After disappointing finishes the past two years, Grove City High School senior baseball players A.J. Peter and Dan Rutan are putting the team's fortunes this spring on their shoulders -- or, more specifically, their arms.
Peter, a right-hander, and Rutan, a left-hander, have emerged as the aces of the pitching staff, and they're aiming to lead the Greyhounds to a Division I district title and beyond.
Grove City was 20-5 overall before opening postseason play and finished 14-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division after its final league contest against Pickerington North was canceled May 5 because of bad weather. The Greyhounds won their third league championship in four seasons, bouncing back from last season's second-place finish behind Gahanna after winning titles in 2014 and 2015.
The Greyhounds are expecting better results in the postseason after losing their tournament opener each of the past two years. They dropped second-round games both years, losing to Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 last season and Central Crossing 5-4 in 2015, with both losses following a first-round bye.
"That drives us right there, along with Pickerington North winning the state title last year after seeing them (tie for third) in the league," Rutan said. "When they won the state title we had an all-senior meeting and we talked about there's no doubt in our minds that we can make that run."
North defeated Cincinnati La Salle 2-1 in the state title game.
Grove City earned the first seed for the district tournament and opened with a second-round home game May 10 against 30th-seeded Teays Valley. The winner plays 13th-seeded Marysville or 24th-seeded Dublin Jerome in a semifinal Tuesday, May 16, at a neutral site to be determined, with the winner advancing to a district final May 18 at a neutral site to be determined.
Through 24 games, Rutan was 6-1 with a 2.46 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings and Peter was 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings.
The Greyhounds are seeking their first district title since 2014, when they lost to Gahanna 8-7 in a regional semifinal.
"After last year we were excited for this season," Peter said. "We had all these seniors coming back. We have a great squad. We're definitely competitive and we have what it takes that we can make a run this year."
Entering the postseason, both pitchers were undefeated in Ohio this season. Their losses came during the team's spring break trip to Mississippi and Florida.
"They haven't lost in Ohio yet and we don't plan on them losing for a while," coach Ryan Alexander said. "We take a lot of pride in our pitching staff."
Alexander said other key pitchers have been Conner Walls, Colton Bauer, Tristin Siemer and Nick Erwin.
Rutan also has proven to be valuable in the field and at the plate, as he's the starting first baseman when he's not pitching. He's in his third full year on varsity and last season was named second-team all-league.
Peter, who is in his second season on varsity, was first-team all-district and all-league and honorable mention all-state last season after going 4-1 with a 0.17 ERA, 40 strikeouts and eight walks in 40 1/3 innings.
He allowed just two runs all season.
Rutan considers himself more of a finesse pitcher, while Peter relies more on his fastball.
"A.J. is more of a strikeout guy, a guy that is just going to overpower you, and I'm a pitcher who is going to come right at you and hopefully get a first-pitch out," Rutan said.
Both credit Alexander and his staff for the program's success.
Rutan will continue his baseball career at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, and Peter will play at Sinclair Community College in Dayton.
"(Alexander) is a fantastic coach," Peter said. "He loves and cares for every single one of us. He wants the best out of all of us. All the other coaches push us to be our best and that's all you can ever ask for from a coach."
The 12th-seeded softball team opened the Division I district tournament May 10 with a second-round home game against 24th-seeded Newark.
The winner advanced to play sixth-seeded Groveport or 35th-seeded New Albany in a semifinal Monday, May 15, at a neutral site to be determined, with the winner advancing to a district final May 19 or 20 at Pickerington Central.
Grove City was 18-9 overall before playing Newark and finished 4-6 in the OCC-Ohio.
The Greyhounds defeated Hilliard Darby 15-0 in five innings May 8. Abby Tschiggfrie hit a two-run home run.
Boys tennis team
set for sectional
The boys tennis team will compete in a Division I sectional tournament Thursday, May 11, and Saturday, May 13, at Pickerington Central.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 18 at Hilliard Davidson and May 20 at Upper Arlington.
Sam Bennett, Noah Bungart and Tyler Sander will play singles, and the teams of Nick Rohr and Garren Molino and Kaleb Coakley and Bryden Smith will compete in doubles.
Track teams ready
for OCC-Ohio meet
The boys and girls track and field teams will compete in the OCC-Ohio meet Thursday, May 11, and Saturday, May 13, at Olentangy Orange.
The Greyhounds then will compete in the Division I, district 1 meet Tuesday, May 16, May 18 and May 20 at Darby. The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North.