The Centennial High School softball team will be looking to earn its fifth consecutive City League-North Division title this season.

The Stars had their string of overall City championships snapped at three last year when they fell to Eastmoor Academy 13-5 in the City final.

If Centennial is to continue its City-North streak and again reach the final, it will need to rely on its pitching, according to sixth-year coach Malik Dean.

"Our pitching will be our strength, and it will need to be," said Dean, whose team finished 15-6 overall last spring. "We are really young and inexperienced, and it will take some time before we jell and gain confidence."

Junior Gwen Moran is back in the circle, and Dean is expecting even more from her this season after she went 6-1 with a 1.70 ERA in City games a year ago and was named second-team all-league. She shared time with junior Stacey Leach, who did not return this year.

"Moran is our most experienced pitcher coming back," Dean said. "She will take on the bulk of the pitching duties this year."

Others who could see time in the circle are senior catcher Elise Fallon and sophomore newcomer Izabell Segovia. Fallon batted .452 and was first-team all-league last season.

The Stars went 13-1 in the City-North to tie Whetstone for first and then beat the Braves 7-6 in a playoff game to determine which team advanced to the City final.

In addition to Leach, the Stars lost four starters to graduation in Katie Conroy (3B), Ariel Miller (LF), Rachel O'Leary (2B) and Lexi Thompson (SS). Conroy batted .517 and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, while O'Leary batted .407 and Thompson batted .394 as both made second-team all-league. Miller batted .313.

Also back are juniors Ikera Ike (1B) and Jordan Fischer (CF). Both were honorable mention all-league, as Ike batted .400 and Fischer batted .367.

With such a young squad, Dean wasn't settled on many defensive positions early this season.

Other newcomers include seniors Mahogany Bennett and Abby Jones, sophomores Mary LaForrest and Brina Rigsbee and freshmen Etta Coale, Giana Francescon, Yazmine Segovia and Edolina Xhemajli.

"The majority of our roster has never played varsity before," Dean said. "We will need to gain confidence, build trust with each other and be patient. The talent is there to compete at this level. We will need to believe in that and go out and play hard."

In their opener March 26, the Stars beat International 14-1 in five innings in a league game. Fallon hit a two-run home run during a 13-run second inning and Izabell Segovia pitched a one-hitter.

Baseball team sets high goals

The baseball team has high aspirations after earning a share of the City-North title a year ago.

The Stars return eight players, including five starters, after finishing 12-12 overall and 10-2 in the league to tie Whetstone for first. Centennial then lost to the Braves 5-4 in eight innings in a playoff game to see which team advanced to the City final.

"We lost our top pitcher (Jackson Rudoff), but we have a lot of good arms this season and if we get some timely hitting I see no reason we can't reach our goal of winning the City-North outright and maybe going undefeated in the league," second-year coach Pat Nance said. "We took 11 guys to our doubleheader against London to open the season (March 24) and seven pitched. With the (OHSAA) pitching rules, you have to have a lot of guys who can take the mound."

The Stars lost to London 4-3 and 4-2 and split with Hamilton Township in a doubleheader March 31, winning 2-1 and losing 4-0.

Centennial opens league play Monday, April 9, at home against Linden-McKinley. Its originally scheduled league opener March 28 at East was postponed and rescheduled for Tuesday, April 10.

The rotation is expected to be led by junior left-handers Myles Martinez and Cam Vasquez with senior Peyton Hathaway and freshman C.J. Dean in the mix.

"I'm going to try to use Myles sparingly because he's had shoulder irritation and has been in rehab," Nance said. "He is cleared to pitch. ... He's a tall lefty who also plays basketball but already has college offers in baseball, and that's the direction he wants to go. So I want to be very cautious with him. We'll use him when he feels up to it."

When not on the mound, Martinez will play first base, Vasquez will be in left field and Hathaway will be at third base. Also returning are seniors Nigel Harris (CF), Tanner Radford (C) and Shaan Morales (SS/P).

In addition, senior Anthony Jones is back after sitting out last season. He is vying with sophomore Evan Teeters to start in right field. Teeters also is the backup catcher.

Junior returnee Logan Baldago will start at second base. When Martinez pitches, junior Turner Wolfenberger or sophomore A.J. Grumbling will play first, and Grumbling also may be the DH.

Completing the roster is junior infielder Chris Sfikas.

Harris, Hathaway, Martinez, Morales and Radford were starters a year ago.

Earning all-league honors last season were 2017 graduates James Boyer (first team) and Rudoff (second team), as well as junior Noah Schutte (second team) and Morales (honorable mention). Rudoff also was honorable mention all-district.

Schutte, a center fielder, did not return this season because he is concentrating on soccer.

"Noah was our leadoff hitter and did a great job in center field, so that's a big loss, but he feels he has a chance to play soccer in college so I respect his decision," Nance said. "We haven't settled on a leadoff hitter yet this season. We know the heart of the order is pretty set with Radford at No. 2, followed by Morales, Martinez and Grumbling."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 24 -- at London (DH)

March 31 -- at Hamilton Township (DH)

April 3 -- vs. Briggs

April 4 -- at Hartley

April 6 -- at Grandview

April 7 -- at West (DH)

*April 9 -- vs. Linden-McKinley

*April 10 -- at East

*April 11 -- at Northland

*April 13 -- vs. Beechcroft

*April 16 -- vs. Mifflin

*April 18 -- at Whetstone

April 19 -- at Bexley

*April 23 -- vs. East

*April 25 -- at Linden-McKinley

*April 27 -- vs. Northland

*April 30 -- at Beechcroft

*May 2 -- at Mifflin

*May 3 -- vs. Whetstone

May 5 -- at Watterson

SOFTBALL

*March 26 -- vs. International

April 7 -- at Worthington Kilbourne with Franklin Heights

*April 9 -- vs. Linden-McKinley

*April 10 -- at East

*April 11 -- at Northland

April 12 -- at Bexley

*April 13 -- vs. Beechcroft

April 14 -- at Dublin Scioto

*April 16 -- vs. Mifflin

*April 18 -- at Whetstone

*April 20 -- at International

April 21 -- at Reynoldsburg (DH)

*April 23 -- vs. East

April 24 -- vs. Westland

*April 25 -- at Linden-McKinley

April 26 -- at Hartley

*April 27 -- vs. Northland

*April 30 -- at Beechcroft

*May 2 -- at Mifflin

*May 3 -- vs. Whetstone

*League contest

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

BOYS TENNIS

April 9 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington

April 10 -- At Hilliard Davidson

*April 11 -- Home vs. Beechcroft

TRACK & FIELD

April 5 -- At Northland

April 7 -- At Big Walnut

April 10 -- At Westerville South

*League contest