With seven starters eligible to return, the Groveport Madison High School softball team expects to reload next season.

However, the Cruisers will begin a new era next year, as pitcher Sara Gockenbach is one of their five seniors. The last three seasons with Gockenbach in the circle, Groveport posted a 61-26 record, earned two league titles and reached a Division I district final twice. Along the way, the Cruisers won 29 consecutive league games until losing to Big Walnut 9-8 on May 3 to finish 9-1 in the OCC-Capital Division.

Sophomore Allie Maddy is expected to replace Gockenbach as the team's top pitcher.

"We're going to miss Sara and all of our seniors," said coach Chris Downing, whose team finished 20-8 overall after losing to sixth-seeded Gahanna 7-3 in a district semifinal May 14 at Pickerington Central. "They hung together and did everything we asked. They left their legacy on the field and have put us in position to continue our success next year when we get to play on our new field.

"The underclassmen saw their work and leadership and we've got (seven) starters and 10 girls overall returning and ready to continue our roll. Allie Maddy will move from right field to pitcher and should be ready to take her game to the next level."

Gockenbach finished the season 19-7 with a 1.81 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings. She also had a .370 batting average with 23 runs scored, 18 RBI, three home runs and seven doubles and was named Player of the Year in the OCC-Capital as well as first-team all-district and second-team all-state.

Maddy was 1-1 with a 3.13 ERA in 31 1/3 innings for the Cruisers, who won their second consecutive OCC-Capital title by finishing ahead of Newark and New Albany (both 7-3), Big Walnut (5-5), Canal Winchester (2-8) and Franklin Heights (0-10).

Groveport was seeded fourth in the district tournament and had a first-round bye before beating 31st-seeded DeSales 19-5 in five innings in a second-round home game May 9 to reach the district semifinal.

The other seniors are starters Jodi Kern (C) and Carsyn Saunders (LF) as well as Kelsea Blaskis (OF) and Aleah Brown (OF).

Saunders batted .333 with 21 runs and 16 RBI and was second-team all-league, while Kern hit .275 with two home runs and 26 RBI and was honorable mention all-league.

In addition to Maddy, among the expected returnees are juniors Makayla Smith (OF), Lanie White (SS) and Lexi Wright (CF) and sophomores Milan Caldwell (1B), MacKenzie Maddy (2B) and Macie Sporleder (3B).

White (.495, 40 runs, 29 RBI, 9 home runs, 11 doubles, 11 stolen bases) made first-team all-league and all-district, while MacKenzie Maddy (.469, 35 runs, 16 RBI, 14 doubles) was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Allie Maddy (.380), Sporleder (.352, 21 runs, 26 RBI, 3 home runs, 4 triples, 5 doubles) and Caldwell (.333) all were second-team all-league and Smith (.333) was honorable mention all-league.

"We have a lot of girls coming back who have a lot of potential," Downing said. "Our goals will be the same. We want to win another league championship and win a district title. The girls who are coming back need to have that mindset. They will need to work hard in the summer and during our offseason workouts from September through February so that we are ready to go next season."

Girls track athletes compete at regional

The girls track and field team was represented in the Division I regional meet last week at Pickerington North by the 400-meter relay of Atanna Gunnell, Chenise Smith, Madi Young and Emily Allen as well as Toni Woods in the long jump.

The 400 relay finished 11th (50.75 seconds) in the preliminaries May 23, as the top eight qualified for finals May 25. Woods competed May 25.

The top four finishers in each regional event advanced to the state meet Friday, June 1, and Saturday, June 2, at Ohio State.

The boys team did not have any regional qualifiers.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek