When Josh Moeller went down during a football practice in August 2015 with three torn ligaments in his left ankle, the Olentangy High School baseball team's junior shortstop did not anticipate actually enjoying his recovery -- or think that the process would be life-changing.
"I really enjoyed the process. It actually inspired me and I want to be a physical therapist now because of that," Moeller said. "It was a long, gruesome process and I had to get through a lot of steps to get to where I am today, but it's paid off."
In his second year as the Braves' starting shortstop, Moeller was perfect in his first 53 chances in the field, and parlayed a drop to fifth in the order into a .389 batting average through 17 games.
At 14-3 overall and 8-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, Olentangy was in the driver's seat to win its third consecutive league championship before playing Westerville South on April 26.
Coach Ryan Lucas praised Moeller's improvement from last year, when he had a .924 fielding percentage but struggled to a .244 batting average partly because of his ongoing recovery. Moeller had a pin in his left ankle, but his mobility was limited and pain lingered.
"You could tell from a mobility standpoint, he couldn't move left or right," said Lucas, estimating that Moeller was "at 60 to 70 percent" during the 2016 season, when Olentangy advanced to a Division I regional semifinal. "He was mentally tough enough to overcome that stuff. That's the biggest thing about him. He just doesn't show injury, whatever. He just plays. ...
"He is legit. His footwork is tremendous. His strength is unreal. He is getting balls going to his right and throwing guys out, which I think is the hardest play for a shortstop to make. Josh last year to Josh this year, he's a different dude. He has put so much into his recovery, and it's coming full circle now."
Moeller was 79-for-86 in the field (91.2 percent) through 17 games and was part of nine double plays. At the plate, he was 21-for-47 with a .447 average, both of which were fourth on the team.
As a sophomore, he had 21 hits and nine walks and legged out two doubles.
"The rehab was brutal for him and it slowed him down," teammate Berto Carselle said. "He had so many positives even last year, though. He did his job when he needed to. The nerves he might have had are gone now. He is having fantastic at-bats and he fields anything that goes his way."
The injury forced Moeller, who hoped for a career at wide receiver, to give up football after his sophomore year. He remained with the team that season as it went 11-2 and advanced to a Division I, Region 1 semifinal.
Lucas put Moeller at third in the lineup to start this season, but juggled spots about two weeks ago, putting Cameron Kaiser third and Logan Ketron fourth and moving Moeller down to fifth.
"I get a lot more fastballs, rather than curveballs, and hit those solid and bring in more RBI," Moeller said.
A sweep of Orange last week, 1-0 on April 17 and 10-9 in eight innings April 19, and a 9-2 win at Liberty on April 21 kept Olentangy atop the OCC-Buckeye even though the Braves lost to Liberty 9-0 at home April 24.
Moeller had four RBI at Liberty, including a two-run double in the first inning.
Lucas hopes Moeller will get plenty of looks from college coaches the rest of this season and into the summer. Plenty of them already see the Braves on a regular basis as brothers Caden and Cameron Kaiser, among others, are being recruited by schools as high as Division I.
"Josh has grown to the point where people are now going to start noticing him," Lucas said. "I will be surprised if going into his senior year, he doesn't have a lot of looks and at least a couple offers."
Girls lacrosse team
focusing on draws
The girls lacrosse team scored 20 goals for the fourth time this season April 20 when it edged Pickerington Central 20-16, but coach Amy McCormick takes any talk of offensive success back to the beginning -- of every possession.
"We have put up some nice numbers, but it starts with the draw," McCormick said. "It's a 50-50 shot at the draw and we've done a good job with that. The more we get the ball, the better opportunities we have on offense. If you can't win the draw, you can't win the game."
Dana Stover's five goals led Olentangy at Central, a game that was tied at 9 at halftime. Maddie Garner and Elise Harder each added four goals, and Olivia Gamble scored three.
Olentangy was 7-3 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Big Walnut on April 25.
The Braves suffered their first league loss April 18, 18-8 to New Albany, and swept two games in the Hannigan-Galipault Tournament on April 22 at Thomas Worthington, defeating Mentor 13-4 and Rocky River Magnificat 13-8.
McCormick has used Garner, Harder and Kenzie Sklar in the draw circle.
"They give us some speed and are good with placement with where we want the draw," McCormick said. "Kenzie didn't take the draw last year, but she's got a lot of speed. Elise actually takes most of the draws, but Maddie and Kenz are in the draw circle. We figure it out game to game and from draw to draw."
Boys tennis team
off to fast start
The boys tennis team's hopes for an undefeated season ended with a 3-2 loss to Orange on April 18, but coach Jeff Luxenburger found little else to dislike during the Braves' start.
Stu Brdicka has anchored the lineup at first singles, ahead of Alex Konstan at second singles, but Luxenburger has moved other players between singles and doubles -- a strength he counted on before the season.
That group has consisted of Anish Senthilkumar, Ayush Sunkad and Raja Vaze.
Pradhit Gosula and Nishant Medicharla have remained at doubles.
Olentangy is 4-1 in the OCC-Buckeye after a 4-1 win over Liberty on April 20, and was 10-1 overall before playing Hilliard Darby on April 25. The Braves' final league match, against Westerville South, was postponed April 6 because of bad weather and a makeup date had not been determined as of late last week.
Among the Braves' early wins was a 3-2 victory over perennial power Dublin Coffman on April 10.
"That Dublin Coffman match was one of our top wins as a program. A great moment for us," Luxenburger said. "Stu has been playing amazingly well. He is stronger and faster and he's still one of the smartest guys on the tennis court that I have seen. He is fun to watch, and he's caught up physically with his tennis IQ. ...
"The guys in general are playing really well. We've had great teamwork all around. Our doubles teams have been strong. It's been good to have guys who can go from singles to doubles or vice versa seamlessly, which a lot of these guys can do."
Olentangy also remains alive in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district tournament after a 5-0 win over Marysville in a second-round march April 17. The Braves will visit Dublin Jerome for a quarterfinal on a date to be determined.