Upper Arlington High School baseball coach Tom Marker loves to emphasize quality at-bats to his team, and after a season-opening 12-3 win over visiting Dublin Scioto on March 27, he cited a fourth-inning plate appearance by senior second baseman Andrew Mulhall as a good example.
Mulhall worked the count to two strikes with the bases loaded before launching a fly ball to deep right field. The ball continued to carry and left Pfeil Field for his first career home run.
That's not the only reason Mulhall will remember that at-bat. He fell circling first base, just as he saw the ball clear the fence.
"It was a two-strike swing, so I just tried to put a bat on it and make something good happen," Mulhall said. "I had no idea it was going (out). I fell at first base and that's when I watched the ball go over, from my backside."
In his third season, Marker said quality at-bats will be key to complementing a deep pitching staff and a defense that boasted a .957 fielding percentage last season, when the Golden Bears finished 17-11 overall, went 8-6 in the OCC-Central Division to place fourth behind champion Olentangy Liberty (13-1) and lost to Scioto 4-3 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
"You have to have unselfish at-bats and do things that are best for the team overall. Pass the torch to the next guy," Marker said. "If we can do that, we will be successful. We're always going to pitch and play good defense."
UA was 3-2 overall before playing Hilliard Davidson on April 5. The Bears, whose league game at home against Central Crossing on March 31 was postponed, were no-hit in a 4-0 loss at Gahanna on March 28 and split two home games April 1, defeating Bexley 6-0 and losing to Olentangy 8-6.
UA began OCC-Central play with an 8-2, six-inning win at Central Crossing on April 3.
Senior pitcher Jack Hendrix has returned after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right arm last April. Against Scioto, Hendrix struck out five and walked five in 4 1/3 innings.
"It felt good to be back. Not pitching for a year stinks, so getting back out there on the mound -- not for a scrimmage but for a real game -- was definitely nice," said Hendrix, who has committed to play for Lincoln Trail Community College in Robinson, Illinois. "My arm felt good. I didn't have any of the soreness I've had in rehab or anything.
"A lot of it was just being back again, having fans here and having a real atmosphere. Settling in after that first inning and finding the (strike) zone was huge. I will be better down the road."
Other candidates for the rotation include seniors Andrew Ballenger and Vinny Panzera, junior Kyle Hench and sophomores Ben Krimm and Andrew Whetsell.
Sophomore Sammy Sass, who batted .314 with 22 hits last year, has returned as starting catcher.
Whetsell and senior Jordan Bailey, a University of Charleston recruit, are expected to split time at shortstop.
Outfielders include Ballenger and juniors Andrew Hayek and Brandon Horsley (.311, 23 hits in 2016).
Horsley hit a three-run home run against Olentangy.
Other infielders include senior third baseman Jack Masters and sophomore first baseman Tommy Dilz. Masters batted .338 last year and led the team in hits with 27.
Rounding out the roster are senior Connor Capuano (C), juniors Kevin Chapman (P), Dakota DeStefano (INF/P), Austen Sawyer (P) and Mason Ward (INF/P) and sophomores Cody Darling (OF/P), Charlie Fleming (INF/P) and Ethan Hammerberg (INF/P).
Softball team looking
for more improvement
The softball team scored 22 runs in its second game of the season, doubling up Cincinnati Turpin on March 25 at Liberty Township Lakota East, and second-year coach Brandon Twiss hopes that box score doesn't stand out all season.
"As far as (scoring 22 runs), we can do that," Twiss said. "We averaged 7.6 runs per game last year. A 22-run game is not out of the ordinary for us. As long as we don't follow that up with a (scoring zero runs), we'll be fine."
UA has returned six starters and eight players with varsity experience from last year's team that went 13-14 overall and lost to eventual state runner-up Teays Valley 11-3 in a Division I district semifinal.
That group consists of senior Taylor Pritchett (1B/OF), juniors Gigi Danes (SS), Molly Schweitzer (3B), Amanda Ventresca (1B) and Sara Viernes (OF) and sophomores Olivia Carlton (2B), Madison Pritchett (P) and Becca Turner (C). Carlton and Turner came up from junior varsity during last season because of injuries.
Rounding out the roster are senior Issy Benammar (OF), junior Ashley Keller (utility) and sophomores Hannah Blake (3B/C) and Jackie Kasai (P/utility).
UA was 4-1 before playing Westerville North on April 4.
The Bears opened with a 5-3 loss at Lakota East on March 25 before defeating Turpin later that day. Schweitzer hit a grand slam in the first inning against Turpin and Carlton homered in the third.
UA also has wins over Hartley (11-2 on March 28), Newark (9-1 on March 29) and Pickerington North (15-4 in five innings on April 3).
The Bears begin OCC-Central play Wednesday, April 12, at Central Crossing. UA went 9-5 in the league last season to tie Central Crossing for third behind champion Hilliard Davidson (13-1).
Twiss praised the OCC-Central, which features two district champions from last year in Central Crossing and Marysville.
"I think we play in the best league in the state. I don't see how we don't," Twiss said. "We have three top-notch programs we play twice (each). ... We have to step up our game.
" 'Compete' is the theme of our season. We have a group of girls who are softball players, not just kids who play softball."
March 27 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
March 28 -- vs. Gahanna
*March 31 -- vs. Central Crossing
April 1 -- vs. Bexley and Olentangy
*April 3 -- at Central Crossing
*April 5 -- at Hilliard Davidson
April 8 -- at Defiance with Bryan
*April 10 -- vs. Westland
*April 11 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 12 -- at Westland
April 13 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 15 -- at Massillon Jackson with Alliance Marlington
*April 17 -- at Marysville
*April 19 -- vs. Marysville
*April 21 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
April 22 -- Watterson at Ohio State
*April 24 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 26 -- vs. Central Crossing
*April 28 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*May 1 -- vs. Westland
*May 3 -- at Marysville
*May 5 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
March 25 -- at Liberty Township Lakota East with Cincinnati Turpin
March 28 -- at Hartley
March 29 -- vs. Newark
April 3 -- vs. Pickerington North
April 4 -- vs. Westerville North
April 5 -- at Olentangy
April 10 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 12 -- vs. Central Crossing
*April 13 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*April 17 -- vs. Westland
*April 19 -- at Marysville
*April 20 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
April 22 -- at DeSales with Hilliard Bradley
*April 24 -- at Central Crossing
April 25 -- vs. Groveport
*April 26 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 27 -- at Westland
*May 1 -- vs. Marysville
May 2 -- at Watterson
*May 3 -- at Dublin Coffman
May 5 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the Upper Arlington crew, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 8 -- Cincinnati High School Invitational at Harsha Lake
*April 6 -- At Pickerington Central
April 8 -- At Hudson Western Reserve Academy
*April 11 -- Home vs. Marysville
*April 6 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
April 8 -- Hinsdale (Ill.) and Wilmette (Ill.) Loyola Academy at University of Notre Dame
*April 11 -- At Marysville
April 7 -- At Cincinnati St. Xavier
April 8 -- At Cincinnati Country Day with Cincinnati Indian Hill
*April 10 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 12 -- At Westland
TRACK & FIELD
April 7 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby
April 11 -- At Hilliard Bradley with Pickerington North
*April 6 -- At Pickerington North
April 10 -- Home vs. Northland
*April 11 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson