The Hilliard Darby High School baseball team has relied on pitching and defense during its fast start this season.

"We can hit the ball well, but we've been winning because of our strong pitching and strong defense," coach Chris Fugitt said. "That's our bread and butter, and it's the recipe for success in all of baseball."

Video •Hilliard Darby baseball pitcher Cory Brooks completes a three-hitter in a 10-0 win over Hilliard Davidson on April 14.

The Panthers were 13-2 overall and 6-1 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Dublin Jerome on April 19. Through 14 games, the Panthers had a 1.55 team ERA and opponents were batting .220 against them.

Leading the way has been senior right-hander Cory Brooks, who was 4-0 and hadn't allowed any runs while recording 28 strikeouts in 27 innings. Opponents were hitting just .140 against him.

"I want to overpower hitters early in the count and early in the game and then move to my offspeed stuff to keep them off balance," said Brooks, who has committed to play for Purdue University. "I throw my fastball between 89 and 92 (mph) on average, but location is the key. I think I've been pretty good with the location of all my pitches this season, and that's what makes the difference on the mound."

Last season, Brooks went 4-0 on the mound with a 0.44 ERA, 41 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 2/3 innings.

Junior Brice Stultz, a 6-foot-4 left-hander, had a 1.91 ERA through 14 innings before allowing six runs -- three of which were earned -- in four innings in a 7-6, eight-inning loss to visiting Worthington Kilbourne on April 13.

"It's baseball and you have move on and get them the next time," said Stultz, who was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 15 innings entering the week. "The beauty of baseball is you get to come back and play the next day."

The Panthers rebounded to beat host Davidson 10-0 in six innings on April 14 behind a three-hitter by Brooks. Then on April 15, they defeated host Findlay 15-5 and beat Holland Springfield 12-1 at Carter Park in Bowling Green.

Darby then beat Jerome 5-1 on April 17.

"Cory is our No. 1 pitcher and is a power pitcher at 6-1, 190 (pounds)," Fugitt said. "Brice has a good fastball with a good breaking ball and changeup. Chandler Barlow also is a lefty with a good breaking ball and changeup. We consider Brice and Chandler as our No. 2 guys and then we have (senior) Justin Miller as our go-to guy in relief. Justin works fast and throws strikes with three pitches, which is something we preach daily. All of them have pitched very well."

Entering the week, Barlow was 1-0 with a 0.41 ERA in 17 innings and Miller was 1-1 with a 1.35 ERA in 10 1/3 innings.

"Our defense has been very good for most of the season and we expected that," Brooks said. "We've had a couple of hiccups, but that happens. I think we're going to have a very good season. We've got some big goals and I think they're very reasonable goals."

Offensively through 14 games, Tyler Chumita was leading the team in batting average (.438) and walks (11) and had scored 16 runs. Other key offensive contributors included Stultz (.419, 12 runs, 13 RBI, 6 doubles), Ben Gbur (.394, 18 runs, 10 RBI), Justin Fugitt (.378, 16 runs, 18 RBI, 4 doubles) and Brooks (.364, 14 RBI, 5 doubles).

Girls track team
wins Elk Relays

The girls track and field team finished first in the Elk Relays on April 15 at Centerville, totaling 102 points to edge runner-up Mason (96) in the 15-team meet.

Maliyah Ellis won the long jump (16 feet, 6 1/2 inches) and Emma Kowalski was runner-up in both the shot put (37-2 3/4) and discus (132-0) and placed third in the hammer throw (109-4).

The Panthers finished second in the 400-meter relay (50.48 seconds), 1,600 relay (4:06.73) and sprint medley relay (4:55.52) and were third in the shuttle hurdle relay (1:07.62) and 800 sprint medley relay (1:50.59).

Andrew Black was runner-up in the long jump (19-11 1/4) for the boys team, which placed seventh (61.5) of 16 teams in the Elk Relays, behind champion Mason (107).

The Panthers won the 3,200 relay (8:04.85), placed second in the 1,600 relay (3:23.84) and were third in the 400 relay (44.05).

Girls lacrosse team
on winning streak

Miranda Large, Cassie Jenkins, Zoe Hartman, Carli Rigel and Lexi VanCleef each scored two goals in a 14-10 win over visiting Delaware on April 13 as the girls lacrosse team improved to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal.

The victory was the third in a row for the Panthers, who beat Westerville North 12-7 on April 8 and Dublin Scioto 12-11 in double overtime April 11.

Darby will play host to Davidson on Thursday, April 20, before facing Rocky River and Stow-Munroe Falls in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament on Saturday, April 22, at Thomas Worthington.

Boys lacrosse team
struggling to win

The boys lacrosse team lost to Columbus Academy 10-9 on April 17 to fall to 1-8 overall.

The Panthers have lost seven consecutive games.

After beating Pickerington North 6-4 on March 23, Darby lost to Watterson 16-5 on March 28, Bexley 10-8 on March 31, Pickerington Central 10-9 in overtime on April 4, Kilbourne 13-2 on April 6, Scioto 11-10 on April 11 and Delaware 12-8 on April 13.

The Panthers, who are 0-3 in the OCC-Cardinal, will play at Davidson on Thursday, April 20.

Josh Boyle, Lee Workman and Blake Robertson each scored two goals against Delaware.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek