The Thomas Worthington High School baseball team put the brakes on a three-game losing streak by defeating Westland 10-1 on April 20 to earn a split in the OCC-Central Division series.

The Thomas Worthington High School baseball team put the brakes on a three-game losing streak by defeating Westland 10-1 on April 20 to earn a split in the OCC-Central Division series.

"It was a much-needed win," said coach Stephen Gussler, whose Cardinals had dropped the first game 4-3 on April 18 while also losing league games to Dublin Coffman (10-0 in five innings on April 16) and Upper Arlington (8-4 on April 19) to split those series. "The reality is high-school players don't always respond well to a losing streak."

Thomas was 13-5 overall and 6-3 in the OCC-Central after beating Hilliard Darby 8-1 on April 23. The Cardinals also played the Panthers on April 25.

Thomas, Darby and UA were 6-3 in the league before April 25.

"We went through a pretty tough week losing three league games in a row like we did," Gussler said. "The boys stayed positive, though, and the great thing about baseball is that you don't have time to stay down for long. You get right back at it the next day with a chance to turn things around."

The Cardinals will play Central Crossing and Worthington Kilbourne in their final two OCC-Central series. The first game against the Wolves is Wednesday, May 2, at Kilbourne. The return game is May 4 at Thomas.

"Unfortunately, it's going to be the last time we play them in the league for a while," Kilbourne coach Jeff Boulware said. "We're moving to the Cardinal Division in 2013 and then the Capital (Division) in 2014. I'm sure we'll keep playing, but it won't be in the league."

The Wolves also have endured a tough stretch this spring. They dropped four of six games at one point and were swept by Upper Arlington in an OCC-Central series with a 3-0 loss April 9 and 7-2 setback April 11.

Kilbourne responded by winning three of its next four games. It swept a series from Westland and then earned a split in the next league series by shutting down Hilliard Davidson 4-0 on April 20 as Ben Paulin pitched six strong innings for the victory. Hayden Shenefield, who paced the offense with two hits, threw a scoreless seventh.

The Wolves improved to 8-6 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Central.

"I give a lot of credit to our captains for holding things together," Boulware said, referring to first baseman Jacob Shriver and shortstop Brian Hanks.

Any combination of Paulin, staff ace Jake Niggemeyer or Brian Sommers is likely to get the two starts against the Cardinals. Niggemeyer had a 1.86 ERA in 26 1/3 innings through 14 games, and the only lower ERA on the staff belonged to Charlie Foster (1.27 in 11 innings).
Sommers was 3-1 and both Foster and Paulin were 2-0.

Shenefield continued to wield one of the team's hottest bats through 14 games. He led the regulars in batting average (.426), Hanks led in runs scored (10), Sommers in on-base percentage (.460) and Tom Scantland in RBI (11).

The Cardinals likely will counter Kilbourne's starting pitching with Drew Taylor and Nick Pauley, both of whom had made five starts through 17 games.

Pauley was 5-0 with a staff-best 1.75 ERA. Taylor was 3-2 while Wes Lindenmuth, who also could get one of the starts, was 2-1 with two saves and a 3.32 ERA. He and Pauley led the staff in strikeouts with 15 apiece.

Among the regulars through 17 games, Dylan Holmes led the Cardinals in batting average (.429), slugging percentage (.612), hits (21), triples (three) and runs (17). Lindenmuth was hitting .373 and led the team in doubles (six) and RBI (11).

Sean Lima was batting .357 and Taylor .308, and Kirby Boehm had 10 RBI.

Kilbourne swept the Cardinals in a pair of close games last spring by winning 5-3 and 5-4.

"We like the natural rivalry we have," Gussler said. "The kids have played together or against each other since middle school, and even going back to their Worthington Youth Boosters days. It's always fun and very competitive when we get together."