With a more potent offense, the Olentangy High School baseball team already has surpassed its win total from a year ago.

With a more potent offense, the Olentangy High School baseball team already has surpassed its win total from a year ago.

After seeing a bit of a dropoff in his team's hitting last season when the Braves finished 7-13, coach Steve Little and his coaching staff decided to spend more time during the preseason focusing on hitting.

"We're hitting over .300," Little said. "We've really focused back on our hitting. My teams usually always hit, but last year we didn't hit. This year we've really gotten a lot more serious about hitting. We're in the cage more and we're back to some of our old (hitting) drills that we used to do, and now we're (reaping) the benefits of it."

Through 14 games, Joey Carlson led the team with a .468 average and 20 runs. Jordan Kuhn led the team with 19 RBI and two home runs and was second with a .429 average.

"We're seeing the ball well," Kuhn said. "Last year we had some low batting averages. We didn't hit the ball well at all last year and it reflected on our record. We're hitting the ball well this year, and our record is showing it."

One of Kuhn's home runs came last Friday with Olentangy trailing Marysville 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning. With one out, a runner on first base and a full count, Kuhn hit it over the 355-foot sign in left-center.

"It was a meatball," Kuhn said of the pitch. "It felt good."

Though Olentangy had squandered 2-0 and 4-2 leads against Marysville, it also overcame two deficits against the Monarchs. In addition to watching Marysville take a 6-5 lead in the top of the ninth, the Braves trailed 5-4 in the sixth before forcing extra innings.

According to Little, the Braves rarely overcame such adversity last season.

"Our approach to the game is great right now," he said. "We're competing for seven innings. We let (Marysville) come back a couple times, but we kept competing. That's the difference. We didn't do that last year. We just folded. We're getting great senior leadership. I don't feel like we got great leadership last year. We had some great seniors last year, but we just couldn't get it done last year. We were very disappointed in that. We thought we were better than what we showed last year."

"Last year we would get down on ourselves, and once we got down we would kind of give up," Kuhn said. "It all had to do with how we felt about each other. This year we've bonded more. We like each other more, I guess you could say."

Olentangy has been led on the mound by starters Scott Minard and Patrick Westerlund and reliever Mitch Porter. Through 14 games, Minard was 3-2 with 15 strikeouts in 30 innings and Westerlund had a team-best 1.35 ERA. Porter was 3-0 out of the bullpen.

"Westerlund and Minard have pretty much carried us pitching-wise," Little said.

Little considers Kuhn to be the team's No. 1 starter, but Kuhn was limited to two inning on the mound through 13 games because of soreness in an elbow. He returned to the mound last Saturday in a 19-15 loss to Twinsburg, pitching two innings.

"We've been lucky that Westerlund and Minard have been throwing well, but hopefully through the second half of the league (schedule) he'll be able to throw a little bit," Little said.

"The best thing for the team is to get more pitching, so I'm happy to get back on the mound and help out the team," Kuhn said.

Kuhn's return to the mound was much needed, as Westerlund was expected to be out of town this week and not available to pitch any of the Braves' four OCC-Cardinal Division games. The Braves also are missing pitcher Alex Schogoleff, who is expected to be out three weeks with a rotator cuff injury.

"It's tough right now," Little said. "We have guys who normally throw our non-league (games) who are now going to have to throw our league (games)."

Among those who could start in a league game are Kenny McCambridge, Chris Janssen and Matt Pollock, Little said.

"Some of our younger guys are going to have to step up," Kuhn said. "We're looking for them to come through for us."

•PATRIOTS AVENGE LOSS - After an 8-0 loss to Dublin Jerome on April 9, Olentangy Liberty's Andrew Eckhardt couldn't wait to face the Celtics in the second round of OCC-Cardinal play, saying, "We've already marked that date on our calendar."

The Patriots avenged the loss last Friday when they defeated Jerome 5-4 in eight innings. The win was their 12th in a row.