Zoie Smith set at least two personal goals for this season, but the sophomore catcher for the Pickerington High School Central softball team thought she had a better chance of attaining one than the other.

Smith wanted to bat at least .600, a mark that would tie the program record, and hit 10 home runs.

She finished the regular season having some work to do to achieve those marks, but even if she does not reach them, she has thoroughly enjoyed comprising half of a powerful duo in the middle of Central's lineup.

Usually hitting third, Smith was batting .567 with nine home runs through 18 games, one spot ahead of junior shortstop Sophia Slack's .536 average and eight homers.

Seeded 16th, Central beat 38th-seeded Hamilton Township 11-1 in six innings in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 7 and was 14-5 overall before playing eighth-seeded Hilliard Darby in the second round May 9.

Against Hamilton Township, Anna Villies' three-run home run highlighted a six-run first inning.

"(Production is) expected out of all of our hitters, but it's even better that we hit back-to-back. It's icing on the cake that we're able to hit for average and for power," Smith said. "When balls started going out of the park, it was even better."

Pitcher Anna Feil had a team-high 10 home runs through 18 games.

"We're just trying to help any way we can," said Slack, who is in her second year at Central after playing her freshman year at Hartley. "It's more of a competition between me, Anna and Zoie. It's fun. One of them hits a home run and the other ones are trying our best to do the same thing. It helps all of us. I love having that extra competition."

Kallie Boren, a 2017 Central graduate who now plays at Ohio State, batted .600 as a junior and also shares the program record for home runs with 13, set in 2015.

"She never got frazzled or frustrated," Smith said of Boren. "She was always calm and collected and always able to take counts deep."

Tigers coach Jenny Young has adjusted the batting order throughout this season depending on who is hitting well. Slack and Smith hit in the fifth and sixth spots earlier this year with Feil and Cami Fisk in the third and fourth spots, and then the tandems traded places in recent weeks.

"(Slack and Smith) aren't looking for the home run pitch. They just go up there and hit the ball hard," Young said. "Having them back-to-back has been huge. Sometimes, people get hot and they stay hot so they'll get more at-bats. They are good hitters, disciplined hitters. You can count on them that if they get behind in the count, they will battle their way back. Both of them have great eyes and they are tough outs."

Feil took over the team lead in home runs May 1 by hitting three in a 19-8, six-inning win over Newark.

The Tigers beat Gahanna 7-0 on May 2 to finish 7-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division, placing second behind Lancaster (8-2).

The Central-Darby winner plays 11th-seeded Watkins Memorial or 27th-seeded Westerville North in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. The district final is May 18 or 19 at Central.

The Tigers defeated North 8-7 on April 5.

Slack hoped a deep postseason run would turn heads around the area. The Tigers are searching for their first district title since 2013.

"It's been an up-and-down year," Slack said. "It's hard to stay on top when you have a target on your back. We've had good days and we've had rough days. We're just trying to stay on top of everything. (Being seeded 16th) is definitely motivation. I think we'll be just fine."

Baseball team shares league title

Baseball coach Ray Noe stopped short of calling his team "a small-ball team," but he acknowledged the Tigers sometimes had to scratch out runs en route to their first OCC-Ohio championship since 2009.

Central went 10-5 in the league, losing to Gahanna 5-4 on May 5 to share the championship with Lancaster.

"It's been uncharted territory for us. This is something we've been talking about, an ultimate goal, but we kept at it and got it this year," Noe said. "We've found ways to win (such as) an RBI groundout with a runner on third base, sacrifice flies (and) getting bunts down. Before, we might have just gone out there and mashed, but when that wasn't happening to my expectations, we switched things around. We're not a small-ball team, but we're capable of it."

According to Noe, since he took over the team in 2016, the Tigers were 39-8 when they scored four or more runs as of May 6 and 11-28 when they did not.

Central clinched a share of the OCC-Ohio with a 3-1 win at Grove City on May 2.

Seeded 10th in the Division I district tournament, the Tigers were 13-8 overall before playing host to 24th-seeded Westerville Central in the second round May 9.

The winner plays seventh-seeded Worthington Kilbourne or 15th-seeded Hilliard Bradley in a district semifinal Monday, May 14, at a neutral site to be determined. That winner will play sixth-seeded New Albany, 11th-seeded Big Walnut, 22nd-seeded Hamilton Township or 39th-seeded Licking Heights in a district final Wednesday, May 16, at a neutral site.

The district champion advances to a regional semifinal May 24.

The Tigers defeated Kilbourne 17-6 on May 1 and lost to Bradley 3-2 in eight innings on April 21.

Girls lacrosse team falls to Panthers

Despite three goals each from Maddi Hyer and Maddie Morrell, the girls lacrosse team came up on the short end against Pickerington North for the first time in five years.

North edged host Central 10-8, ending the Tigers' four-game winning streak in the series.

Central had lost four of its past five games and was 8-7 overall before playing Westerville Central on May 8. The Tigers finished 2-4 in the OCC-Central.

"We just couldn't stay out of the penalty box. We committed too many fouls. We were undisciplined and we paid for it," coach Brian Walton said. "We've tried to work on being more disciplined, but we've had our issues. It's been an up-and-down season. It's been inconsistent. That might be a characteristic of being young, but at this point they're not so young since they've played 14 games (before May 8)."

Goalkeeper Nadine El-Barrad made 10 saves against North.

Central finishes the regular season Thursday, May 10, at Olentangy and will begin the Division I, Region 3 tournament Monday, May 14, with a second-round game at Gahanna. The Tigers are seeded ninth of 17 teams and the Lions are seeded seventh.

The winner visits second-seeded Dublin Jerome or 16th-seeded Marysville in a quarterfinal May 18.

Central lost to Gahanna 9-5 in OCC-Central play April 17.

Boys lacrosse team snaps rivalry skid

The boys lacrosse team broke a five-game losing streak to its crosstown rival in dramatic fashion May 4, erasing a five-goal deficit to edge North 10-9.

Tyler Coyan scored the winning goal with 4 minutes, 59 seconds left to cap a comeback from a 6-1 first-quarter deficit and earn the Tigers their third win in four games as well as their first victory against the Panthers since April 25, 2014.

Central was 6-9 overall before ending its regular season May 8 at home against Westerville Central and finished 4-3 in the OCC-Central.

Seeded 11th in the 19-team Division I, Region 3 tournament, the Tigers will play host to 18th-seeded Westerville South in a first-round game Saturday, May 12. The winner visits third-seeded New Albany in the second round Tuesday, May 15, with that winner advancing to a regional quarterfinal May 18.

Central lost to New Albany 15-4 on April 4.

Big meets underway for track teams

The track and field teams will compete in the final day in the OCC-Ohio meet Saturday, May 12, at Dublin Coffman, with finals for the running events as well as girls high jump and shot put.

The other field events and all running preliminaries were May 9 at Lancaster.

After the league meet, the Tigers will turn their attention to the Division I, district 1 meet, which begins Tuesday, May 15, at Darby with preliminaries for the running events, followed by field events on May 17 and running finals on May 19.

Boys tennis team preps for sectional

Leyton Mathias and Jeremy O'Coner are seeded second in doubles in the boys tennis team's home Division I sectional Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12.

Evan Gibson and Karson Stanley will be the Tigers' other doubles team, while Stephan Klein, Brady Phelps and Cooper Stang are playing singles.

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

Central was 13-4 overall before playing Olentangy Liberty on May 8.

The Tigers began last week with consecutive 5-0 wins, over Watkins Memorial on April 30 and Canal Winchester on May 1, before beating Hilliard Davidson 3-2 on May 3 and Westerville South 3-1 in the next day.

Central, which finished its regular season with a home match against Westerville North on May 9, lost to Kilbourne 3-2 on May 7.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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