As Baylie Baker warmed up April 5, she tried to remain calm. The senior pitcher for the Central Crossing High School softball team didn't want to get too amped-up from the excitement of being back in the circle.

Not only was Baker preparing to test London batters with an arsenal of pitches, she was getting ready to test a bothersome right knee in her first start in nearly a year.

Video •Watch an interview with Central Crossing softball player Baylie Baker.

She passed both tests, picking up the win and getting through the outing with her knee none the worse for wear. She wore a brace on the knee over her uniform pants.

"I could have hit my spots a little better, but overall I did well," said Baker, who struck out three and walked one in 4 1/3 innings in a 12-4 win. "The big thing is building confidence. I think I lost some confidence when I was injured last year. I'm getting that back."

Baker has had more than her fair share of problems with her right knee during her prep career. In February of her freshman year she dislocated the knee and tore her medial patellar retinaculum, a tendon, forcing her to miss the season. Last April, she again tore the tendon and had to watch from the bench as the Comets won a Division I district championship before losing to Teays Valley 6-1 in eight innings in a regional semifinal.

Those injuries not only have taken a toll on Baker's knee, but her psyche as well.

"I was pretty discouraged after getting injured last year and it really damaged my confidence," she said. "Confidence is the most important thing in softball because you have to believe you can do it. It's great to have the support of my teammates. I don't think I could have done it without them."

Baker is the backup to junior Emily Gant, a Boston University recruit who was 13-8 with a 2.69 ERA, 231 strikeouts and 30 walks in 137 innings last season. Through seven games this spring, Gant was 6-0 with 96 strikeouts and four walks and had not given up an earned run in 44 innings.

"It was nice to see Baylie pitch the way she did (against London)," said coach Rona Dorsey, whose team was 8-0 after defeating Olentangy 3-0 on April 10. "She's going to be important for us because it's better to have more than one pitcher. You can have one pitcher, but it's nice to give Emily a break so her arm will have less work going into the postseason."

Baker also plays first base and has been a designated player. Through seven games, the right-hander was 1-0 with four strikeouts, two walks and a 3.50 ERA in eight innings. She had three hits in 13 at-bats with a double and two runs scored.

"Baylie has done whatever we have asked from her and came through," Dorsey said. "She had a big hit (in a 2-0 win) against Westerville Central (on April 4) and had a double (against London). She is getting stronger, but she needs to be confident in herself and that she won't get hurt."

When she doubled against London, Baker's gait wasn't full-stride as she went into second base.

"I still have some pain every once in a while," she said. "I did a lot of physical therapy with a lot of calf strengthening, a lot of quad strengthening. (The right leg) isn't as strong as the left."

The time on the bench showed Baker that she could be an asset to the team without stepping onto the field. She learned more about the nuances of the game and being supportive of her teammates.

"My role was to keep everyone up and their minds on the game," said Baker, who would like to major in occupational therapy in college. "I also would look for signs and try to figure out what the other team was doing. I had to do whatever I could to help the team."

Baseball team learning

ropes of varsity play

The baseball team was 5-6 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Central after losing to Hilliard Davidson 12-0 in five innings April 10.

The Comets won their first league game by defeating Marysville 3-2 on April 5. Freshman Tyler Ronevich struck out four and walked one, and freshman Matt Reed singled twice and drove in a run.

"We are getting better every single time we take the field," coach Scott Todd said. "Our players are starting to catch up to the speed of the game in the OCC.

"They are doing a great job of learning how to compete. We have had some growing pains, which is to be expected with a young team, and it has cost us a couple of games. Most of the mistakes have been physical errors, which can be corrected."

Through 10 games, the 6-foot-5 Ronevich was 2-1 with one save and a 0.41 ERA in 17 innings. He had 16 strikeouts and three walks.

Senior Jordan Pilkington was 2-2 with a 2.07 ERA in 23 2/3 innings with 23 strikeouts and 15 walks.

Sophomore J.J. Carr was batting .433 with nine RBI and three runs, and sophomore Dylan Davis was hitting .318 with three RBI and eight runs.

Track teams ready

for Best of South-West

The boys and girls track and field teams will look to defend their titles in the 15th annual Best of the South-West meet Thursday, April 13, at Franklin Heights.

Last season, the Comets won both championships at home. For the boys, it was their first title in the event since winning eight in a row from 2003-10.

The boys and girls both placed seventh of 13 teams in the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays on April 8 at Big Walnut.

Julia Swallows won the pole vault (11 feet) as the girls scored 32 points to finish behind champion Westerville Central (110).

The boys scored 38 points as Big Walnut (88) won. The Comets were led by the runner-up 6,400-meter relay (20 minutes, 0.02 of a second) of C.J. Patrick, Greg Patrick, Kyle Buerkle and Dylan Price.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen