The Hartley High School softball team got a big game offensively from a key senior and a strong performance from a freshman pitcher while advancing to a district final for the second time in three seasons.
Coach Meghan Zuercher, though, wasn't sure how far her team would have gotten if its defense hadn't stepped up.
During a 4-3 win over fourth-seeded Lakewood on May 19 in a Division II district semifinal at Pickerington North, the seventh-seeded Hawks committed just one error and were led in the field by sophomore center fielder Maria Cegledy.
The win advanced Hartley to a matchup against top-seeded and defending state champion Licking Valley in a district final May 24 at Pickerington Central, but its season ended with an 8-2 loss.
"Our fielders played great (against Lakewood)," Zuercher said. "Lakewood's an aggressive swinging team and they hit (our pitcher) hard, but then she started to trust her defense. Maria Cegledy just has a cannon out in center field so they couldn't run on her, and Sidney (Melton at shortstop) had a ton of action and made a ton of plays."
Hartley, which finished 15-13, was tied with the Panthers at 1 heading into the bottom of the third of the district final.
Licking Valley's Carly Skeese broke the tie with a home run and Shelby McCombs and Kori Locke homered during a six-run fifth inning.
Hartley scored its first run in the third when Kristen Culbertson drove in Mariah Rock with a single to left. Cassie Plageman drove in the Hawks' other run with a single in the seventh.
Melton, a senior who has signed with Louisville, went 4-for-4 against Lakewood. Freshman pitcher Tatum Wise gave up two first-inning runs but didn't allow another until the final inning.
Hartley led 4-2 entering the bottom of the seventh. The Lancers scored once and had a runner at first when their final batter hit a line drive to center that Cegledy caught to end the game.
"Our coach really harps on team defense and we really did a good job on that," Melton said.
Track teams set for regional
Postseason competition is underway for the boys and girls track and field teams.
The girls scored 49 points to finish fourth behind champion Hilliard Davidson (129) in the 16-team Division I, district 3 meet that concluded May 24 at Hilliard Darby.
The boys placed eighth (44) behind champion Liberty Union (106) in the 15-team Division II, district 1 meet that concluded May 24 at Heath.
The girls are competing in the Division I regional that began May 28 and concludes Friday, May 30, at Pickerington North.
Winning girls district titles were Emily Franz in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 15.21 seconds), Naja Greer in the 200 (24.49) and the 800 relay of Ky'leana Allen, Franz, Greer and Deja Martin (1:43.8).
Also advancing were Martin in the 100 (fourth, 12.76), the 400 relay of Greer, Martin, Taneyzia Robinson and Briana Sharp (third, 50.02) and the 1,600 relay of Allen, Kristian Brown, Emily Franz and Greer (second, 4:01.13).
The boys compete in the Division II regional Thursday, May 29, and Saturday, May 31, at Lexington.
The 800 relay of Kristopher Hill, Richard Jones III, Jacob Mercier and Alonzo Saxton won a district title in 1:31.14. Also advancing to regional were Cameron Hart in the long jump (second, 21 feet, 3 inches) and high jump (third, 6-1) and Hill in the 200 (22.51).
The top four finishers in each regional event in Divisions I and II advance to the state meet June 6 and 7 at Ohio State.
Baseball team seeks pitching depth
With four of its top five hitters eligible to return, the baseball team entered the offseason looking for pitching depth.
Andrew Gilliland, who went 4-4 with a 3.61 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 50 1/3 innings while serving as the No. 1 pitcher, led a five-member senior class.
"I think we're going to be good next year," first-year coach Chad Young said. "Our pitching is going to have to get a lot better. We've got Adam Rose, who's a sophomore, Nate Moore, who's a sophomore, and Pat Heinmiller, who's a junior, all coming back. Those guys are going to have to be really good pitchers for us."
Rose was second in innings pitched (35) and went 3-3 for the Hawks, who lost to third-seeded Fredericktown 13-3 in a Division III district semifinal May 19 at Olentangy.
Hartley, which was the fifth seed and opened the postseason with a 10-2 win over 12th-seeded Galion Northmor on May 16, finished 11-14 overall.
The Hawks tied DeSales for third (3-5) in the CCL behind Watterson (7-1) and St. Charles (6-2) and ahead of Ready (1-7).
Sophomore Austin Rawlins (1B) led in hitting at .438 with 13 RBI and 20 runs. Freshman Jake Ruby (OF) hit .388 with 20 runs and junior Adam Lowe (SS) batted .364 with 20 RBI.
Junior Cameron Macioce (3B) led in RBI with 22 and Rose batted .357.
Gilliland batted .340. Seniors Drew Onega (.378) and Sam Montgomery (.338) each scored 25 runs to tie for the team lead.
Gilliland, Onega, Rawlins and Ruby made first-team all-league, Lowe and Montgomery were second-team all-league and Gilliland and Montgomery were second-team all-district.
"When a new coach comes in, you're trying to teach an old dog new tricks and the seniors all had great attitudes all year," Young said. "Baseball meant a lot to them."