The Thomas Worthington High School baseball team has a lot going on this week.
Not only are the Cardinals looking to win their third consecutive OCC-Central Division title, but they're trying to set their pitching rotation, which has been missing standout Nick Pauley the last two weeks.
Moreover, Thomas is preparing to make a run at its third consecutive Division I district championship.
According to coach Anthony Leahy, Pauley was injured in a non-baseball incident but is expected to return in time for the postseason.
The Cardinals are seeded first of 45 teams in the district and have a first-round bye. They face 45th-seeded Westland in the second round Wednesday, May 14. The winner will play 12th-seeded Hilliard Davidson, 19th-seeded Whetstone or 31st-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal May 19 at Dublin Coffman.
"Nick is injured right now and rehabbing and we look forward to his return," Leahy said. "It has forced guys to take on some additional roles, and we have really hit well 1 through 9 (in the batting order) since he went out to make up for what we lost. ... We discussed it when we found out (Pauley) was going to miss some time."
The Cardinals improved to 19-4 overall and 9-2 in the OCC-Central with a 4-1 win over Hilliard Davidson on May 5.
They played Olentangy Liberty in a league game May 7 and conclude league play with games Thursday, May 8, at Central Crossing and Friday, May 9, at home against Liberty.
Entering play May 6, Thomas held a half-game lead in the OCC-Central over Liberty, which was 8-2. Marysville and Upper Arlington both were 8-4.
On the mound through 20 games, Pauley was 3-1 with a 1.84 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. Sam Ankrom was 4-0 with a 4.60 ERA in 24 1/3 innings, Timmy Hoerauf was 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in 31 2/3 innings, Andy Burpee was 3-1 with a save and a 4.30 ERA in 14 2/3 innings and Brady Roesch was 2-0 with a 4.12 ERA in 17 innings.
Jace Komminsk (1-0, 2.05 ERA in 13 2/3 innings) and Jaret Gerber (0-0, 2 saves, 1.00 ERA in 7 innings) primarily are relievers.
"We are continuing to work out the pitching rotation with relief pitchers and I have really been stressing playing great defense," Leahy said. "I feel like we are making improvements in that area."
According to Leahy, entering the week the Cardinals' team batting average was hovering around .360. Among the key contributors at the plate through 20 games were Pauley (.515, 14 RBI, 3 home runs), Kegan Lanter (.441, 17 runs, 18 RBI), Burpee (.407), Tommy Pischel (.389, 24 runs, 14 RBI), Roesch (.389), Danny Gordon (.375, 14 runs, 17 RBI), Komminsk (.346, 13 runs, 14 RBI) and Ankrom (.342).
"Kegan Lanter has really hit all season," Leahy said. "He is in the No. 3 spot in the order and has been hitting between .450 and .500 all year. He is having a great season at the plate.
"Roesch has really come on as well over the past few weeks. ... Pischel and Gerber are hitting 1 and 2 (in the order) and getting on base a lot. ... We are just a really strong team offensively."
Wolves to face Eagles in district opener
Kilbourne is hoping to gain momentum from its recent play heading into the Division I district tournament.
The Wolves lost to New Albany 3-0 on May 5 to fall to 7-11 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Capital, but they entered their rematch with the Eagles on May 6 having won four of their previous seven games.
"We've played well the past few weeks, so we are looking to continue that trend in the end of the regular season to ensure we carry this momentum into the postseason," coach Jeff Boulware said.
Kilbourne will face the Eagles again in its postseason opener. The Wolves are seeded 39th in the district and will play at 20th-seeded New Albany in the first round Monday, May 12.
The winner plays at seventh-seeded St. Charles in second round Wednesday, May 14. The second-round winner will face ninth-seeded Upper Arlington or 16th-seeded Watkins Memorial in a district semifinal May 20 at Gahanna.
Kilbourne defeated Thomas 1-0 on May 3 behind a four-hitter by freshman pitcher Dominic Frengel.