Addie Kittel's recent home run binge for the Gahanna Lincoln High School softball team has made it increasingly tough for opposing pitchers to decide how to attack her when she's at the plate.
During the Lions' 12-1 victory over Pickerington North on April 25, Kittel hit the only pitch she faced for her 13th home run and was intentionally walked in her next three at-bats.
When opponents take a chance and pitch to the senior No. 3 hitter, the left side of the field -- and her coach -- better be ready.
"She scares me when I'm coaching third base because she hits it so hard you're not going to be able to get out of the way," coach Jim Campolo said. "When she connects, they're legit."
During last year's 6-4 loss to Elyria in a Division I state semifinal at Firestone Stadium in Akron, Kittel hit two home runs and pitched a scoreless inning in relief to keep her team in the game.
Despite being thrust into a heavier pitching role this spring, Kittel has responded with one of the most impressive power displays in program history.
Before May 1, Kittel was three home runs shy of tying Brittany Oldaker's program record of 16 in a season set in 2013. Oldaker also had 62 RBI that season.
Through 15 games, Kittel was batting .635 with 36 RBI and 17 runs scored.
"My goal is just to get on base no matter how I do it, whether it's over the fence or (into the) gap," she said. "I always expect myself to hit it over the fence, but those will come."
The Lions were 13-6 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Ohio Division after losing to Grove City 12-3 on April 26, Pickerington Central 16-5 on April 27 and Lancaster 10-6 on April 30 and before playing Reynoldsburg on May 1 and Central on May 2.
Gahanna also has a league game Thursday, May 3, at home against Grove City and a league contest remaining against Lancaster on a date to be determined.
The Lions bounced back from a 10-7 loss to Reynoldsburg on April 11 by winning their next six.
On April 21, Kittel hit two home runs in a 10-5 victory over Coal Grove Dawson-Bryant and two in an 11-3 win over Wellston.
Kittel, Lauren Ringhiser (P/OF) and Molly Troutman (SS) all homered in a 13-12 victory over Lancaster on April 18.
Troutman was batting .517 with four home runs, 21 RBI and 28 runs through 15 games. Gracey Day (3B) and Ringhiser also had 21 RBI, and Caroline Heller (C) was hitting .500.
"We're picking it up on defense more and that was our issue in some of our losses, but we're starting to overcome some of those issues," Kittel said.
As one of just three seniors in the program, she's also serving as a key leader this spring.
Kittel, who went 8-0 last season in a part-time pitching role, has been sharing duties in the circle with Ringhiser, although neither is naturally a pitcher.
Kittel has been playing first base when she's not pitching and likely will be a first baseman when she begins competing for Lehigh next season.
After receiving interest from Princeton and Lehigh during the winter of her sophomore year, Kittel is considering studying biomechanical engineering with the hope of someday getting involved in the prosthetics field.
"In eighth grade we had a class and the teacher brought in a local person who works at a prosthetics firm," Kittel said. "He brought in all the prosthetics and showed us ... everything he does to help these people who are amputees. It kind of touched me and I was like, 'Wow, I'd love to go into it to help people.'"
Also a key player for the girls basketball team, which won a Division I district championship this winter, Kittel is optimistic that the softball team can challenge for its sixth consecutive district title.
"If we can continue to bond as a team, keep our bats active and be a little (better) defensively, we've come together a lot more as a team and are starting to bond a little bit more," she said.
Track teams prep for biggest meets
The boys and girls track and field teams compete Friday, May 4, in the Africentric Invitational. It's their final tune-up for the OCC-Ohio meet, which begins Wednesday, May 9, at Lancaster and concludes May 12 at Dublin Coffman.
While the girls are five-time defending league champions, the boys won their first league title since 2008 last season.
With seniors Jerome Buckner and Joseph Gathuru and junior LaCarr Trent leading the way, boys coach Shawn Johnston likes where his team stands.
"I'm honestly very pleased so far," Johnston said. "We're kind of putting pieces together, seeing who can do what. With that sprint depth, we've just got guys that are stepping up all over the place."
Sophomore Derrick Bradley has been another standout sprinter. Juniors Alex Drenski and Jayden Hill are other top sprinters, while senior Cameron Riddle and sophomore A'che Sanchez-Baccus are leading the throwers. Sophomores Riley Jackson and Ryan Mehalic and freshman Steffano Molina lead the distance corps.
On April 27, the boys finished fifth (41) in the 20-team Berea Kiwanis Titans Relays at Baldwin Wallace behind co-champions Medina and Cleveland St. Ignatius (72) as the 800-meter relay of Gathuru, Drenski, Hill and Trent won in 1 minute, 29.14 seconds.
Among the girls standouts so far have been senior Claire Steigerwald in distance, senior Allison Groves and junior Madison Martinez in middle distance, senior Amariah Thomas in sprints and sophomore Trinity Houpe in hurdles.
On April 26 and 27 in the 45-team Huber Heights Wayne Relays, the girls scored 60.5 points to capture the championship as Martinez led the way with a title in the 800 (2:11.96).
"(We've done) some good stuff," coach Roger Whittaker said. "It's about getting opportunities. The Gahanna Relays (on April 18) was nice and the (Eastern Relays on April 20) was the first great day (weather-wise) we've had."
Boys lacrosse team hits final stretch
The boys lacrosse team began a stretch of six consecutive games against teams with losing records when it played Newark on April 30.
The Lions beat the Wildcats 17-0 to improve to 4-9 overall and 2-5 in the OCC-Central.
They snapped a five-game losing streak when they beat Marysville 10-4 on April 12 for their first league win and followed with a 10-7 victory over Bexley on April 14.
Against Bexley, Aidan O'Harra scored four goals and Mason Hall had two while goalkeeper David Leibas made 14 saves.
The Lions play Saturday, May 5, at Columbus Academy and play host to Hilliard Bradley on Monday, May 7. Academy lost six of its first eight and Bradley was 4-6 before facing Hilliard Darby on May 1.
Below are the coming schedules for the Gahanna Lincoln baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
May 3 -- At Thomas Worthington
*May 4 -- At Pickerington Central. The Lions lost to the Tigers 10-4 on April 26.
May 7 -- Home vs. 44th-seeded Walnut Ridge in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays at 12th-seeded Watkins Memorial in second round May 9. Winner plays fifth-seeded Upper Arlington, 29th-seeded Whetstone or 30th-seeded Dublin Scioto in district semifinal May 15. Gahanna is the 20th seed.
May 5 -- At Columbus Academy
May 7 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley
May 3 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
May 4 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
May 8 -- Home vs. Chillicothe
*May 3 -- Home vs. Grove City. The Lions lost to the Greyhounds 12-3 on April 26.
May 4 -- Springfield Kenton Ridge in Gahanna Showcase
May 5 -- Mason and Lebanon in Gahanna Showcase
May 9 -- Home vs. 34th-seeded Canal Winchester in second round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays fourth-seeded Groveport, 26th-seeded Olentangy Orange or 31st-seeded DeSales in district semifinal May 14. Gahanna is the sixth seed.
May 3 -- Home vs. Granville
TRACK & FIELD
May 4 -- Africentric Invitational
*May 3 -- At Reynoldsburg. The Lions beat the Raiders 25-6, 25-20, 25-13 on April 12.
May 4 -- At St. Charles
May 5 -- At Stow-Munroe Falls with Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph
*May 8 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson. The Lions lost to the Wildcats 25-19, 25-22 on April 14 in a non-league match and 18-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-14, 15-10 on April 17 in a league contest.