The Groveport Madison High School baseball team was closing in on what would have been one of its biggest wins in recent years before losing to host Gahanna 6-2 on April 6 in an OCC-Ohio Division game.

The Groveport Madison High School baseball team was closing in on what would have been one of its biggest wins in recent years before losing to host Gahanna 6-2 on April 6 in an OCC-Ohio Division game.

The Cruisers led 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning before the Lions loaded the bases and Cael Baker hit a grand slam. Baker, a junior catcher and University of Cincinnati commit, also had an RBI double in the fifth.

"He basically beat us by himself," said coach Dave Eft, whose team was 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Ohio entering the week. "We outplayed them the whole game, but we hit a batter with two outs earlier and he doubled. He came up the next time with the bases loaded and we had to go after him. He's the real deal and he got us."

Sophomore pitcher Luis Pantoja took the loss against Gahanna, which has won three Division I district titles in the past five seasons and was a state semifinalist in 2013 and 2014. Groveport outhit the Lions 11-5, but made three errors.

The day before against Gahanna, host Groveport trailed 3-2 before the Lions erupted for four runs in the fifth inning and six in the sixth to win 13-2. Three pitchers for the Cruisers combined to allow 12 walks and hit three batters.

"We only made one error and got outhit just 10-6," Eft said. "But we came back the next day and got after them. We didn't hang our heads. We had 11 hits, but just didn't have big timely hits like the one they got."

The Cruisers won their first three games, beating Johnstown 5-4 in eight innings March 28 and sweeping a doubleheader against Bexley on April 2, winning 7-5 and 5-3.

Eft said junior center fielder Kenny Pettay has been hitting well as the leadoff batter and that Pantoja and seniors Steve Sudduth (C), Conner Coffey (1B) and Colin Bobo (RF) also have been hitting well.

Eft said senior Ty Mitchell, who is expected to be one of the Cruisers' top pitchers, continues to have shoulder soreness and may be kept off the mound for an extended period. Mitchell has been in the lineup, however, as the designated hitter.

Softball team making progress

The softball team is close to putting the pieces together, according to first-year coach Chris Downing.

"I'm pretty happy with our pitching and we're hitting the ball well at times, but we need to be better in the clutch," said Downing, whose team was 4-4 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Ohio entering the week. "We're not getting the timely hitting.

"I'd say the biggest disappointment thus far has been our bunting game. Whether it's sacrifice bunting or bunting for hits, we're not getting the job done. We spend a lot of time working on that part of our game and we're not executing it."

According to Downing, a clutch bunt or timely hit or two could have changed the outcome for Groveport in losses to Hartley (8-5 on March 28) and Bloom-Carroll (8-6 on March 30).

The Cruisers defeated Westland 9-4 on March 29, beat Olentangy Liberty 5-1 and Northridge 8-4 on April 2 and edged Grove City 4-3 in an OCC-Ohio game April 6. They lost to Teays Valley 4-0 on March 31 and fell to Gahanna 11-1 in their league opener April 4.

Senior Christina Barnes (designated player), junior Jessie Rock (C) and sophomore Alexis Preciado (RF) have been leading Groveport at the plate.

"Barnes has been solid all year," Downing said. "All I ask her to do is hit and she's done very well, the surprise of the season so far. Rock had three home runs and nine RBI through eight games in addition to being the human eraser behind the plate. Preciado has done really well and (sophomore third baseman) Carsyn Saunders is starting to come on now."

Downing said sophomore pitcher Sara Gockenbach continues to improve.

"She had very few innings in the circle last year and I'm happy with her progress," he said. "She pitched very well against Grove City. There are going to be some growing pains, but we've only had two bad innings with our pitching. That's pretty good for eight games."

Track teams led by relay efforts

The girls and boys track and field teams both placed in the 400- and 800-meter relays in the Stingel Invitational on April 8 at Pickerington North.

The meet was not completed because of bad weather.

The girls totaled 15.5 points to place 10th of 12 teams, behind champion Lancaster (78).

The 800 relay of Cleopatria Steward, Reonna Harrison-Mitchell, Jaliyah Atkinson and Imani Johnson won in 1 minute, 47.64 seconds. Placing sixth were the 800 relay of Toni Woods, Madison Young, Emily Allen and Michaiah Parker (53.47) and Woods in the long jump (14 feet, 6 inches).

The boys team finished 12th (12) of 13 teams, behind champion Watkins Memorial (67).

The 400 relay of Corey Newman, Mark Wilson, Isaac Gray and Mustafa Ali-Harbi placed fourth (45.67) and the 800 relay of Newman, Ali-Harbi, Marvin Brooks and Wilson finished fifth (1:34.33).

Finishing eighth were Newman in the 100 (11.79), Brooks in the 400 (54.48) and Tyler Hannah in the high jump (5-8).