The Licking Heights High School boys track and field team slowly is rounding into shape.

The Licking Heights High School boys track and field team slowly is rounding into shape.

Coach Tim O'Cain said the most immediate need is the continuing development of the hurdlers. The Hornets are trying to replace junior Jordan Bodell, a Division II regional qualifier last spring who transferred to Eastmoor Academy, and another standout in former district and Licking County Invitational champion Colt Denig, who graduated.

"That's where our emphasis is right now," O'Cain said.

O'Cain said he also is working to find the right combinations for the 800- and 1,600-meter relays, the latter of which in particular has been strong over the years. At the 2006 state meet, the Hornets finished second in the 1,600 relay during an era best remembered for their rivalry with Aaron Roberts-led Heath, which captured two state titles in the event.

Both of those Licking Heights relays qualified to the regional last spring as did the 400 relay, which appears to be more settled this spring. The Hornets returned Kerbey Pierre, Brionne Mitchell and Matt Nichols and have added junior Tyrel Horsley.

"We're almost set with that one other than finding a couple of alternates," O'Cain said.

In the 3,200 relay, the Hornets have been running Max Goodroe, Jeff Smith and Josiah Dunlap along with Tim Ney. O'Cain said sophomore Kory Kenney, a regional qualifier in cross country who has been slowed by a quadriceps injury this spring, is likely to run on that relay at some point.

Smith, a junior and regional qualifier last season in the long jump, is showing plenty of versatility on the track.

"For our kids who want to go on to the next level, it looks good on a rsum when you can run anything from the 800 down," O'Cain said.

O'Cain prefers to have his postseason lineup in place one or two weeks before the MSL-Cardinal Division meet, which will be held May 10 and May 13 at Berne Union. He added that he might be a little behind schedule given that he has a larger group to work with this spring with more than 40 athletes on the team.

"That does make it more difficult," O'Cain said. "It's kind of a good and bad thing, really.

"We have to evaluate a little more than we'd like in practice. (To offset that), we're having a lot of run-offs and trying to simulate that competiveness you have in a meet."

•Baseball coach Jeff Boyer faced a dilemma before he decided to bring in junior pitcher Dalton Golden to replace starter Josh Hoar in the fourth inning of an eventual 20-0 victory over Harvest Prep on April 15. Hoar had retired the first nine batters.

"Our pitching coach (Nick McIlwain) came up to me and said, 'You know Josh has a no-hitter going,'" Boyer said. "I did, but we needed to see Dalton, who hadn't pitched yet all year because our schedule's been so spotty because of the weather."

Golden went on to record the final six outs and complete the five-inning perfect game.

Hoar also picked up the win in relief of starter Mick Stakely as the Hornets rallied to defeat Grandview 5-4 in nine innings on April 18. Trailing 4-3 after the Bobcats scored in the top of the ninth, Andrew Bailey drew a one-out walk and No. 9 hitter Ty Stallings reached on an error. Zack Dunbrack then drew an intentional walk to load the bases. After a strikeout, Zak Scott delivered a two-strike single that scored Bailey and Stallings.

It marked the second time in six days that the bottom of the batting order came through in the clutch. The Hornets got five hits and three runs from the bottom third of their lineup to defeat Liberty Union, which many coaches in the MSL-Cardinal had labeled the preseason favorite, 8-5 on April 13.

"We're still not hitting quite like we have the past few years, but it's coming," Boyer said. "A win like that (over Grandview) can loosen guys up and add to their confidence."