Westerville Central High School softball pitcher Sydney Stepp missed several games late in the regular season with a bruised elbow, but the junior showed no hint of her injury with the Warhawks’ season on the line.
The Bowling Green commit gave up seven hits, struck out eight and walked one May 19 as the 19th-seeded Warhawks won their first Division I district championship, 2-0 over 16th-seeded Pickerington Central at the Tigers’ home complex.
“The main thing was not letting some of their biggest hitters beat us,” Warhawks coach Brian Warmsley said. “Sydney hit all of her spots. She did well with all of her pitches. Anytime you have a bruised elbow and hit it on your hip, it can be excruciating pain. But she did a great job for us.”
Westerville Central won its ninth consecutive game in improving to 17-9 and will take on Teays Valley in a regional semifinal May 23 at Ohio State.
The Warhawks scored both of their runs in the fifth inning. Grace Musilli walked to lead off the inning, advanced to third base on a sacrifice and an error and scored on Cami Compson’s single to right field.
Avery Schumacher singled in Emily O’Dee to make it 2-0.
Pickerington Central loaded the bases in the sixth and put two runners on in the seventh but could not score.
Cami Fisk and Anna Villies each had two hits to lead the Tigers, who finished 17-6 and had been seeking their first district title since 2013.
“We had opportunities and it was just one of those games that things unfortunately didn’t fall our way,” Tigers coach Jenny Young said. “They’re a great team and their pitcher kept us off-balance.”
Gahanna 13, Mount Vernon 10
Before she could record an out against 15th-seeded Mount Vernon in a Division I district final May 19 at Pickerington Central, Gahanna pitcher Addie Kittel had given up five runs.
That hardly fazed the senior standout or the sixth-seeded Lions, who have seen their share of big games the past few years.
Kittel, who has set a program record with 21 home runs this season, battled through trouble throughout the rest of the game but got Gahanna’s offense going with a three-homer in the bottom of the first.
The Lions went on to outslug the Yellow Jackets to capture their sixth consecutive district championship and earn coach Jim Campolo his 600th career victory.
“You can’t really give up once you get down,” third baseman Gracey Day said. “There’s seven innings in a game so you can’t let one inning decide a ballgame.”
Gahanna is 18-7 and will begin its quest for a second consecutive regional title when it plays Olentangy in a regional semifinal May 23 at Ohio State.
Mount Vernon, which finished 18-5, got a two-run double by Macee Marcum, an RBI double by Annie Neipling and a two-run home run by Megan Pentz in the top of the first before Kittel retired the next three hitters.
In the bottom of the inning, Molly Troutman walked, Alaina Marcum reached on an error and Kittle hit a three-run homer.
The Lions took a 6-5 lead in the second on a sacrifice fly by Marcum and a two-run single by Lauren Ringhiser.
Mount Vernon scored four times in the fourth to take a 9-6 lead but the Lions again answered, this time with a two-run homer by Troutman and an RBI single by Ringhiser. The Lions also scored a run on catcher’s interference to make it 10-9.
Mount Vernon nearly tied it in the sixth on a suicide squeeze bunt by Macee Marcum, but Hope Straight was called out for leaving third base too early.
Gahanna got a two-run homer by Kittel and a solo shot by Day in a three-run sixth inning.
The Lions have won nine district titles in 11 seasons under Campolo, who is in his 18th season.
“I didn’t bother telling the girls (that I was going for my 600th win) because I didn’t want them to worry about it,” Campolo said. “It’s real special.”