The Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team will be making its 12th consecutive appearance in the state tournament when it battles Lakewood St. Edward in a quarterfinal Saturday, June 3, at Capital University.
"We have been to state every year since losing in the regional in 2005," coach Bryan Webb said. "We often see St. Edward there or during the regular season, but we haven't seen them this year.
"We're really playing at a high level right now and we've got a ton of experience. We've got four third-year starters, a second-year starter and a freshman (Noah Platfoot) who is one of the top setters in the state."
The Panthers are 23-4 after beating seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome 25-12, 25-10, 25-12 in a Division I East Region final May 26 at Westerville Central. Darby, which was the top seed in the regional, defeated eighth-seeded Pickerington Central 25-10, 25-9, 25-7 in a regional semifinal May 23 at home.
The state quarterfinal winner will play Beavercreek or Cincinnati Elder in a state semifinal Sunday, June 4, at Capital, with the state final being played later in the day.
The Panthers beat Elder 25-17, 25-15, 29-27 on May 6, but have not played Beavercreek this season.
Last season, Darby lost to Cincinnati Moeller 22-25, 25-19, 24-26, 25-23, 15-11 in a state semifinal.
"Brad Brinkerhoff and Robert Bowling on the outsides, Mason Maldovan at middle hitter and Alex Salmon at libero are our third-year starters," Webb said. "As seniors, they have one goal and anything less would be a disappointment.
"Collin Buelow at right-side hitter also was a starter last year. Brad was the Player of the Year in our region and brings a lot to the table. He's so steady. Mason is a force when he's motivated and Robert may be our best player over the past few weeks. He's been stellar. I also need to credit Logan Mills, our defensive specialist. He has the aggressive Darby mentality, plays extremely hard and is vocal. I think we're all ready to go."
McGill wins regional
title, advances to state
Freshman Malachi McGill was the Division I regional champion in the 800 meters and will represent the boys track and field team in the state meet Friday, June 2, and Saturday, June 3, at Ohio State.
The top four finishers in each event at the regional meet May 24 and 26 at Pickerington North advanced to state.
"It was pretty much one of the bigger races in my life," said McGill, who won the 800 in 1 minute, 52.8 seconds. "I went out fast in the first 400 and tried to stay up front.
"I want to go in and compete at state and I should place. I want to finish in the top two. I expect there will be a big crowd and I'll be up against new competition."
The girls team will have five participants at state.
Freshman Emma Kowalski finished second at regional in the discus (132 feet). Also advancing was the fourth-place 800 relay of freshmen Zayna Hampton and Naomi Walters, sophomore Stacia Rispress and senior Jillian Simpson (1:42.16).
"I tied my (personal record)," said Kowalski, who also finished seventh in the shot put (36-6 1/2). "I was close (to qualifying in the shot put), but it is what it is. Discus is my main event. I felt really good. My warmups were really good and I was proud of that. I was proud of how I did."
The boys team totaled 28 points at regional to place eighth behind champion Thomas Worthington (73) as 37 teams scored.
Also scoring were the 3,200 relay of Eric Ingram, Josh Baldridge, Carter Williams and McGill (fifth, 8:00.16), the 1,600 relay of Williams, Jared Butler, McGill and Ingram (sixth, 3:20.99), Williams in the 300 hurdles (sixth, 40.32), Ingram in the 300 hurdles (seventh, 40.61), Andrew Black in the long jump (seventh, 20-2) and 110 hurdles (seventh, 14.88) and Chris Burkhart in the discus (seventh, 142-0).
The girls team scored 22 points at regional to place 13th behind champion Gahanna (97) as 35 teams scored.
Also scoring were Lauren Iosue in the discus (sixth, 118-2) and Simpson in the 400 (seventh, 58.67).
losing four starters
The baseball team couldn't string together hits and baserunners in a 5-0 loss to Olentangy Orange in a Division I regional semifinal May 26 at Dublin Coffman.Video •Watch an interview with Darby baseball coach Chris Fugitt after his team's loss to Olentangy Orange in a Division I regional semifinal May 26.
Orange pitcher Tyler Brown limited the Panthers to four hits, but the Pioneers also made some key defensive plays.
"(Orange) played a good ballgame and their pitcher was very strong," coach Chris Fugitt said. "They took hits away from us and we didn't play defense the way we normally do. We were a bit sloppy, and it hurt us.
"We hit some balls hard. Twice we hit it hard up the middle with runners on and (Brown) snared them. We also ripped a ball on a hit-and-run at the first baseman and it turned into a double play."
Losing pitcher Cory Brooks doubled and Ben Gbur, Nick Pizzuti and Brice Stultz all singled for the Panthers, who finished 26-4 overall.
Darby opened the postseason by beating 27th-seeded Whetstone 16-0 in the second round of the district tournament May 10. It then beat 19th-seeded Upper Arlington 2-0 in a district semifinal May 15 and sixth-seeded Pickerington Central 11-10 in a district final May 17 at Grove City to reach regional.
Darby, which scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Central, is losing six seniors, including four starters in Brooks (P/RF), Daniel Bibler (LF), Justin Fugitt (2B) and Luke Morris (SS). The other seniors are Justin Miller (P) and Logan Morris (INF).
Brooks and Fugitt have signed with Purdue University.
"It's always tough to lose in the tournament, but we had a really good team and won (OCC-Cardinal Division) and district titles," Justin Fugitt said. "This loss doesn't define our season. We've been playing together since we were 9 years old and they are my brothers. These past three years have been very special."
The Panthers went 11-1 in league play to finish ahead of Thomas (9-3), Bradley (7-5), Dublin Scioto and Worthington Kilbourne (both 5-7), Jerome (3-9) and Delaware (2-10).
Brooks hit .375 with 20 runs scored and 29 RBI and went 10-1 on the mound with a 1.01 ERA in 69 innings and was named league Player of the Year and first-team all-district. Fugitt batted .357 with 36 runs and 28 RBI and was named first-team all-league and all-district.
Expected to return are juniors Chandler Barlow (P/1B), Tyler Chumita (3B), Ben Gbur (CF), Pizzuti (DH), Clay Strausbaugh (C), Stultz (P/RF) and Cameron Tackett (INF).
Chumita (.420, 33 runs, 17 RBI) was first-team all-league and all-district, Stultz (.430, 24 runs, 26 RBI; 3-1, 3.55 ERA in 22 2/3 innings) was second-team all-league and all-district, Gbur (.372, 28 runs, 20 RBI) and Strausbaugh (.377, 16 runs, 25 RBI) were special mention all-league and Barlow (5-0, 1.71 ERA in 45 innings) was honorable mention all-league.
"Those seniors have so much to be proud of," coach Fugitt said. "They set a school record (for wins in a season) and won district and league championships after being district runners-up last season. They played the game the way it was meant to be played and they really put their hearts into it.
"We've got quite a bit of talent coming back, so we don't plan to change any of our annual goals. We need to get right back after it."