The Gahanna Christian Academy baseball team made improvements and continued its strong work ethic in Debbie Mertz's lone season as coach.
Mertz, who was an assistant the previous three seasons, said she will not return as head coach next spring. She might serve in an assistant or advisory role.
Mertz's son, Aaron, was one of five seniors on the team. She replaced Lamarr Fields, who stepped down after one season to become the coach at Mifflin.
"It's important to let them know never to quit and never to give up and to concentrate on the little steps that will help them improve from one day to the next," coach Mertz said. "We had guys who had never played and couldn't hit a ball to save their lives at the beginning of the season. ... I was impressed that they really worked hard and pushed through."
The Eagles finished 3-9 overall, losing at second-seeded East Knox 35-0 in five innings in the second round of the Division IV district tournament May 10. The 16th-seeded Eagles had a first-round bye.
"They had great attitudes and worked really hard and I was impressed with their attitudes and their willingness to work," coach Mertz said.
The Eagles went 1-6 in the MOCAL to finish fifth behind champion Tree of Life (8-0).
Gahanna Christian's league win came against Granville Christian, 3-2 on April 24.
Mertz (SS/P) led the team in batting average (.576) and RBI (8). Freshman Ryan Barrett (P/C/SS) batted .343, and sophomore Dylan Smith (C/P/1B) batted .333 and scored a team-high 10 runs.
Senior Grant Downs (1B) missed the season with a broken right ankle.
Other players eligible to return include junior Kyle Parsons (3B/C/P), sophomores Tony Hernandez (OF), Samuel Oppong (OF) and Rob Maston (OF) and freshmen Matthew Downs (OF) and J.T. Taylor (3B/P).
earns district win
The softball team earned its first postseason win since 2012, defeating ninth-seeded and host Wellington 12-11 in eight innings in the first round of the Division IV district tournament May 9.
The 12th-seeded Eagles then lost at top-seeded Danville 24-0 in five innings in the second round May 11 to finish 7-9 overall.
"I concentrated on what happened during the season," coach David Gotschall said of his message to the team following the loss. "(May 9) was the program's first win in the tournament since 2012, so that's an accomplishment. We had a goal of winning seven or eight games this year and we got to seven."
Gahanna Christian went 2-5 in the MOCAL to finish fourth behind champion Granville Christian (8-0).
Ariana Wyant (P/INF), who was one of six seniors, earned all seven wins for the Eagles in the circle.
"Most of the seniors had never played before me and they started as sophomores," said Gotschall, who completed his third season. "They've really grown over these three years and they got to the point where they could be competitive."
Gotschall expects sophomore Emma Downing (2B/P) and freshman Michaela Grubich (SS/3B/P) to see time in the circle next season.
Others eligible to return include juniors Ellie Cornell (OF/1B), Caroline Deibel (OF) and Kate Kovach (2B/P) and freshman Olivia Sauder (OF/1B).