Following a slow start this season, the Westerville North High School softball team turned things around in the second half of the season and contended for another OCC-Cardinal Division title.

Following a slow start this season, the Westerville North High School softball team turned things around in the second half of the season and contended for another OCC-Cardinal Division title.

North lost its first four games during a spring break drip to Florida March 26-29 and 10 of its first 13 games before winning nine of its last 10.

The Warriors finished 12-12 overall after losing to Marysville 8-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament May 10.

North defeated Dublin Coffman 1-0 in the first round May 9.

"We started out not as well as we could have," coach Joe Francisco said. "We were going to cut the season in half and see if we could turn it around in the second half and the kids sure did."

The Warriors finished second (10-3) in the league behind Olentangy Liberty (12-2) and ahead of Marysville (9-5), Westerville South (8-6), Westerville Central (6-7), Dublin Jerome (5-8), Olentangy (3-10) and Dublin Scioto (1-13).

North's game with Olentangy on May 4 was canceled because of bad weather and was not rescheduled since it didn't have a bearing on the final standings.

Last season, North and Marysville shared the league title at 11-3.

Senior Sami Dustman led the Warriors in hitting at .369, and senior Alli Rowland was the team's top pitcher. She finished 12-11 overall and 10-3 in the league.

North won three of four games against Central and South, defeating Central 3-2 in eight innings on April 4 and 8-2 on April 23, and avenged a 2-1 loss in eight innings to South on April 13 with an 8-7 win on April 30.

North's 6-4 win over Marysville on May 3 was Francisco's 400th career win.

The Warriors will lose nine seniors, but should return a solid nucleus, led by juniors Paige Chapman (OF), Olivia Grilliot (OF/C) and Victoria Shaffer (OF/INF), and freshmen Alex Allamon (OF/2B), Lizzy Bauer (OF/SS/C), Chase Brumfield (C/1B/OF) and Halli Swiger (OF).

"In all of the years I've coached, I've learned that high school kids especially are resilient," Francisco said. "They forget losses very quickly and come to practice with the idea of winning the next game. We saw that with this team."

Aiello to be among key losses for Wildcats

South finished 12-14 overall after losing to Thomas Worthington 5-2 in the second round of the district tournament May 10 and Liberty 8-7 in a rescheduled league game on May 16.

"This was a great team," coach Jerry Kelbley said. "They battled. They were a tough team all year long. I'm disappointed for them in some of the losses. I'm not disappointed of them, but for them. They played their hearts out."

Senior shortstop Erica Aiello was first-team all-league and first-team all-district after hitting .494. She led the team in runs with 29.

Aiello was second in voting behind Liberty's Aoife Duffy for league player of the year honors.

Junior Chelsea Raker (3B/1B/P) was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. She led the team in hitting (.529), RBI (30), doubles (16), triples (5) and home runs (4).

Senior Lindsay Gerhart (OF/INF), who hit .341, was second-team all-league and junior pitcher Leah Ross was honorable mention all-league.

Ross was 11-10 with a 2.62 ERA. She had 70 strikeouts and 47 walks in 144 2/3 innings.

Aiello, Gerhart and Devan Akers were the team's seniors.

"We had some really good wins and it's kind of sad that it's over," Akers said.

"They were very good seniors," Kelbley said. "There was a lot of leadership there and they were good ball players."

Other players expected to return next season are juniors Hannah Abner (OF), Laura Harrah (OF), Kerri Migliore (INF/OF), Bre Soule (1B/OF), Brianna Wendell (C/OF) and Katie Williams (1B/OF).

Coach 'very happy' with end of Central's season

Central opened the district tournament by defeating Mount Vernon 2-1 in nine innings in a first-round game May 9 before losing to Gahanna 4-1 in the second round May 10.

The Warhawks finished 11-15 overall.

Sophomore pitcher Paige McMenemy was first-team all-league and second-team all-district after leading the team in hitting at .495 and RBI with 28.

In the circle, she was 11-10 with a 1.36 ERA. She had 168 strikeouts and 59 walks in 159 1/3 innings.

Senior Andi Lowe (C) and junior Perry Wallinger (OF) were each second-team all-league.

Wallinger hit .420 followed by Lowe at .381.

"I'm very happy with the way the season went," Wallinger said. "I loved this team this year. One of my favorite parts about this team is we never gave up during any of our games. You never saw quit in anybody and I was incredibly impressed with the leadership we had from the seniors this season."

Sophomore Morgan Ciehanski (2B/OF) was honorable mention all-league.

Lowe and Meredith Bury (3B/SS) were the team's seniors.

"We only had two seniors this year, but both Andi and Meredith did a good job of leading the underclassmen," coach Brian Wamsley said. "Andi was solid all year defensively with only one error and had her most productive offensive year in the three years I've been here. Meredith caught fire towards the end of the season going five for seven in the two tournament games as she finished her career with a bang. Both girls were a pleasure to coach and I will certainly miss them next year."

Other players expected to return next season are juniors Adrienne Nelson (2B/OF), Hailey Pinkerton (2B/OF) and Kaitlyn Tumblison (1B/OF), sophomore Allie Haines (C/OF), and freshmen Hannah Carter (SS/P) and Jessie Lowery (1B/OF).

"This team played hard to the final out in every game and they never gave up," Wamsley said. "They improved in many areas as the year progressed, but our biggest hurdle was the lack of consistency. When we played the way we were capable of playing, we could hang in there with anyone in our conference, but our biggest issue is when we had the errors and would give the opposition four or five outs an inning. It is difficult to beat good teams when we are doing that."