When it was determined that the Westerville Central High School baseball team could not go south for spring break because of a scheduling conflict, coach Jeff Keifer searched for a shorter road trip.
The temperature wasn't as warm as it was in Florida or South Carolina, but the Warhawks were able to spend last weekend in Cincinnati competing in the Reid Rizzo Memorial Tournament.
Central finished second in the event, defeating Cincinnati Ross 2-0 on April 20 before losing to host Cincinnati LaSalle 5-0 on April 21.
Against Ross, Tyler Bertelsen pitched a complete game, allowing five hits and five walks while striking out two.
Not only did the trip give Central a chance to play two quality opponents from outside central Ohio, it provided an opportunity for the players to bond.
"This was kind of our little mini getaway because we weren't able to go to Myrtle Beach because of the way the schedule fell this year," Keifer said. "I was looking for some kind of a team-bonding weekend where we could just stay in a hotel a couple of nights, go out to dinner, and this turned out great."
Central returned to OCC-Cardinal Division play this week in pursuit of its first league title. The Warhawks lost to Westerville North 5-3 on April 22 to fall to 9-7 overall and 2-2 in the league.
Central won a Division I district championship in 2011 and reached a district final last season, but its best finish in league play came in 2011 when it placed second in the OCC-Cardinal behind Olentangy.
"We're still in contention," shortstop and pitcher Joe Swisher said before the loss to North. "We're still up there. We haven't had one yet, so that's our big priority right now. We really want the OCC championship. We've had some really good teams come through here, but we still haven't had it."
Central will play host to Westerville South on Friday, April 26, and visit the Wildcats on Monday, April 29. The Warhawks swept the season series a year ago, winning 5-2 and 12-3.
Sawyer Allen (C/P/INF) had a team-high .348 batting average through 15 games. Austin Kondratick (C/INF) was hitting .344 and Swisher was batting .311.
On the mound, Nick Buchanan was 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 13 walks in 17 1/3 innings. Bertelsen was 2-1 with a 2.07 ERA, 19 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 2/3 innings and Nick Conkins was 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA, 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 1/3 innings.
"We've been playing pretty consistently and we've been able to win some close games," Keifer said. "Our pitching has been the strength of our team and it's keeping us in every game."
Wildcats showing 'different mindset'
South lost to Hilliard Darby 10-1 on April 22, marking only its second loss in an eight-game stretch.
The loss dropped the Wildcats to 8-6 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Through 13 games, Tom Ingledue (CF) had a team-high .452 batting average and Jake Robinson (P/3B) was hitting .333 and was leading the team in RBI with 14 and stolen bases with 13. Jack Michael (OF/P) was hitting .353 and Connor Horan (1B) was batting .333.
On the mound, Patrick Orr was 3-0 with a 1.81 ERA, 14 strikeouts and five walks in 19 1/3 innings.
"The kids have a different mindset this year," coach Tim Bates said. "Instead of just trying to win one (game), it's more like we should win every game and, if we don't, then we have to answer questions."
Hackett leading way for Warriors
North improved to 7-7 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal with its win over Central on April 22.
The Warriors won two of their three league games last week, defeating Dublin Scioto 7-3 on April 15 and Dublin Jerome 11-3 on April 17 before losing to Scioto 10-4 on April 18.
"The league is extremely balanced this year," coach Sean Ring said. "Going into the last week (of the regular season), we are going to see a pretty tight race with a lot of teams around the same record."
Through 13 games, Kevin Hackett (OF) had a team-high .500 batting average, followed by Joe Beekman (OF) at .407, Michael Cooper (1B/3B) at .395, Davon Harris (INF/P) at .375 and Josh Kovacs (P/1B) at .333.
"Kevin Hackett is having an outstanding season," Ring said. "He's big, strong, athletic, a very talented outfielder. He's kind of playing out of his mind right now. I hope it continues. He's had the ability to do it. He just hasn't put it together. Right now, he's just seeing (the ball) really well and playing really well."
On the mound, Ryan Curtis was 1-2 with a 2.62 ERA, 20 strikeouts and four walks in 24 innings.