Sara Gockenbach felt the urgency to make this season special for the Groveport Madison High School softball team.

The junior pitcher thinks this could be one of the best teams the Cruisers have ever had.

Videos •Groveport softball pitcher Sara Gockenbach strikes out a batter during a 6-1 win over Newark on April 14. •Watch an interview with Groveport catcher Jessie Rock.

"We've got good players at every position and we have high expectations and goals," Gockenbach said. "I wanted to make sure I have my best season to help the team do everything we can do."

Gockenbach went 12-7 with a 3.68 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings and was named first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division and second-team all-district last year when the Cruisers won 11 of their final 14 games to finish 18-12 and reached a Division I district final.

Groveport was 9-1 overall entering the Grand Strand Softball Classic, which began April 17 and runs through Friday, April 21, in Little River, South Carolina. The Cruisers are 4-0 in the OCC-Capital and resume league play Monday, April 24, at Franklin Heights.

"Much of our success has been due to our pitching and defense," coach Chris Downing said. "We really worked hard in those areas since last spring. Sara has greatly improved her speed and her movement on pitches. Her offspeed stuff is much better and she's hitting her locations. (Senior catcher Jessie Rock) calls the game for us, and those two have been on the same page."

Gockenbach was 8-1 with a 0.87 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 51 innings through 10 games.

"Jessie and I have a great pitcher-catcher relationship and we're always thinking along the same line," said Gockenbach, who was hitting .429 with five doubles. "I've got a great defense behind me, too. They're playing very well and I am very confident that they're going to make all of the routine plays."

Rock, who batted .398 with 15 home runs and 39 RBI and was named first-team all-state last season, was hitting .613 with four home runs and six doubles through 10 games. She had her first hitless game of the season April 14 in a 6-1 win over host Newark.

Against the Wildcats, shortstop Lanie White hit a two-run home run in the first inning, her third of the season. White had five doubles and was batting .389 through 10 games.

First baseman Jodi Kern was hitting .467 with three doubles, third baseman Macie Sporleder was batting .433 and left fielder Carsyn Saunders was hitting .417.

"We're getting production up and down the order and our defense has been strong behind Sara," said Rock, who has committed to playing for Walsh University. "She has improved her location so much and she has really grown as a varsity pitcher in the past year. She worked extremely hard and it's paying off for her this year."

Baseball team
struggling at plate

The baseball team hit a rough patch last week against a pair of strong OCC-Capital opponents.

The Cruisers lost to visiting New Albany 13-1 on April 10 and dropped the rematch at New Albany 1-0 on April 12 before losing to visiting Canal Winchester 10-0 on April 13 in a makeup game from April 7.

Entering the week, Canal Winchester was 10-3 overall and 6-0 in the OCC-Capital and New Albany was 9-2 and 6-0.

"We played Canal tough in our first meeting (6-5 loss on April 5), but we just struggled this week," coach David Eft said. "Those two teams have some very good pitching, but we're just struggling to hit he ball right now.

"Usually, teams have individuals who go through a slump at different times but some teammates step up. Unfortunately, right now our entire lineup is a bit snake-bit. We have a few hitting the ball hard and not finding holes and we have a lot of guys who aren't hitting the ball hard at all. Maybe they'll all come out of their slumps together. That would be fun."

Groveport was 2-7 overall and 2-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing Newark on April 17 and 19.

Sophomore Logan Mayes has been leading the pitching staff and Eft was considering moving him to the No. 1 spot in the rotation.

"He has a decent curveball and he pitches to contact," Eft said. "He works ahead in the count and then tries to get you to hit offspeed stuff. He's doing a good job."

Eft also has been pleased with the play of freshman shortstop Austin Snyder and senior third baseman Zach Ullom.

"I think we've got too much talent and pride not to lift our game and play the way we know we can," Eft said. "I really think a lot of it deals with hitting. If we start hitting the ball, the confidence will return."

Wilson, Brooks lead
boys track team

Mark Wilson and Marvin Brooks helped lead the boys track and field team in the Mansfield Mehock Relays on April 15.

Brooks finished fifth in the 400 meters (51.88 seconds) and Wilson was sixth in both the 100 (11.16) and 200 (23.14) as the Cruisers scored 17 points to finish 12th of 32 teams, behind champion Gahanna (106).

Wilson also was on the fourth-place 400 relay with Corey Newman, Joshua Max-Dixon and Mustafa Ali-Harbi (44.39) and on the seventh-place 800 relay with Newman, Brooks and Ali-Harbi (1:32.85).

Imani Johnson placed sixth in the 200 (26.93) to lead the girls team, which scored 11 points to tie Marion Pleasant for 19th of 31 teams, behind champion Gahanna (126).

Kendra Soler, Madi Young, Reonna Harriston-Mitchell and Johnson combined to finish fifth in the 400 relay (51.71) and sixth in the 800 relay (1:48.27). The 1,600 relay of Young, Johnson, Soler and Victoria Williams was seventh (4:19.75) and the 3,200 relay of Melanie Torres, Cherub Clarke, Ajenae Glover and Williams was eighth (10:49.62).

Francis announces
college decision

Senior Lony Francis recently announced that he will play men's basketball at Vincennes University in Indiana.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek