The Groveport Madison High School softball team clinched the OCC-Capital Division title for the second season in a row when it defeated visiting Big Walnut 11-1 in five innings on May 2.

The following day, the Cruisers closed league play with a 9-8 loss at Big Walnut, yielding all nine runs in the sixth inning.

The loss snapped a 29-game league winning streak for the Cruisers, who finished 9-1 in the OCC-Capital.

"We hadn't given up nine runs total in full weeks for much of the season," coach Chris Downing said. "Big Walnut had eight hits in the inning and five of them were bloops. We also made three errors and had some mental errors as well.

"In the top of the seventh, a base-running error prevented us from tying the game because we trailed 9-6 and Lanie White hit a two-run homer after we had a runner get picked off. It wasn't pretty."

The mental mistakes bothered Downing most.

"I understand we clinched the title the day before on senior day and we were a little flat, but our girls know the game and shouldn't be making mental mistakes," he said.

Groveport then lost to host Westerville North 8-2 on May 4, marking the first time this season that it had lost back-to-back games. But Downing switched the lineup for that contest in order to work on things with different personnel and the Cruisers made four errors and totaled five hits.

Groveport was 19-6 overall after splitting a pair of home games on May 5, beating Ready 5-2 and losing to Watkins Memorial 4-3.

The Cruisers are seeded fourth of 46 teams in the Division I district tournament and had a first-round bye. They played 26th-seeded Olentangy Orange or 31st-seeded DeSales in the second round May 9, with the winner advancing to play sixth-seeded Gahanna or 34th-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is May 18 or 19 at Pickerington Central.

"I've seen Gahanna play and they've got some very good players and look fundamentally sound, as usual," Downing said. "They've got a powerful hitter in Addie Kittel and great athletes at shortstop (Molly Troutman) and center field (Lauren Ringhiser).

"I don't know a lot about Orange or DeSales yet, but we will after watching their first-round game (May 7)."

The Cruisers beat Canal Winchester 13-2 on April 12 and 14-2 on April 25 in league games.

Through 23 games, MacKenzie Maddy had a team-high .526 batting average with 11 doubles and 28 runs scored. She was followed in batting average by White (.500, 11 doubles, 6 home runs, 30 runs, 23 RBI).

Other offensive leaders were Sara Gockenbach (.388, 7 doubles, 3 home runs, 20 runs, 15 RBI), Macie Sporleder (.378, 4 triples, 2 home runs, 19 runs, 22 RBI), Makayla Smith (.362), Carsyn Saunders (.339), Ally Maddy (.323) and Jodi Kern (.297, 20 RBI).

Gockenbach was 17-4 with a 1.41 ERA, 165 strikeouts and 24 walks in 119 innings.

Baseball team secures rare winning season

The baseball team closed the regular season by winning six of its final eight games to secure a winning season.

Seeded 28th, the Cruisers were 14-10 overall before playing at 17th-seeded Dublin Jerome on May 7 in the first round of the 48-team Division I district tournament.

"It's the first time in 14 years that we've had a winning season, so we're pretty excited about that," coach David Eft said. "We've been a bit up and down all season, but we're playing pretty well right now, especially when we have our top two pitchers on the mound."

The winner played at fourth-seeded Hilliard Davidson in the second round May 9, with that winner advancing to play sixth-seeded Lancaster, 27th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley or 46th-seeded Mifflin in a district semifinal Tuesday, May 15, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is May 17.

The Cruisers defeated Big Walnut 4-2 on May 1 when Luis Pantoja and Caden Lowe outpitched Golden Eagles' ace Austin Becker.

Pantoja started and allowed two runs in the first inning, but he and Lowe, who worked the sixth and seventh innings for the save, combined on a two-hitter as the Cruisers made two errors. Groveport had five hits and was aided by four Big Walnut errors.

"Big Walnut is seeded 11th (in the district tournament) and Becker is a Vanderbilt (recruit) who may be drafted (in the MLB amateur draft in June)," said Eft, whose team finished 8-7 in the OCC-Capital. "He had a 1.21 ERA going into our game and we battled him. That gave us a lot of confidence."

Through 22 games, Pantoja was 4-1 with a 1.52 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 31 innings and Lowe was 3-3 with a 2.50 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 35 innings.

Offensively, Daniel Fairchild was hitting .473 with six doubles, 19 runs scored and 11 RBI and Pantoja was batting .420 with six doubles, 19 runs and 10 RBI. Austin Snyder was batting .330, Logan Marburger was batting .325 and Caleb Caldwell was hitting .310 with a team-high 13 RBI.

Lowe had 10 RBI and Austin Gautier had scored 18 runs.

Boys tennis team begins postseason

Members of the boys tennis team will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Hilliard Bradley.

In first-round singles matches, Chris Silva will play Dublin Coffman's Alex Powell, Miles Mason will face Westerville Central's Will Arnett and Cutter Barnes will play Davidson's Ethan Clark.

In doubles, Clayton Saunders and Dylan Uptegraft will open in the second round against Whitehall's Jacob Clark and Seth Coleman, while Zachary Copeland and Zion King will open in the second round against an opponent to be determined.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 17 at Bradley and May 19 at Upper Arlington.

Track teams set for OCC-Capital meet

The track and field teams will compete in the OCC-Capital meet Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Orange.

The girls team will be looking to improve on its finish from last season, when it placed third (94 points) behind Big Walnut (158) and Canal Winchester (117).

In their final tuneup for the league meet, the Cruisers finished fifth (50) in the eight-team Bradley Invitational on May 4 behind champion Marysville (111).

Atanna Gunnell, Madi Young and Emily Allen were on the winning 400-meter relay (51.78 seconds) and runner-up 800 relay (1:48.75). Danasha Winfield joined them in the 400 relay and Chenise Smith joined them in the 800 relay.

Melanie Torres set personal records while placing second in the 3,200 (12:24.25) and third in the 1,600 (5:51.64). Victoria Williams, Smith, Young and Amara Towns were second in the 1,600 relay (4:14.26) and Williams was third in the 400 (personal-record 1:03.42).

The boys team, which placed fifth (47) in the league meet last season behind champion Canal Winchester (152), finished eighth (20) in the Bradley Invitational behind champion Bradley (124).

Kahari Davis, Tyrell Ford, Jalil Underdown and Tahzmere Givens placed second in the 800 relay (1:34.15), Underdown was third in the 100 (personal-record 11.21) and Givens was fourth in the 300 hurdles (43.22).

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