It's been a little more than a year since junior Halle Saxon of the Northland High School softball team experienced every pitcher's nightmare.

It's been a little more than a year since junior Halle Saxon of the Northland High School softball team experienced every pitcher's nightmare.

Typically a backup pitcher who saw most of her action at other positions, Saxon was called to the circle against Bexley on April 2, 2011. Not only did her team lose 15-0, but she also came within inches of a serious injury when a line drive hit her just above her left cheek to the left of her eye.

The impact popped a blood vessel and caused the area around her eye to change color almost immediately.

"I pitched the ball and I don't even think I was done (with my motion) when (the Bexley batter) hit it back right to me," Saxon said. "I wasn't even completely turned around yet and it got everything but my eye. I didn't see it coming. At first it was green and gray, but then it switched to black and blue. It took a couple weeks to heal completely. My sister was in nursing school, so she told me when to ice it. I was only in there because our main pitcher wasn't there."

Saxon returned to action in mid-April last year but spent the remainder of the season mostly playing third base and in the outfield while wearing a protective facemask. She has seen most of her action this season at second base and third base but pitched two innings during a 14-4 win over Linden-McKinley on April 5.

"She was a little gun-shy at first this year," said coach Dan Zedeker, whose team was swept in a doubleheader against Eastmoor Academy on April 12, losing 19-6 and 12-10. "For a little while, she was still pulling her head when a ball was hit, but she's a trooper. I told her that I think third base is the best place for her because she's got a better arm than anyone else we could put there. She's doing it and she's only had maybe a couple of errors.

"I put Halle in at pitcher for the (Linden) game and she did a tremendous job. She doesn't have the most speed, but she's got accuracy."

Saxon, who continues to wear the facemask in the field, admits that she had reservations about playing this spring.

"If it wasn't for my team and the game, I wouldn't have come back this year," she said. "Even though we've been making little mistakes, we played way better in the second game (against Eastmoor). We have a good team and I love being around them.

"I was hesitant at the beginning of this year, but my dad just said that (what happened last season) was a freak accident and that it doesn't happen every day. I had to get over that fear. I still jump back when the ball comes to me, but I didn't want to let it keep me from playing. The mask just keeps me in my comfort zone."

Bearcats boys track season coming together

With 2011 graduates Nigel Preacher and Aryton Preacher no longer in the fold, the Brookhaven boys track and field team entered this season wondering who might step up.

A group of candidates has begun to emerge, led by senior sprinter Tajuan Green.

On April 7, the Bearcats scored 90.5 points to win the Eastmoor Academy Invitational as Green was second in the 100 meters (11.0 seconds), fourth in the 200 (23.6) and ran on the first-place 400 relay (43.7) and runner-up 800 relay (1:29.8).

Also on those relays were Lei'Tonn Backus, Blake McEwen and Clevis Towns.

Kevin Greenhow, who added a title in the high jump (6 feet) at Eastmoor, has been another key contributor along with Joshua Baker, Shawn Campbell, Broderick Higginbotham and Toby Rushing.

Brookhaven has finished first or second in the 400 relay in the City League meet four of the past five seasons, but that success hasn't translated to the state level.

In 2009 and 2010, the Bearcats advanced to the Division I state meet in the 400 relay but didn't qualify for the final.

"We got some people in shape and (April 7) was a good day for us," coach Steve Ayers said. "We ran an OK time (in the 400 relay at Eastmoor), but it always comes down to exchanges in that event. During the course of past seasons, it has been our fastest event, but we haven't been able to (have state success) because something bad always happens. Everything has to be clicking at the same time. It's definitely not my favorite race."

Last season, Nigel Preacher, who is competing for the University of Akron, won the 300 hurdles (39.53), high jump (7-1/4) and long jump (21-2 3/4) and was runner-up in the 110 hurdles (14.79) in the league meet. He went on to become Brookhaven's first state champion in the high jump by clearing 7-0.

Aryton Preacher placed third in the 200 (22.14) in the league meet last year and ran on the 800 relay that advanced to state but did not place.

Cougars baseball team continues strong start

Experience is paying off for the Beechcroft baseball team.

The Cougars returned five senior starters in Charmonta' Bennett, Ricky Crum, Dustin Poindexter, Tyquan Wakefield and Brandon Woods, and all have been key contributors, according to coach Matt Bell.

Through seven games, Bennett had a team-best .650 batting average, Wakefield was batting .583 with 14 stolen bases, 11 runs and nine RBI and Crum was hitting .500 with eight RBI. Woods was hitting .429 and Poindexter .417.

On the mound, Crum was 3-1 with 30 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings and Poindexter won his first two decisions.

"Those five guys are absolutely carrying us," Bell said. "They bat one through five (in the order) and when they come up, something happens."