Stacey Walters of the Big Walnut High School softball team had been hearing her coach preach the importance of being aggressive at the plate.
With a game against DeSales tied at six in the bottom of the eighth inning April 18, the pitcher and outfielder took a cut at the first pitch and drove it into the outfield for a hit to secure the Golden Eagles' 7-6 walk-off victory.
The win was part of a stretch in which the Golden Eagles won six of seven contests. A 25-4, five-inning victory over Franklin Heights on April 19 improved Big Walnut to 7-6 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Capital Division.
"I hate to sound cliche, but when you face good pitching and take a first-pitch strike, you're down in the count," coach Jeff Hatfield said. "But I see us getting better at the plate as we try and position ourselves to battle for the league (title) and play in the (Division II district) tournament."
Since starting 1-5, Big Walnut has been a force at the plate, averaging more than nine runs per game before playing Westerville North on April 21.
Even during a 6-1 loss to Newark on April 17, the Golden Eagles produced 12 hits, with their lone run coming on a fourth-inning home run by first baseman Alexyss Bullock.
"I walked away from that game scratching my head," Hatfield said. "You think about 12 hits, and you'd think you'd get a couple runs out of that. I felt like we had every opportunity to get the win."
Through 11 games, Big Walnut was hitting .313 as a team.
"We all know we have the potential and skills to be a good team, so we just need to find that within ourselves and build each other up," said third baseman Taryn Hammond, a third-year starter. "I think that's what we're doing right now. The game against DeSales was monumental for us. I don't think the dugout was ever quiet."
Hammond was among the team's top hitters through 11 games, batting .405 with a team-best 10 runs scored, three doubles and seven RBI.
Pitcher Alex Thomas, a Newark Catholic transfer, had a team-best .522 average with two doubles, a home run and seven RBI. She was 3-2 in the circle with a 2.68 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 34 innings.
Center fielder Jocelyn Lucas was batting .441 with a double, triple and seven RBI.
"We just need to play as a team and we'll be good," Hammond said.
Boys lacrosse team
Boys lacrosse coach Roger Allen got a sense of what he's up against in trying to build a program to match the area's best after his team's 15-0 loss to Olentangy Liberty on April 12.
"When Olentangy Liberty has more freshmen than our entire junior varsity and varsity, that creates a challenge," Allen said.
But the roster of only 33 players hasn't stopped the Golden Eagles from producing wins. They improved to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 14-9 victory over Westerville South on April 18.
Big Walnut's other victories have come against Licking Valley (9-8 on April 8), Jonathan Alder (19-4 on April 3) and Johnstown (14-1 on March 31).
"We don't have the sheer numbers, so we've been generating offense by moving the ball and taking advantage of unsettled situations," Allen said. "It can be hard for us to match up, so we've got to take advantage of those situations."
Half of Big Walnut's scoring has come off assists.
The Golden Eagles returned 13 letterwinners this season, including many of last year's top scorers, who have continued to lead the way.
Through seven games, attacker Campbell Allen had 14 goals and 17 assists, midfielder Nathan Montgomery had 14 goals and two assists and attacker Seth Daniels had 10 goals and seven assists.
Goalkeeper Josh Hageman had 65 saves in helping lead a defense that includes Isaac Swartz and Tanner Daniels.
"We've got eight seniors and a great group of kids who've been playing lacrosse since third or fourth grade," coach Allen said. "It starts there."
Girls lacrosse team
Girls lacrosse coach Steve Palmer has taken note of his team's offensive play as it improved to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the OCC-Buckeye with a 9-5 win over Westerville South on April 17.
"Our skill level has gotten better, and I think the game has slowed down for some of the kids," said Palmer, whose team played in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament on April 22 at Thomas Worthington. "I think they've been able to play more relaxed and see the field a little bit better. Sometimes young players get caught up in the speed of the game."
The Golden Eagles' improved offensive attack has helped them top their win total from last season, when they finished 2-13.
Cassidy Becker and Meri Buckles have been the team's top scorers. Buckles had four goals against South, and Becker scored three in a 13-5 league loss to Westerville Central on April 13 and five in a 12-6 loss to Dublin Scioto on March 17.
Becker had a team-high 20 goals last season.
Megan Helber and Izzy Rooney also have helped lead the offensive production.
"The group has really come together, and I think they like each other," said Palmer, whose roster grew from 20 girls last season to 35 this year. "I think with all the new faces, there's a new energy."