Haylie Angelo is fine with not being one of the Pickerington High School Central softball team's biggest bats.

The senior leadoff hitter is perfectly at home setting the table for the meat of the order in Kallie Boren, Kaitlyn Miller and Sophia Slack, who through 21 games had combined for 102 hits, 16 home runs and 85 RBI and were batting .524, .564 and .368, respectively.

Video •Watch an interview with Pickerington Central softball player Maddi Liston.

Angelo is making the most of being in her preferred position both in the batting order and the field, as she is manning center field after two years at shortstop.

Through 21 games, she was batting .500 (38-for-76) with 32 singles, five doubles and eight RBI to help the Tigers into a top-10 ranking in the state and the top seed in the coming Division I district tournament.

"(Coach Carrie Eneix) told me last year she's always had faith in me," said Angelo, who batted second the past few years behind current Ohio State player Andi Farrah.

"I have versatility. I can swing the bat and bunt at the same time. She just wants me to get on base and our big hitters can bring me in."

Central, which is ranked fourth in the state this week, was 19-2 overall and 8-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Grove City on May 2.

The Tigers stood to clinch the outright league championship with a win over the Greyhounds.

Eneix considers Angelo's role underrated, as well as that of senior pitcher Maddi Liston, who has translated an offseason emphasis on location and strategy into a 15-1 record entering the week with a 3.12 ERA, 81 strikeouts and 40 walks in 100 2/3 innings.

"We expect Kallie and Kaitlyn to put up big numbers," Eneix said.

"Haylie might be the forgotten one (in our lineup), but she has scored so many runs (a team-high 31 through 21 games) and is on base all the time. She is a sparkplug and a phenomenal outfielder. She doesn't strike out and she puts pressure on the defense ...

"Maddi is not the same pitcher as she was last year. She is better. She is more confident and she trusts her defense. The success we've had out of her, I think we expected it, but I am not sure other people expected it."

In her second year as a starting pitcher, Liston said she has added more offspeed pitches, is able to vary speeds more effectively and has improved at keeping balls low in the strike zone.

"Last year was such a learning process," Liston said. "I would grade myself a 'B' or 'C' for last year, and I'd probably give myself a 'B-plus' now. It took basically pitching almost every day during the offseason, working on every single one of my pitches and making sure I am hitting all my spots. That was basically all I did."

Angelo has committed to play for Cuyahoga Community College, while Liston will play for Marietta College.

Slack, a sophomore who succeeded Angelo at shortstop, entered the week with a team-leading nine home runs. Miller had four and Boren three.

The Tigers took a first-round bye in the 45-team district tournament and will play host to 28th-seeded Reynoldsburg or 39th-seeded Franklin Heights in a second-round game Wednesday, May 10. The second-round winner will advance to a district semifinal May 15 at a neutral site to be determined.

Central swept Reynoldsburg in two OCC-Ohio meetings, winning 2-1 on April 17 and 24-10 in five innings on April 27.

Boys volleyball team
continues strong play

The boys volleyball team still has a shot to match its program-record 17 victories from a year ago, but even if that does not happen, coach Luke Rininger still holds his squad in high regard.

"I would argue this is the best team I've had here, which is tough to say because we were pretty strong last year. But this year's schedule has been much harder," Rininger said.

"We're less worried about getting easy wins and more worried about having quality competition and being better prepared for the (Division I East Region) tournament."

Central was 9-8 overall and 4-4 in the OCC-Capital before playing Gahanna on May 2.

Rininger singled out the play of seniors Paul Augenstein (outside hitter) and Dylan Lepley (middle hitter), junior Kahle Keys (setter) and sophomore Nathan Lee (libero) as key factors this season. Augenstein has been nursing an ankle injury, playing only in matches the past few weeks.

Rininger said Lepley, a first-year player, has become one of the team's top hitters, and complimented Lee's passing and Keys' leadership.

"Paul takes a lot on his shoulders. When he's on, it fires the guys up," Rininger said. "This is the first year we've been successful at running plays. When we tried that in previous years, it didn't always work well. We have some good hitters, and I think that's made it tougher for our opponents to figure out who is getting the ball. We've been able to keep our opponents guessing."

Central split two league matches last week, losing to Hilliard Davidson 25-23, 23-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-5 on April 25 and defeating Dublin Coffman 25-18, 20-25, 25-13, 25-8 on April 27.

The Tigers also lost to Westerville Central 12-25, 25-21, 27-25, 25-19 on April 28.

Mathias enjoying role
on tennis team

Leyton Mathias credited his success as the boys tennis team's first singles player to increased versatility, as he added an improved backhand to an already successful forehand entering this year.

"Preparation is a huge part of tennis," Mathias said.

"My backhand last year was not very good, and I did a lot of conditioning with my dad (Mark, who coached Reynoldsburg's boys for 32 years). I am pretty confident in my game right now. I like where I am."

Mathias' 9-7 record at first singles before a May 2 match against Granville mirrored the team's record.

Central also finished 3-2 in the OCC-Ohio, edging Lancaster 3-2 in its league finale April 28.

Despite his regular-season role, Mathias said he and usual second-singles player Jeremy O'Coner likely will play doubles together during the postseason, which begins with a Division I sectional tournament May 11 and 13 at home.

Mathias said he and O'Coner planned to team up in matches this week. Mathias said while he is a better baseline player, O'Coner is stronger closer to the net and is good at returning balls regardless of height or speed.

"Jeremy is the most consistent player on the team," Mathias said.

"It is hard to get a ball past him and it's hard to beat him out. You can't wall him back because he is the best wall there is."

Manzo named
girls soccer coach

Pending school board approval, former Central girls soccer standout Maria Manzo will return to the program as its next coach.

Athletics director Scott Barrett confirmed the hiring April 26.

Manzo, a 2002 graduate of what then was Pickerington High School, succeeds Zach Spriggs, who resigned in January to become boys coach at Bloom-Carroll.

Manzo was a four-year starter and letterwinner at Ashland University, where she still ranks second in goals (71) and points (161), fifth in assists (19) and is tied for fourth in games played (77).

She scored 29 goals as a senior at Pickerington, leading the Tigers to a Division I district championship.

Spriggs coached the Tigers for one season, in which they went 3-12-2 overall and 0-3-2 in the OCC-Ohio to finish fifth behind champion Gahanna (5-0). Central lost to Olentangy Orange 7-0 in the second round of the district tournament.

Manzo is the Tigers' fifth coach since the start of the 2014 season.

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