As the Pickerington High School Central softball team's Division I district final against Hilliard Bradley wore into the late innings May 20, coach Carrie Eneix found herself having to reassure her players they still had enough time left to win.
The Tigers even had the winning run in scoring position with two outs in the seventh inning, but like earlier in the game, couldn't get the production they needed when it was needed most.
A lineup that scored double-digit runs 13 times this season pounded out 14 hits against Jaguars starter Lexie Hilling but left the bases loaded three times, including in the final inning to lose 7-6.
Top-seeded Central, which was seeking its first district championship since 2013, stranded 14 baserunners and finished 25-4.
"You have to produce with two outs when you have runners on base," Eneix said. "I think there were times we were a little bit anxious (and) just weren't patient enough at the plate. We didn't use a small strike zone to our advantage enough. But at the end of the day, we did not produce with runners on base."
Sophia Slack hit her school-record 15th home run of the season, a two-run shot to center field, in the seventh to bring the Tigers within a run. Toni Jones then walked, Kristen Bales struck out, Haylie Angelo reached on an error and Sara Mikulec singled to second base to load the bases.
Ohio State recruit Kallie Boren flew out to center on the first pitch to end the game and clinch the eighth-seeded Jaguars' first district title.
"(In the seventh) we had up who we wanted up," Eneix said. "I trust Kallie as a hitter and I'm not going to ask her to take a pitch, but there were a couple times we could have."
Hilling helped her own cause with a three-run home run to right field in the third inning that made it 3-1. Bradley never trailed after that, although Central tied it in the bottom of the inning on Boren's two-run home run to straightaway center.
"That's a great team. They can pitch, they can field, they can hit," Bradley coach Kevin Moody said of Central. "It was good for our program to be able to play a team of that caliber at this level."
Tears flowed from Central players after the game, not only because they had lost such a meaningful game at their home facility, but also because many of them felt this was the program's best team in recent memory.
"This is by far the best team we've had around here, offensively, defensively and with Maddi (Liston) pitching," Eneix said.
"We have great players at every position, but we have to produce. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we do. This was a bad game to not get the job done."
sweep district titles
The boys and girls track and field teams swept the Division I, district 3 championships May 20 at Hilliard Darby, and combined to send 18 individuals in a combined 20 events as well as all of their relays to regional.
The girls team won eight events and scored 161 points to finish ahead of runner-up Darby (130) in the 16-team meet.
Winners were Olivia Chapman in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 15.69 seconds), McKenzie Long in the 100 (12.04) and 200 (24.64), Amirah Strauther in the 100 hurdles (15.15), Jayden Wood in the 400 (55.08), the 400 relay (47.82) of Trinity Brown, Shaw Douglas, Long and Destinee McGrady, the 800 relay (1:41.84) of Douglas, Long, McGrady and Wood and the 1,600 relay (3:54.85) of Chapman, Douglas, Brittany Miller and Wood.
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional, which began May 24 and concludes Friday, May 26, at Pickerington North.
Placing second were Shayla Boyd in the long jump (16 feet, 9 3/4 inches), Dalany Boykins in the discus (117-7), Douglas in the 100 (12.48), Lauren Marvin in the 3,200 (11:21.19) and Wood in the 200 (25.24).
Other regional qualifiers were Grace Luther in the shot put (third, 37-3 1/2), the 3,200 relay of Chapman, Amber Hamelin, Marvin and Maddie Schmidt (third, 9:30.22), Trinity Brown in the 300 hurdles (fourth, 46.7) and Hamelin in the 3,200 (fourth, 11:29.49).
The boys team won seven events and scored 154.5 points to finish well ahead of runner-up Westerville South (115) in the 15-team meet.
Winning titles were John Brown in the discus (146-0), Evan Matthews in the high jump (6-0), Crockett Schooler in the 110 hurdles (14.7) and 300 hurdles (38.7), Matt Scrape in the 3,200 (9:41.98), the 800 relay (1:28.47) of Tavyn Myers, Zavien Parker, Zach Robinson and Terry Simuel and the 1,600 relay (3:17.8) of Parker, Robinson, Schooler and Simuel.
Other regional qualifiers were Parker in the 200 (second, 22.16), Robinson in the 400 (second, 48.19), Scrape in the 1,600 (second, 4:21.97), the 3,200 relay of Jaynes, Brady Johnson, Cameron Kanney and Scrape (second, 8:11.53), Jaynes in the 1,600 (third, 4:22.15), Matthews in the 110 hurdles (third, 15.5), 300 hurdles (third, 38.97) and long jump (third, 20-9 3/4), Simuel in the 400 (third, 48.97), Alex Morgan in the shot put (fourth, 49-0) and the 400 relay of Jules Johnson, Myers, Parker and Schooler (fourth, 43.84).
At regional, the top four finishers in each event qualify for the state meet June 2 and 3 at Ohio State.
Boys volleyball team
advances in tourney
The boys volleyball team began the Division I East Region tournament with a win May 19, defeating 12th-seeded Dublin Coffman 20-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-20 in a first-round match.
Eighth-seeded Central improved to 14-10 and played at top-seeded Darby in a regional semifinal May 23.
The semifinal winner plays fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty or seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome in a regional final Friday, May 26, at Westerville Central. The regional champion advances to a state quarterfinal June 3 at Capital University.
Central swept Jerome in two regular-season matches, winning 25-16, 25-23 on April 22 and 25-19, 25-19, 19-25, 15-25, 15-9 on May 11.
Boys lacrosse team
loses to Panthers
Boys lacrosse coach Lou Fries felt the Tigers never were out of their Division I, Region 3 tournament opener May 17 at Pickerington North, but 10th-seeded Central ultimately fell to seventh-seeded North 12-5.
Mark Carberry's two goals led the Tigers, who finished 7-11. Steven Warren made eight saves and Brendan Chong made three.
Landon Trout's five goals led North, which also defeated Central 13-2 on May 12 in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"Our hope was to try and turn the game into a 'make it, take it' game where we could possess for a few minutes, get a goal, win possession at the faceoff (spot), rinse and repeat," Fries said. "We were in the game the entire time -- even a five-goal differential in lacrosse can be covered in just a few minutes -- but we just did not control the ball the way we wanted and we gave them too many chances, which they capitalized on."
Girls lacrosse team
loses in second round
The girls lacrosse team opened the Division I, Region 3 tournament with a 19-12 win over ninth-seeded Beavercreek in a first-round game May 16 at home, but lost 20-3 at third-seeded Jerome in a quarterfinal May 19 to finish 9-9.
Lauren Morris scored 10 goals to lead sixth-seeded Central past Beavercreek and had all three goals against Jerome.
Maddi Hyer added five goals against the Beavers. Cieanna Jones made eight saves in that game and 10 against the Celtics.
Baseball team falls
in district final
The baseball team found itself in yet another one-run postseason game when it played Darby in a Division I district final May 17 at Grove City.Video •Pickerington Central accepts its Division I district runner-up trophy after an 11-10 loss to Hilliard Darby on May 17 at Grove City. •Hilliard Darby celebrates after Brice Stultz scores on a two-out hit from Ben Gbur to beat Pickerington Central 11-10 in a Division I district final May 17 at Grove City.
For the second consecutive year, the Tigers fell just short of their first district title since 2001.
A six-run sixth inning seemingly put sixth-seeded Central in control, but second-seeded Darby scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to win 11-10.
The Tigers finished 19-11.
Darby scored three runs in the first inning, but junior first baseman Trenton Gillison tied the game on a home run in the third.
Highlighting the sixth for the Tigers were RBI hits by seniors Austin Cooper (INF/P), Charlie Gibson (OF), Jacob Lott (SS/P) and Matt Walters (CF).
Ben Gbur scored the winning run for Darby on a single off Walters' glove.
"We knew if we left the gates open, they would barge through and they did," coach Ray Noe said. "We're the type of team that once the momentum gets going, we feed off that and we just roll. That sixth inning was incredible. We were feeling pretty good to start the seventh, too. 'Next pitch' has been our philosophy all year, and (Darby) just took advantage."
Each of Central's six postseason games the past two seasons has been decided by one run. The Tigers are 4-2 in those games.
Central opened the district tournament with a 2-1 win over 34th-seeded Reynoldsburg in a second-round game May 10 at home and beat 10th-seeded New Albany 1-0 in a district semifinal May 15 at Grove City.
The Tigers went 8-6 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Gahanna for second, behind Grove City (14-0) and ahead of Lancaster (6-8), North (5-9) and Reynoldsburg (1-13).
Senior Tanner Griggs (P) and Gillison were named first-team all-league. Lott and Walters were second-team all-league, sophomore DeWayne Carter (DH/1B) was special mention all-league and senior Trent Hager (C) was honorable mention all-league.
Gillison and Walters, who has committed to play for Ashland University, were named first-team all-district. Griggs, a Wittenberg recruit, was second team and Lott honorable mention.
Boys tennis season
ends at district
The boys tennis team's season came to an end May 18 when the doubles team of juniors Leyton Mathias and Jeremy O'Coner lost to Upper Arlington's Josh Cole and Jack Zelezny 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament at Hilliard Davidson.
Mathias and O'Coner were the Tigers' only district qualifiers. They placed fourth in their home sectional that concluded May 13 as the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
"They knew they had their work cut out for them. I just wanted them to enjoy the moment," coach Kelli Rings said. "Both of them were great leaders and worked hard all year. They made a great doubles team and were always dependable for us at singles."
Central went 11-9 overall and 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio to finish third, behind Gahanna (5-0) and North (4-1) and ahead of Grove City (2-3), Reynoldsburg (1-4) and Lancaster (0-5).
In addition to Mathias and O'Coner, eligible to return are junior Evan Gibson, sophomore Carson Stanley and freshmen Stephen Klein and Cooper Stang.