Senior Luis Pantoja has returned to form this season to help solidify the pitching staff for the Groveport Madison High School baseball team.
"It's like he turned back the clock to his sophomore season," coach Dave Eft said. "He's hitting his spots with the fastball and his curveball is working extremely well, like it did two years ago. For some reason, he struggled throwing and controlling his curve last year.
"With Luis back, we've got a strong one-two punch (with Caden Lowe) and a much deeper and more effective pitching staff."
The Cruisers were 6-5 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division before playing Newark on April 16.
Pantoja was 2-1 with a save and a 1.05 ERA in 20 innings pitched after taking the loss in relief April 14 when the Cruisers fell to Hartley 6-5 in the second game of a doubleheader. He earned a save in the first game, which the Cruisers won 6-5.
"I worked hard on my curveball all during the offseason," Pantoja said. "My coaches helped me change my grip and mechanics. It has more bite now."
Lowe, a sophomore, was 2-2 with a 1.00 ERA in 28 innings through 11 games.
"Caden and Luis are keeping guys off balance," Eft said. "Caden works fast and seems to get ahead in the count all the time. He also has a nice curveball and is confident enough to throw it in any count. Those two have been key in us getting off to a good start."
The offense has provided good run support for the pitching staff, which also includes junior Logan Mayes and sophomore left-hander Colin Rice.
"We had five straight games where we scored 10 or more runs," Eft said. "Luis, Daniel Fairchild, Austin Gautier have hit (the ball) well and Austin Snyder and Logan Marburger are coming along and starting to have some success. We've had two others with injuries in Robbie Morgan and Chase Milner. You know, we have five sophomores on the diamond a lot of the time."
Pantoja said he and Lowe are feeding off each other this season.
"We have this thing where we're trying to beat each other in the fewest allowed hits every time we take the mound," Pantoja said. "It's all in fun, but it keeps us focused and pushing each other.
"I think, as a team, we are more confident and mature than (we were) last year. It's like we have a new attitude. We want to win the (OCC-Ohio) title this year and we're going to try hard to do it. I think beating our rival (Canal Winchester) 10-0 (in a league game April 6) really boosted our confidence."
Winning streak ends for softball team
The softball team had a six-game winning streak snapped with a 2-1, nine-inning loss to host Watterson on April 13.
The Cruisers were 9-3 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing New Albany on April 16. Entering the week, they were scheduled to play league foes in eight of their next 10 games.
Through 12 contests, senior pitcher Sara Gockenbach had a 0.91 ERA in 68 2/3 innings and had earned the pitching decision in each game.
Offensively, Lanie White was hitting .439 with four doubles, two triples, four home runs, 15 runs scored and eight RBI.
MacKenzie Maddy was hitting .429 with a team-high seven doubles, 13 runs and nine RBI, Macie Sporleder was batting .421 with nine RBI, Carsyn Saunders was hitting .378 with 10 runs and nine RBI and Jodi Kern had a team-high 11 RBI.
Gunnell, Woods lead girls track squad
Atanna Gunnell and Toni Woods helped the girls track and field team finish fourth (80 points) in the 10-team New Albany Invitational on April 13, behind champion Lancaster (153).
Gunnell won the 100 meters in 13.37 seconds and joined Chenise Smith, Emily Allen and Emani Anthony on the winning 400 relay (51.49) and Woods, Allen and Madison Young on the second-place 800 relay (1:47.93).
Woods also was runner-up in the 200 (27.65) and long jump (17 feet, 3 inches), while Allen placed third in the 200 (27.89).
The boys team finished seventh (57.5) of 10 teams in the New Albany Invitational, behind champion Reynoldsburg (125.5).
Tahzmere Givens placed third in the 300 hurdles (42.72) and joined Kahari Davis, Tyrell Floyd and Lonnie Stuckey on the third-place 800 relay (1:33.76). Also finishing third was Illyas Haji in the 3,200 (10:28.05).
Below are the coming schedules for the Groveport Madison baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
*April 20 -- At Big Walnut
April 21 -- At Central Crossing (DH)
*April 23 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
*April 25 -- At Franklin Heights
*April 19 -- At Big Walnut
April 21 -- Home vs. Olentangy and Mount Vernon
*April 23 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Cruisers beat the Falcons 11-0 on April 11.
*April 25 -- At Canal Winchester. The Cruisers beat the Indians 13-2 on April 12.
*April 19 -- At Big Walnut
April 23 -- At Central Crossing
April 24 -- At Pickerington Central
TRACK & FIELD
April 21 -- Elmo Kallner Invitational at Hamilton Township