Reynoldsburg High School senior Jessie Alianiello wasn't exactly jumping for joy when she found out a couple months ago that her younger sister, Kelley, would be graduating early.
It also was a shock to their mother, Lisa, when Kelley first began talking about it.
Both Jessie and Lisa have since come around to the idea.
"It made me a little mad at first because it was supposed to be my special day, but I think it's going to be exciting," Jessie said. "It's the first time our whole family is going to be together in forever."
"When I told my mom I could graduate early, she was like, 'I'm not ready for your sister to graduate yet, let alone both of you,'" said Kelley, who entered this school year as a junior and is about 18 months younger than her sister. "It feels a little bit unreal. We weighed the pros and cons, and it feels more natural to be graduating now than in a year from now."
The sisters have only a few more days to share another of their passions -- playing for the Raiders softball team - before beginning the next phase of their lives.
Jessie has been Reynoldsburg's No. 1 pitcher since her freshman season and plans to attend Ohio Northern University, where she hopes to try out for the softball team.
Kelley has been with the program since her freshman season and is in her second year as a varsity outfielder. Now 17 years old, she also is a part of Columbus State University's dual-enrollment program.
Kelley plans to spend one year in the Air National Guard before enrolling at the University of Findlay, which is about half an hour from Ohio Northern.
"(Jessie) has played every game since her freshman year for us," coach Rich Hogle said. "She went 6-for-7 in our doubleheader (April 27 against Eastmoor Academy).
"Kelley has enough courses that she's going to graduate a year early. The kid's brilliant."
On the field, the Alianiello sisters believe they've seen significant growth throughout the program despite the Raiders' poor record.
Reynoldsburg won one game a year ago and was 3-18 overall and 0-12 in the OCC-Ohio Division after losing to Newark 21-2 on May 6. The Raiders also played non-league Licking Heights on May 7.
Still, the Raiders earned a moral victory when they played all seven innings during a 9-1 loss May 2 at perennial area power Gahanna.
The Raiders had lost 59 consecutive OCC-Ohio games before playing Newark and Groveport on May 8, but the Alianiello sisters and Hogle believe the streak will end soon.
"Everybody tries to run-rule us, and it just makes us mad," Hogle said. "Our goal (May 2) was not to get run-ruled and to go seven innings so I was very pleased with them, and I'm not easily pleased."
Reynoldsburg swept Eastmoor 12-10 and 9-8 on April 27. Its first win came April 9 against visiting Walnut Ridge, 21-2.
The Raiders are seeded 38th for the Division I district tournament and open at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, at Westerville Central. The winner plays at 5:30 p.m. May 16 against 20th-seeded Dublin Jerome at the home of the higher-seeded team.
"I think we're definitely coming along with our work at the plate," Jessie said. "We're swinging the bats more because we got a new batting cage this year that we share with baseball. We have one girl (junior infielder Marissa Andrews) who (had) four home runs (before May 3)."
"I've seen all of the girls wanting to get better this year," Kelley said. "We try to set little goals for ourselves. One of our goals might be not to get run-ruled and try to get to the seventh inning, or decreasing our errors. I've seen our underclassmen step up."
Tennis team set for league tourney
The boys tennis team was 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Groveport on May 7 and still has a makeup match against Pickerington Central, so it likely needs significant help to remain in the league-title race.
The league tournament is Saturday, May 11, on Reynoldsburg's home court.
Last season, the Raiders went 6-1 and finished second in the OCC-Ohio with 60 points, behind Pickerington North (63, 7-0) and ahead of Gahanna (47, 5-2), Grove City (32, 4-3), Pickerington Central (29, 3-4), Lancaster (18, 2-5), Groveport (16, 1-6) and Newark (3, 0-7).
Reynoldsburg lost to Gahanna 3-2 on April 18 and to Pickerington North 4-1 on April 23.
Sophomore Cameron Raglin, who won the league title at first singles last season, lost to Gahanna's Canyon Teague 6-0, 6-3 on April 18.
The Raiders will play in a Division I sectional tournament May 16 and 18 at home.
Baseball team gets first two league wins
The baseball team broke through for its first win in league play May 2 when it beat Lancaster 3-1.
Senior Nick Hedrick, who splits time between catcher and pitcher, tossed a five-hitter. Lancaster scored its only run in the seventh.
The Raiders also defeated Newark 1-0 on May 3 with a run in the seventh and were 2-10 in the league before playing Groveport on May 6. They recently lost close games to Newark (5-3 on May 1) and Pickerington North (8-7 on April 22).
They were beaten by an average of 11.5 runs during their other eight league losses before playing Groveport.
The Raiders are seeded 33rd for the Division I district tournament and open at 5 p.m. Monday, May 13, at home against 37th-seeded Delaware. The winner plays at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at top-seeded Pickerington North.