Despite returning a strong core group from last season, the Whetstone High School baseball team knew it would need first-year starters and newcomers to step up in order to have success this season.

So far, so good for the Braves, who were 10-2 overall entering the week and are 7-0 in the City League-North Division.

"We've got some unsung guys stepping up and dong their jobs and have really helped solidify what we have as a whole and that has led to our great start," said coach Tim Broskie, whose team won its first 10 contests before falling to Delaware 7-1 and Mount Vernon 7-0 on April 15. "Three of those guys are Justin McDaniel, Cameron Bragg and Evan Cossin. They have done everything we've asked them and more."

McDaniel, a senior, was a spot starter last season, pitching five innings and playing nine other games as a designated hitter or third baseman. He went only 8-for-43 at the plate last year for a .186 average. As the full-time designated hitter and batting cleanup this season, he was hitting .500 (14-for-28) with 19 runs scored and 16 RBI through 10 games.

"He has never been a full-time starter, but he's having a heck of a senior season," Broskie said. "He works extremely hard and we've told him to just concentrate on hitting. That's all he's doing. He gets extra work on the (batting) tee and is always taking (batting practice). We'd be lost without his bat in the lineup."

"I'm hitting four or five times a day, either on the tee or getting in extra batting practice with live pitching," McDaniel said. "Some people might not like being a DH, but I love it. It suits me well. I'm able to focus on just one aspect of the game and get better at it. But I wouldn't be getting my RBI if the top three guys weren't doing their jobs getting on base. We're hitting well as a team."

Bragg, a junior center fielder, is hitting in the leadoff spot. He had only three varsity at-bats last season, but was hitting .571 (16-for-28) through 10 games with 15 runs and 15 stolen bases. In addition, he had drawn six walks and had been hit by a pitch three times while striking out only three times.

"Cameron has been wonderful at the top of the order," Broskie said. "He's seeing a lot of pitches, working the count. Plus, he has great speed. Like Justin and Evan, he has put a lot of work into his game. All of those guys played spring, summer and fall ball and competed in a winter hitting league."

Cossin, a junior catcher, was batting .296 (8-for-27) with 13 RBI.

"Evan is a tremendous defensive catcher who has contributed offensively with three squeezes and some timely hits," Broskie said. "What I love about him is he is always the first one to the field and the last one to leave. He's also a pretty good vocal leader for a junior."

The newcomers are adding to the anticipated offensive production from Jack Staggs (.444, 16 runs, 11 RBI), Jacob Hochstetler (.448, 15 runs, 13 RBI) and Michael Ray (.300, 15 runs).

On the mound, Seth Bragg was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 12 2/3 innings, Davis Kleen was 2-0 with a 2.15 ERA in 13 innings and Ray was 2-0 with a 3.41 ERA in 12 1/3 innings.

Softball team learns
from loss to Stars

The softball team proved to itself that it can compete with three-time defending City champion Centennial, which is a good thing because the Braves likely will need to beat the visiting Stars on May 4 to earn a share of the City-North title.

Whetstone lost at Centennial 10-9 on April 10 despite scoring five runs in the first inning and taking a 7-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth.

Centennial pulled within 7-3 and then scored seven runs in the fifth to take a 10-7 lead before the Braves scored twice in the sixth.

"It was a classic Whetstone-Centennial game. They are never over until they are over," coach Larry Peck said. "Every pitch matters in the rivalry game. Losing after taking a 7-0 lead is inexcusable, but I give credit to Centennial for fighting their way back.

"The difference in the game was (Centennial) got one more strikeout at the right time, made one more defensive play at the right time and got one more hit at the right time. We made three mental errors and we allowed a home run on an 0-2 pitch. Every one of those mistakes added up and cost us."

Whetstone is 6-1 in the City-North and doesn't play any league games this week because Columbus City Schools is on spring break. The Braves resume league play Monday, April 24, at Linden-McKinley.

Centennial is 6-0 in the league.

The Braves responded to the loss by beating Mifflin 21-1 on April 12 and East 15-1 on April 13.

Against Centennial, pitcher Bailey Waitkus was 2-for-3 with a double and three runs scored and Jolie Mason was 2-for-4, including a bases-loaded triple in the first inning. AnnaMary Absalom had a two-out, two-run double in the sixth.

"I still think this is a special team and we can still achieve all of our goals, but we will need to learn from this experience," Peck said. "In sports, challenges and adversity and how you deal with them are what separates champions from everybody else. We will get to decide who we become in the next several weeks based on our effort and attitude."

Pierce, Sesay, Barrett
lead boys track team

Andrew Pierce, Ibrahim Sesay and Adreon Barrett helped the boys track and field team place 10th (22 points) in the 16-team Dublin Classic on April 15 at Coffman, behind champion Pickerington Central (122).

Pierce finished fourth in the 400 meters (52.32 seconds), Sesay was fourth in the long jump (20 feet, 7 inches) and Barrett was on three relays that scored.

The 1,600 relay of Barrett, Emil Adams, Ephrayim Robinson and Pierce (3:33.82) and the 3,200 relay of Barrett, Adams, Sam Khoury and Francisco Soto (8:22.57) both placed fourth, while the 400 relay of Bryan Battle, Barrett, Robinson and Sesay was seventh (44.98).

The girls team finished 15th (7) of 16 teams, behind champion Central (128).

Jamie Bossenbroek placed fifth in the 300 hurdles (48.1) and Mariyanna Lacy was sixth in the 800 (2:30.16).

Boys volleyball team
finding its rhythm

The boys volleyball team has won five of its past seven matches after splitting its first six.

The Braves, who are 8-5, have no matches scheduled this week because of spring break. They resume play Tuesday, April 25, at home against Briggs.

Whetstone beat Reynoldsburg 25-1, 25-14, 25-16 on April 4 and Licking Heights 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 on April 6 before going 1-2 in a four-team match April 8, beating Kent Roosevelt 25-19, 26-24 and falling to host Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 25-22, 25-19 and Brecksville-Broadview Heights 25-18, 25-19.

The Braves then beat Xenia 25-15, 25-5, 25-16 on April 11 and Northland 25-10, 25-12, 25-18 on April 13.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek