Central Crossing High School softball players are thinking about the past while focusing on the present.

The Comets were rolling along last season with visions of reaching a Division I state semifinal in Akron. Plans for that road trip, however, stalled in a district semifinal against Lancaster.

Entering the district tournament as the second seed, Central Crossing finished 18-3 overall with a 2-0 loss in 12 innings to the ninth-seeded Golden Gales.

That experience served as a wake-up call for this season.

"A lot of us are expecting to make it to Akron, but you have to go through district and regional first," said senior pitcher Emily Gant, a Boston University signee. "We can't be looking ahead. We have to take each game as it comes all season long."

Gant was first-team all-state last season as well as district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year and ThisWeek's softball Athlete of the Year. The right-handed pitcher was 18-3 with 287 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 0.24 ERA in 144 2/3 innings. She also led the Comets in batting average (.588), home runs (3), RBI (25), triples (4) and doubles (10) and scored 17 runs.

This season, Gant turned in a masterful performance in the opener, striking out 30 batters and going 4-for-5 as the Comets defeated visiting Pickerington Central 3-0 in 10 innings March 25. She finished with the highest number of strikeouts in a 10-inning game in state history, according to records on OHSAA.org, and struck out all but one batter she faced, allowing one hit and no walks.

Senior catcher Hannah Scott, who was first-team all-league last season after batting .319 with 18 RBI, won the game in the 10th with a three-run home run over the left-field fence.

Scott said staying focused is the Comets' primary concern.

"We're all very positive, putting in the work and going 100 percent to reach our goal," she said. "The early (district tournament) loss drove us. It wasn't something that was expected. This year we have more of a one-game-at-a-time focus. We saw how (looking ahead) affected us last year."

The Comets won the OCC-Central at 9-1, ahead of runner-up Hilliard Davidson (8-2). It was their first league title since winning back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012.

They open league play April 11 against Upper Arlington.

Junior Chloe Corum (second-team all-district, first-team all-league) is back at shortstop after hitting .426 with 10 RBI, and junior Andi Rapp (special mention all-league) returns at second base after hitting .333 and scoring 22 runs.

Junior outfielder Kaylee Watson (second-team all-league; .310, 7 RBI, 10 runs) now attends Teays Valley.

"They have taken that (district semifinal) loss to motivate them in the offseason and in practice," said coach Rona Dorsey, who is in her ninth season. "They figured that if they work a little harder, and (they) continue to work on base-running and other little things that can make a big difference."

Junior Heaven Sayers played mostly third base last season but also will see time at first along with sophomores Haley Maher and Megan Tittle. Sophomore Maeghan Graves and Maher also are in the mix at third.

Junior Destiny Hendrixson and sophomore Kelcey Young will rotate in left field with freshman Cheyenne Scott in center and senior Brianna Garcia in right. Sophomores Emily Creasap and Kaden Martin also will see time in the outfield.

"We have a lot of experience back and they have played a lot of games together," said Dorsey, whose team defeated Licking Valley 15-5 in six innings March 26. "Defensively, we're strong and we have a much better hitting team than last year."

Baseball team returns wealth of talent

The baseball team returns experienced players in the field and on the mound after going 11-15 overall last season and finishing fifth (5-10) in the OCC-Central behind champion Davidson (11-4).

Junior J.J. Carr (C/1B/3B; second-team all-district, first-team all-league) led the Comets in batting average (.365) and RBI (17) and had nine stolen bases. Senior Ben Bohne (1B) batted .286 with 13 RBI and 12 runs, and senior Mo Bostard (OF) batted .310.

Junior Dylan Davis (C/3B; honorable mention all-district, special mention all-league) batted .324 with 12 RBI, a team-high 17 runs and nine steals.

Sophomore Tyler Ronevich (3B) batted .312 with eight RBI and 12 runs, and sophomore Matt Reed (2B) hit .306 with seven RBI, 12 runs and nine steals. Junior Austin Woods (P/C/SS) also started last season.

"I believe there is a cohesiveness with this group and that they are pulling for each other to do well," said coach Scott Todd, who is in his 15th season. "I like the fact that we have a lot of returning players who have played at the varsity level and know what it takes to compete against OCC competition. I think that we will have some good pitching depth and will play good defense."

Carr leads the returnees on the pitching staff after going 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA, 15 strikeouts and 17 walks in 29 1/3 innings. Ronevich was 2-5 with a 4.54 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 16 walks in 37 innings.

Bohne was 2-2 with a 4.81 ERA and 20 strikeouts, but will not pitch this season after having shoulder surgery. Davis, juniors Nash Baker (SS/OF), Chase Collins (OF), Tyler Dean (OF) and Michael Wright (OF) and sophomore Drew DeYarmon (1B) also will see time on the mound.

Juniors Jaime Adrovet (OF), Nathan Havens (OF) and Mannee Wells (SS/2B) round out the roster.

"We have high expectations this year because we have the potential to be competitive every time we take the field," Todd said.

"I think our players are confident in their abilities, and they believe we have the makings of a good team. What they need to understand is that we haven't won a game yet and other teams know we have a lot of players back and they will be ready for us."

The Comets lost their opener at Wheeling (West Virginia) Central Catholic 6-1 on March 24 before defeating Glen Dale (West Virginia) John Marshall 9-5 on March 26.

They begin OCC-Central play Monday, April 2, at home against UA.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 24 -- at Wheeling (W.Va.) Central Catholic

March 26 -- at Glen Dale (W.Va.) John Marshall

March 27 -- at St. Clairsville

March 28 -- at Wellsburg (W.Va.) Brooke

*April 2 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*April 4 -- at Upper Arlington

*April 6 -- at Marysville

April 7 -- vs. Delaware (DH)

*April 9 -- vs. Marysville

*April 11 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 13 -- at Hilliard Davidson

April 14 -- at Reynoldsburg (DH)

*April 16 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 18 -- at Dublin Coffman

*April 20 -- at Westland

April 21 -- vs. Groveport (DH)

*April 23 -- vs. Westland

*April 25 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*April 27 -- at Marysville

*April 30 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*May 2 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*May 4 -- at Westland

SOFTBALL

March 25 -- vs. Pickerington Central

March 26 -- vs. Licking Valley

March 27 -- vs. Lebanon

March 28 -- vs. Groveport

March 29 -- vs. Lakewood

April 2 -- at London

April 5 -- at Teays Valley

April 6 -- at Olentangy Liberty

April 7 -- vs. Ready and Utica

April 9 -- vs. North Union

*April 11 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*April 12 -- at Marysville

April 14 -- at Gahanna with Amherst Steele

*April 16 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

*April 18 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 19 -- at Westland

*April 23 -- at Upper Arlington

*April 25 -- vs. Marysville

*April 26 -- at Hilliard Davidson

*April 30 -- at Dublin Coffman

*May 2 -- vs. Westland

May 4 -- Stow-Munroe Falls in Gahanna Showcase

May 5 -- Holland Springfield and Mason in Gahanna Showcase

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing boys tennis and track & field teams:

BOYS TENNIS

April 3 -- Home vs. Groveport

TRACK & FIELD

April 3 -- Home vs. Grove City Christian