With its City League-North Division title hopes fading, Jordan Fischer sparked a four-run fifth inning with a three-run home run to help propel the Centennial High School softball team past visiting Whetstone 6-3 on May 3.
The win kept the Stars alive in their pursuit of a fifth consecutive City-North championship.
Centennial improved to 12-6 overall and 12-1 in the league and has a makeup game with East that was yet to be scheduled entering this week. Whetstone, which won the first meeting against the Stars 9-4 on April 18, finished league play 13-1.
If the Stars beat East, there will be a playoff game to determine the City-North representative in the City championship game, which is scheduled for Wednesday, May 16, at the home of the City-North winner.
"It seems like we've been through this before," coach Malik Dean said in reference to last season when Centennial beat Whetstone 7-6 in a playoff to advance to the City final, where it lost to Eastmoor Academy 13-5. "The good news for us is that we're jelling and playing our best softball of the season right now."
The Stars led Whetstone 2-0 before allowing three runs in the top of the fifth. Winning pitcher Gwen Moran began Centennial's rally with a double. After Elise Fallon was intentionally walked, Ikera Ike delivered an RBI single before Fischer hit a two-strike, two-out home run to center field.
"It was her first home run of the season and it was a great time to get it," Dean said. "She ripped it and this was just a great team win overall. Gwen pitched a heck of a game and we only made one error behind her. I think we learned how to close out a game against a good team.
"We led Grandview 11-6 going into the bottom of the seventh (May 1) and we had a ton of errors and fell apart (in a 12-11 loss). We're a young team that has improved throughout, but we didn't know how to finish. I think we learned how to against Whetstone."
The Stars were seeded 13th of 22 teams for the Division II district tournament and played host to 17th-seeded Linden-McKinley in the first round May 8. The winner plays at second-seeded Jonathan Alder in the second round Thursday, May 10.
Jonathan Alder, which was ranked seventh in the state poll last week, was 14-3 before playing Marysville on May 8.
The second-round winner advances to a district semifinal Tuesday, May 15, against ninth-seeded Buckeye Valley, 12th-seeded Whitehall or 20th-seeded Marion-Franklin at a neutral site to be determined. That winner plays in a district final May 18 or 19 at Pickerington Central against fourth-seeded Sparta Highland, fifth-seeded Big Walnut, seventh-seeded Caledonia River Valley, 10th-seeded Hartley or 21st-seeded Independence.
Through 18 games, Fallon was batting .553 to lead the Stars and had three home runs and 28 RBI. Ike was batting .550 with 23 RBI, followed by Moran (.525, 17 RBI), Izabell Segovia (.500, 23 RBI) and Fischer (.472). Moran also was 6-3 with a 3.59 ERA.
Baseball team closes regular season strong
Just like last season, the baseball team shut out Whetstone in the league finale, winning 5-0 on May 3.
However, last year the rivals both finished 10-2 in the league and were forced into a playoff game to determine which team would represent the City-North in the City final. Whetstone won the playoff 5-4 in eight innings and then beat Briggs 2-0 for its sixth consecutive City title.
This time, the Braves finished league play 11-1 while Centennial improved to 9-2 with a makeup game remaining against East.
However, coach Pat Nance said the game was far from meaningless.
"It was a huge win for our seniors and it should give us a burst of confidence and momentum heading into the Division II (district) tournament," said Nance, whose team was 11-11 overall after losing to Watterson 12-1 on May 5. "Myles Martinez was tremendous on the mound. He struck out six and walked one and limited (Whetstone) to three hits. He kept them off balance and there were few hard-hit balls. He was ahead in the count all game and only had 80 pitches in seven innings."
Centennial, which finished the regular season by winning six of nine contests, did all of the game's scoring in the bottom of the fifth.
"We've got a number of guys contributing offensively," Nance said. "Nigel Harris is doing a really nice job batting leadoff and Shaan Morales is hitting the cover off the ball and hitting to all fields in the three-hole. Tanner Radford has been solid at No. 2 and Myles is doing the job at cleanup.
"We've also gotten much more out of freshman Nate Dorinsky than I thought we would, and we probably put too much pressure on him to perform as a freshman. But he's handled it very well. He's played left field, right field and second base as well as pitching."
The Stars were seeded 15th for the 23-team district tournament and played host to 18th-seeded River Valley in the first round May 8. The winner plays at third-seeded Lakewood in the second round Thursday, May 10.
That winner advances to a district semifinal Monday, May 14, against fifth-seeded Licking Valley, 12th-seeded Highland or 23rd-seeded Beechcroft at a neutral site to be determined.
The district final is Wednesday, May 16, at a neutral site to be determined. Likely opponents include top-seeded Bloom-Carroll and eighth-seeded Watterson.
Track teams set for postseason
The boys and girls track and field teams tuned up for their respective Division I district meets at Hilliard Darby by competing in the City meet May 7 and 9 at Africentric.
The boys will compete in district 3. Field events are Wednesday, May 16, with running preliminaries the following day and running finals May 19.
The girls will participate in district 2. Field events are Tuesday, May 15, with running preliminaries the following day and running finals May 19.
The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional May 23 and 25 at Pickerington North.
Girls lacrosse team earns second win
The girls lacrosse team defeated Whetstone 12-1 on May 2 for its second victory of the season.
The Stars' other win also was over Whetstone, a first-year program, 15-0 on April 23.
Centennial closed the regular season May 3 with a 20-3 loss at Delaware.
The Stars are 2-15 and seeded last in the 16-team Division II, Region 7 tournament. They will play at top-seeded DeSales in the first round Wednesday, May 16.
Below is the coming schedule for the Centennial boys tennis team:
May 10, 12 -- Division II sectional at Columbus School for Girls. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to district May 17 at Columbus Academy and May 19 at Upper Arlington.