Although the Canal Winchester High School girls track and field team's 800-meter relay began the season with a win, and two months later earned a Division I regional berth with the same foursome, the interim was anything but smooth.

The relay of Shalea Byrd, Ariana Coleman, Anaya Edwards and N'Daia Hamilton finished fourth in 1 minute, 47.07 seconds in the Division I, district 2 meet May 19 at Hilliard Darby as the top four finishers in each event advanced to the regional that began May 23 and concludes Friday, May 25, at Pickerington North.

In the season-opening Hammond Relays on March 26 at Pickerington Central, the same group self-imposed high expectations for the year by winning in 1:47.55. However, while Byrd, Edwards and Hamilton have remained healthy, Coleman missed almost all of the regular season because of a hamstring injury.

"We were all really nervous for the (800 relay)," Edwards said. "We all kept each other cool, calm and collected. We could do it even if we were nervous ourselves. We just prayed and made sure we knew what to do. We gave it our all."

Byrd, Coleman and Edwards teamed with Taylor Davie to make regional in the 400 relay, finishing third in a program-record 50.21 seconds. The Indians had 47 points to finish sixth behind champion Gahanna (164) as 16 teams scored.

Hamilton said the team surpassed its own expectations, largely because they weren't sure what to expect.

"We have room for improvement, but somehow we still pushed through," Hamilton said. "We'll have a little time to get our handoffs perfect. They haven't been and we've still done this well. We'll have even better runs (at regional). We're doing way better than I expected us to do. I don't know that anybody expected this out of us because nobody was really sure what we had."

The Indians' top hurdler, Erica Babusci, fell just short of making regional, finishing fifth in the 300 hurdles (46.46) and sixth in the 100 hurdles (16.1). Babusci, who won the OCC-Capital Division championship in both events May 12 at Olentangy Orange, originally was scheduled to compete in the high jump as well, but coach Darren Avery pulled her out of that event last week to concentrate on hurdles.

The boys team finished ninth (27) in district 1 behind champion Pickerington Central (158) as 16 teams scored, advancing two individuals and two relays to regional.

Korbin Martino finished third in the 400 (49.16) and Torrance Thomas was fourth in the 110 hurdles (16.03), while Zach Akarri, Tanner Conley, Gibby Cornett and Tyler Toledo were on the fourth-place 400 relay (44.21) and fourth-place 800 relay (1:32.24).

At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.

Baseball team looks to next season

Baseball coach Tyler Kuhn admitted he was unsure of his expectations entering this season because his team returned only one starter, but nonetheless the Indians remained in contention for the OCC-Capital Division championship for most of the season and were competitive against some of the area's top teams.

Canal Winchester finished 16-9 overall and 9-5 in the league but did not win a postseason game. Seeded 13th of 48 teams in the Division I district tournament, the Indians lost to 19th-seeded Pickerington North in a second-round game May 9 at home.

"Some places have high expectations year-in and year-out instead of expecting to be good every couple years, and we're trying to develop a program that is good every season," Kuhn said. "We improved a lot as a team. This is a tough sport to have success in in the tournament; one bad day can end your season. You just never know."

Sophomore catcher Ben Stevens had a team-best .377 batting average, ahead of senior shortstop Kavian McMillan (.345) and senior pitcher/infielder Justin Cox (.306) and senior outfielder Eli Harris (.306).

Senior Drake Burris (P/INF/OF), sophomore Reece Klamorick (P/INF) and Stevens tied for the team lead in RBI with 14.

The Indians did not hit a home run this season, and Stevens had the team's only triple.

Klamorick was 6-0 on the mound with a 0.71 ERA, eight walks and 25 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. Cox was 3-4 with a 1.41 ERA, 17 walks and 41 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings, and senior Cam Taylor was 3-0 with a 0.70 ERA, six walks and 20 strikeouts in 20 innings.

Sophomore Bryce Palmer also is expected to be a valuable part of the rotation in 2019, as he was 1-4 with a 4.20 ERA, 19 walks and 28 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.

Cox and Klamorick both were named first-team all-league. McMillan and Stevens were second-team all-league, Harris was special mention all-league and senior Carter Ilich (1B/OF) was honorable mention all-league.

"If you have good pitching and can make plays behind that, that's a good recipe," Kuhn said. "We beat New Albany twice and they made (a) district final. We hung with a pretty good team in (district finalist) Lancaster. We hung with Olentangy Liberty (the top seed in the district tournament). We played some good teams and that made us better. Good front-line pitching can win you a lot of games."

Canal Winchester finished third in the OCC-Capital, behind Big Walnut (12-3) and New Albany (11-4) and ahead of Groveport (8-7), Newark (4-10) and Franklin Heights (0-15). The Indians' league finale May 4 at Newark was suspended because of bad weather and was not completed.

Others eligible to return include juniors Trevor Mays (utility) and Chase Moeller (P/2B/3B).

Youth helped lead softball team

Softball coach Casey Whitlatch expects to return most of his roster after the Indians went 8-16 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Capital and were within three outs of a huge Division I district tournament upset.

Seeded 34th of 46 teams, Canal Winchester led host and sixth-seeded Gahanna 7-6 entering the bottom of the seventh inning of their second-round game May 9 before the Lions' Alaina Marcum hit a grand slam to give Gahanna a 10-7 win.

"It was a tough end to the year, but the girls grew from start to finish," Whitlatch said. "We didn't want to lose in the tournament, of course, but we took big steps. We had a lot of freshmen who contributed, and for them it's an adjustment period."

The Indians are losing three seniors in Jessica Diskins (OF), Kaylee Dunkle (3B) and Allie Saulnier (C). Dunkle is a Defiance College recruit and Saulnier will play at Capital.

Key players eligible to return include sophomore Kylie Harmon (SS/3B/OF) and freshmen Brooklyn Best (P/1B), Olivia Kolikohn (2B/SS/OF), Sam Peters (P), Dani Skinner (CF) and Samantha Zungri (2B/OF).

Peters led the team in batting average (.429) and hits (33) and had 21 RBI and two of the team's seven home runs. Best batted .388, Dunkle hit .368 with a team-best 23 RBI and Kolikohn had 28 hits and 20 RBI.

Skinner had a team-high four homers.

Canal Winchester finished fifth in the league, behind Groveport (9-1), New Albany and Newark (both 7-3) and Big Walnut (5-5) and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-10). The Indians' only two league wins came against the Falcons on April 26, 14-0 in the completion of a suspended game and 15-0 later that day.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave