
The Panthers tied a season-high for runs in a 14-13 win at Groveport on May 8, pounding out 18 hits. Childers was 3-for-5 and earned the save on the mound as North overcame seven errors.
North was hitting .344 as a team through 23 games. Top hitters behind Childers included Brendan Green (.371, 26 hits, 10 RBI), Michael Pagano (.357, 15 hits, 10 RBI, 2 home runs), Hayden Ballog (.347, 26 hits, 7 doubles, 2 triples), Logan Giddings (.346, 18 hits, 19 RBI, 1 home run) and Dillan Smith (.339, 21 hits).
"We got hot at the right time because of how well we're hitting," said Ebbrecht, a senior pitcher. "We've been pitching well all year. We just had to get some more run support. I think we've been more comfortable hitting lately."
Jake Edwards was 4-0 with a 2.36 ERA in seven appearances before May 14. Giddings was 4-2 and also had a 2.36 ERA, Collin Anderson was 3-0 with a 2.88 ERA and Childers, who usually is a reliever, was 1-3 with a 1.45 ERA.
North earned the 14th seed for the district tournament. South was 18th and Jerome 25th.
The winner advanced to play sixth-seeded Marysville, 33rd-seeded Westerville North or 38th-seeded Northland in a district semifinal Monday, May 19, at Grove City. That winner plays top-seeded Thomas Worthington, 12th-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 19th-seeded Whetstone, 31st-seeded Canal Winchester or 45th-seeded Westland in a district final Wednesday, May 21, at Otterbein University.
The Panthers did not play any of those teams during the regular season.
North is seeking its first district championship since 2009, when it advanced to the state final and lost 5-2 to Cincinnati Moeller.
Tigers' first-round game pushed back
Central faced the possibility of having to play its first two Division I district tournament games on consecutive days after its first-round home game against Logan was postponed to May 13 from May 12.
Bad weather forced the date change. Central earned the 24th seed, and Logan was 42nd.
Central was 10-10 overall and 8-5 in the OCC-Ohio before May 13. It closed last week with back-to-back league wins, 11-10 over Newark on May 8 and 9-6 at Gahanna on May 9.
Brandon Henson's two-run home run tied the game against Newark to highlight a three-run seventh inning.
The Tigers scored seven runs in the fifth to get past Gahanna.
A scheduled May 10 league game at Groveport was postponed. A makeup date was not available at press time.
The Central-Logan winner advanced to visit 17th-seeded Delaware in a second-round game May 14. That winner plays second-seeded Olentangy Liberty, 36th-seeded Chillicothe or 44th-seeded Franklin Heights in a district semifinal Monday, May 19, at Worthington Kilbourne.
The semifinal winner plays eighth-seeded Mount Vernon, 15th-seeded Olentangy, 21st-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley, 22nd-seeded Dublin Coffman or 26th-seeded Hamilton Township in a district final Wednesday, May 21, at Ohio Dominican.
Of those teams, Central split a doubleheader with Olentangy on April 26, winning 10-7 and losing 11-2.