Emily Gant started the Central Crossing High School softball season with a record-setting performance that might not have been possible earlier in her career.

The senior right-handed pitcher struck out 30 batters in a 3-0, 10-inning victory April 25 over visiting Pickerington Central. Gant stayed focused, punching out hitter after hitter even when tension mounted in the tightly contested matchup.

Gant recorded the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game in state history, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

"I think what makes Emily so successful is all of her hard work and her ability to stay focused," coach Rona Dorsey said. "Earlier in her career, she wouldn't let the little things go.

"In the game of softball, things don't always go your way, but now she will power through it. The young Emily would kind of get down about it, but now she puts the team on her back and moves forward."

One such situation came in the fifth inning against Central. The Tigers got their only hit and a second batter reached on a fielding error to place runners at first and second with one out. Gant struck out the next two batters to end the threat.

"In the past, I think she would have been fighting herself a bit, but this time she came back and struck out the next two batters and didn't give up," said Dorsey, whose team was 7-0 before playing Lakewood on April 10. "When she was younger, you could see her drop her shoulders when something went wrong. Now you can see her get taller out there with adversity and the team feeds off of that."

Gant definitely has learned to seize control of a game from the circle. Last season, she was first-team all-state in Division I as well as district and OCC-Central Division Player of the Year and ThisWeek's softball Athlete of the Year after going 18-3 with 287 strikeouts, 11 walks and a 0.24 ERA in 144 2/3 innings.

Through seven games this season, Gant had not surrendered a run and was 6-0 with 94 strikeouts and three walks in 39 1/3 innings.

"I get a little tense, and definitely nervous," Gant said. "Anyone would be in that position, but I also use that to push harder and not give up. It would be easy to get tired and give up, but you have to keep going.

"I used to have a really bad attitude. If I made a bad play I would get mad. Now I have learned to move on from that and focus on getting out of it."

The Boston University signee throws five pitches -- fastball, curveball, changeup, rise-ball and drop-ball. Despite the varied repertoire, catcher Hannah Scott said Gant is easy to work with.

"Emily is really good at what she does, and she makes my job easy," said Scott, who hit a three-run home run in the 10th to win the Central contest. "Her pitches do what they are supposed to do 99 percent of the time.

"I have to prepare myself mentally for what she is going to throw. I think her rise-ball is her best pitch, and against Central it was her rise-ball and her curve."

Besides being a standout pitcher, Gant also excels at the plate. She went 4-for-5 against Central and was batting .609 through seven games with 13 runs, three triples, two RBI, eight walks and four stolen bases.

Last spring, she led the Comets in batting average (.588), home runs (3), RBI (25), triples (4) and doubles (10) and scored 17 runs.

"I suppose pitching does help me when I hit," Gant said. "I know what spins that the pitches are supposed to have, so if I can track that I'll know what's coming."

The Comets also defeated Lancaster 5-0 on April 5. Last spring, the Golden Gales ended Central Crossing's season with a 2-0 win in 12 innings in a Division I district semifinal.

"We have to stay a lot more focused (than we did last year)," Gant said. "Every game we're looking to see what we can correct when we get back to practice. We have to stay focused only on the next game we're playing and not look ahead."

Boys tennis team returns solid nucleus

The boys tennis team has five returning starters to rely on as it works to improve on last season's 4-9 finish.

Seniors Tyler Moore, Jason Pauquette, Peter Semchishin and Ethan Wright and junior Owen Yoakum will fill the singles courts and play first doubles.

"We have some key players coming back, including seniors Ethan Wright, Jason Pauquette and Tyler Moore and junior Owen Yoakum," ninth-year coach Dusty Rhodes said. "They all played significant roles last year and are great young men to have around. Peter Semchishin is a senior playing his second year of tennis and will likely be playing half of the first-doubles team."

Wright is expected to play first singles, with Yoakum and Pauquette playing second and third singles, respectively. Moore should join Semchishin at first doubles, while senior Andrew Gunning, sophomore Stephen Semchishin and freshmen Johnny Romanov and Bogdan Semchishin are vying to play second doubles.

"We need to see who is going to be the leader this year," Rhodes said. "Over the years we haven't had to worry about it. We always have had a player step up for us, so it should be interesting to see who does that."

The Comets opened April 5 by losing to Upper Arlington 5-0 in OCC-Central play. They finished fifth (0-4) in the league last spring behind champion UA (4-0).

Bolanos-Cruz breaks own shot-put mark

Luis Bolanos-Cruz reset the program shot-put record for the boys track and field team April 7 in the Red Edwards Golden Eagle Relays at Big Walnut.

The junior won the event with a throw of 52 feet, 5 inches, breaking his previous program record of 52-2. Bolanos-Cruz also was runner-up in the discus (147-2) as the Comets finished seventh (34 points) of 12 teams behind champion Big Walnut (94).

Abriana Mann was third in the long jump (15-1 1/2) to lead the girls team, which finished ninth (25) behind champion Westerville Central (104).

shennen@thisweeknews.com

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Schedules

BOYS TENNIS

*April 5 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*April 10 -- at Marysville

*April 12 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson

April 13 -- at Hilliard Bradley

April 16 -- vs. Ready

*April 17 -- vs. Dublin Coffman

April 19 -- vs. Columbus West

April 24 -- vs. Grove City

April 25 -- vs. Franklin Heights

April 27 -- vs. Hamilton Township

April 30 -- at Canal Winchester

May 1 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy

May 2 -- vs. Watterson

May 3 -- vs. Grandview

May 7 -- vs. Marion-Franklin

May 8 -- vs. DeSales

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Central Crossing baseball, softball and track & field teams:

BASEBALL

*April 13 -- At Hilliard Davidson

April 14 -- At Reynoldsburg (DH)

*April 16 -- Home vs. Dublin Coffman

*April 18 -- At Coffman

SOFTBALL

*April 12 -- At Marysville

April 14 -- At Gahanna with Amherst Steele

*April 16 -- Home vs. Davidson

*April 18 -- Home vs. Coffman

TRACK & FIELD

April 13 -- Best of the South-West at home

April 17 -- John Hammond Relays at Hilliard Darby

*League contest