The Whetstone High School boys tennis team was looking to extend its streak of City League-North Division titles to six this spring.
However, a front-loaded league schedule and a lineup featuring four newcomers have hindered the Braves in their quest.
Whetstone was 3-1 overall and in the City-North before concluding its league matches April 10 against Beechcroft.
"With only five league matches, we were pretty much out of the running for a City title after losing our second match of the year to Centennial (4-1 on March 29)," 14th-year coach Bucky Walters said. "We were without our top player (freshman Kaleb White) and without our only senior (Hunter Stavenger)."
The Braves opened March 27 with a 5-0 win over Linden-McKinley. After losing to the Stars, they rebounded to beat Mifflin 5-0 on April 3 and Northland 5-0 on April 5.
Centennial was 4-0 in the league before plying Mifflin on April 10.
Whetstone's non-league matches against Ready (March 31) and DeSales (April 6) were postponed by bad weather. The former was rescheduled for April 21 but the latter was not immediately rescheduled.
"We are very young and inexperienced," Walters said. "I see this as a rebuilding year, for sure, but we have many kids excited about playing. I'm excited to see how we're playing at the end of the season. I think we can be pretty good down the road, especially next year."
Last year, Whetstone beat West 4-1 in the City final, marking the fifth season in a row in which the Braves and Cowboys met in the City championship match. West won 4-1 in 2015, 3-2 in 2013 and 3-2 in 2012, and Whetstone won 3-2 in 2014.
The Braves went 5-0 in the City-North last season, ahead of runner-up Beechcroft (4-1).
While White is playing first singles, freshman Colin Harmon-Ulmer has been battling juniors Atticus Bulgrin and Armando Prince for second singles and sophomore Kalman Buterbaugh was getting time at third singles.
Sophomore Henry Morris, Bulgrin and Harmon-Ulmer all are expected to see action at first doubles, while Stavenger and freshmen Andrew Ray and Louis Schirmer are competing for time at second doubles.
"I've got 10 or 11 guys who will all see time this season and most of them will get to play on different courts as we mix and match," Walters said. "Kaleb White and Colin Harmon-Ulmer are players with several years of club experience, but we need to get them high-school match experience and see how it translates.
"What I really enjoy is the fact that we have no superstars and the boys like doing things together. I'm really excited to see how things turn out this year and where we can get to in the future."
The Braves did not have any Division I district qualifiers last season. Bulgrin and 2016 graduate Chin McCollum reached a district-qualifying match in doubles at sectional before losing.
Bulgrin and 2016 graduate Eoghan Dempsey were first-team all-league at second doubles and Stavenger and Morris were second-team all-league at first doubles.
Baseball team out
to strong start
The baseball team entered the week 7-0 overall, including 4-0 in the City-North.
The Braves had outscored their first seven opponents 71-15.
"I'm a bit surprised to be 7-0 (before playing Centennial on April 10), but it makes me happy," coach Tim Broskie said. "Davis Kleen and Michael Ray have been excellent on the mound in their starts, and Seth Bragg has had two amazing relief appearances and might be moving into the starting rotation."
In league games, Whetstone defeated Mifflin 11-1 on April 11, Linden 14-2 on March 29, Beechcroft 17-0 on April 3 and Northland 5-4 on April 5.
The Braves, who have won five consecutive City titles, posted non-league wins over Grandview (8-6 on March 28), Whitehall (5-0 on March 30) and Ready (11-2 on April 4).
"We've already got some good non-league wins and that's because all of the boys are contributing and stepping up," Broskie said. "Jack Staggs has been solid at first base and in the three-hole in our batting order, but we expected that. Jacob Hochstetler (3B) was 6-for-8 with a lot of RBI in our three games last week, but we expected that, too. He was our DH last year and he's hitting fifth in the order.
"But we've got three first-year full-time starters in Justin McDaniel (DH), Cameron Bragg (CF/LF) and Evan Cossin (C) who are coming up big. It's been a great start to the season."
Softball team also
off to fast start
The softball team was 7-2 overall and 4-0 in the City-North before playing three- time defending City champion Centennial on April 10.
The Stars entered the game 3-0 in the league.
"We're getting strong pitching from Bailey Waitkus and solid hitting from Gwyn Armstrong (3B/1B), Roz Hannah (SS) and Heaven McWilliams (LF), who returned after becoming academically eligible," coach Larry Peck said. "Bailey has a 1.35 ERA. Gwyn, Roz and Heaven are all batting over .500 and Jolie Mason (OF/2B) is hitting really well, too. We're getting good production from top to bottom.
"I also like the fact that we're getting to work some young girls into the mix. We've got seven seniors and a lot of freshmen and not much in between, so we've got to get some of these freshmen comfortable at the varsity level this year."
One of those freshmen is pitcher AnnaMary Absalom.
"We're bringing her along and we've stressed on her not to allow many walks," Peck said. "So as would be typical of a young varsity pitcher, at first she was falling behind in the count and then letting up on the pitch trying to guide it. But she's making strides and not doing that as much now."
Whetstone posted league wins over Mifflin (19-5 on March 27), Linden (16-6 on March 29), Beechcroft (16-2 on April 3) and Northland (22-4 on April 5).
In non-league games, the Braves swept Centerburg (4-1 and 7-1 on March 25), lost to Dublin Scioto (6-0 on March 30) and split with Hamilton Township (winning 14-8 and losing 17-5 on April 1).
Track teams compete
at Buckeye Valley
Led by its relays, the boys track and field team finished third (70 points) in the 11-team Diller Invitational on April 7 at Buckeye Valley behind Worthington Christian (148) and the host Barons (116).
The 400-meter relay of Ibrahim Sesay, Adreon Barrett, Bryan Battle and Ephrayim Robinson finished first in 46.34 seconds, while the 1,600 relay of Barrett, Robinson, Sesay and Sam Khoury won in 3:37.49.
The 800 relay of Barrett, Andrew Pierce, Sesay and Robinson placed second (1:35.17) and the 3,200 relay of Barrett, Emil Adams, Khoury and Francisco Soto was third (9:07.67).
Individually for the Braves, placing fourth were Robinson in the 200 (24.36), Pierce in the 400 (53.09), Adams in the 800 (2:07.24), Khoury in the 1,600 (5:00.07) and Patrick McCollum in the 300 hurdles (47.68).
Jamie Bossenbroek won the 300 hurdles (48.72) and placed second in the 110 hurdles (17.5) and third in the long jump (13 feet, 3 3/4 inches) and Sofia McLemore won the 100 (13.03) and was second in the 200 (28.09) to lead the girls team, which finished fifth (70) in the Diller Invitational behind champion Bexley (123).
The 400 relay of Sabrina Vedovato, Tajainea Little, Arielle Swinehart and McLemore placed second (54.82) and Mariyanna Lacy was third in the 800 (2:30).
*March 27 -- vs. Linden-McKinley
*March 29 -- at Centennial
*April 3 -- at Mifflin
*April 5 -- at Northland
April 6 -- vs. DeSales
*April 10 -- vs. Beechcroft
April 12 -- vs. Watterson
April 13 -- vs. Teays Valley
April 21 -- vs. Ready
April 25 -- vs. Westerville South
April 28 -- vs. Franklin Heights
May 3 -- vs. Grandview
May 5 -- at Hilliard Bradley
May 9 -- vs. Grove City
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone baseball, softball, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 13 -- At Pickerington North
April 15 -- Home vs. Delaware and Mount Vernon
April 18 -- At Centerburg
April 13 -- At Bexley
TRACK & FIELD
April 12 -- At Northland with Watterson
April 13 -- Home vs. Northland