The Delaware Hayes High School softball team is hoping a low-key approach to the Division I district tournament will help it achieve more success this season.
"This team is different than past years because we are just now peaking and playing our best ball of the season," said 10th-year coach Mark Thomas, whose team was 15-2 overall before playing Dublin Scioto on May 3. "Maybe this will serve us better than trying to maintain a peak all season, trying to remain perfect and having a lot of weight on our shoulders. We've had a target on our backs before and we don't feel like we have that this year."
Delaware played in three consecutive district finals from 2013-15 before losing in district semifinals the past two seasons, including a 13-1 setback to Teays Valley last year. In 2016, the Pacers were unbeaten and ranked first in the state when they lost to 26th-seeded Olentangy Liberty 4-3 to finish 23-1.
The Pacers are seeded fifth for the tournament and have a first-round bye. They play host to 23rd-seeded Dublin Coffman or 44th-seeded Thomas Worthington in the second round Wednesday, May 9, with the winner advancing to a district semifinal May 14.
Delaware swept Thomas in OCC-Cardinal Division play, winning 17-2 on April 23 and 24-0 on April 27.
"I think we have all the talent we need to make a long tournament run, but we've got to stay focused and play to our ability," senior shortstop Amaia Daniel said. "Our lineup has really jelled and we're getting production throughout. Everyone in the lineup is capable of hurting you and when we all play our roles and do our share, it clicks very well."
Daniel has been a spark plug all season. Through 16 games, she was batting .723 with nine home runs, 33 runs and 44 RBI.
"I love hitting with runners on base," Daniel said. "I always try to remain focused, but with runners on base, I want to come through for my teammates. That really drives me."
Bobbi Adams was batting .554 with six home runs and 22 RBI. Other offensive leaders were Alex Armstrong (.426, 21 runs), Mallory Stonebraker (.452, 22 RBI), Chloe Barton (.448, 27 runs, 23 RBI), Lexi Mattix (.469, 20 runs) and Haley Osborne (.420).
In the circle, Osborne was 14-2 with a 1.76 ERA and 94 strikeouts.
"Haley has really come along this season," Thomas said. "She has improved throughout and has been on fire these past few weeks."
The Pacers needed a win against Scioto to earn a share of the OCC-Cardinal title, as they were 9-2 entering the league finale. Hilliard Darby and Hilliard Bradley also were 9-2 before their meeting May 3.
Delaware put itself in position to earn a share of the title by beating Darby 11-1 in five innings May 1. The Panthers, who entered that game 9-0 in the league, also lost to Bradley 14-5 on May 2.
Against Darby, Daniel had an RBI single in the first and Adams followed with a two-run single. Laiha Slayton homered in the third to make it 4-0 before the Pacers made it 9-0 with a five-run fourth, as Slayton hit a two-run double and Stonebraker had a three-run home run.
Darby made it 9-1 in the top of the fifth, but Barton walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth and Armstrong homered to invoke the mercy rule.
Osborne allowed five hits, and the Pacers played error-free ball.
"Everyone was hitting today and we played solid defense and that was the difference," Slayton said. "We were ready for this one and we needed it. We're pretty happy with the way we're playing right now."
The Panthers won the first meeting 5-4 on April 18.
"That's the game where we made four or five errors and just didn't play well," Stonebraker said. "This was redemption and we're hoping it will lead to a league championship. We wanted this game. This is the type of focus and excitement we should bring to every game."
Baseball team to face Harding
The baseball team opens the Division I district tournament Monday, May 7, when it plays host to 43rd-seeded Marion Harding.
The winner plays at third-seeded Grove City in the second round Wednesday, May 9, with that winner advancing to a district semifinal May 15.
Delaware, which is seeded 36th, swept Harding in a doubleheader April 28, a day before the district draw. The visiting Pacers won the first game 8-4, as Nick Neuhart earned the win and Cory Richardson picked up the save. Ryan Daughenbaugh was 4-for-4, Zach Price had three hits and Mason Davis and Caleb Richardson both had two RBI.
The Pacers scored six times in the first inning of the second game en route to a 10-5 win. Davis allowed two runs in four innings to earn the win, and he and Logan Keeder both drove in two runs in the first.
The Pacers, who finished 3-9 in the OCC-Cardinal with a 13-3 win over Dublin Jerome on April 27, were 8-9 overall before playing North Union on May 3. They had won four consecutive games.
Klumpp seeded second at sectional
The boys tennis team will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, May 10, and Saturday, May 12, at Pickerington Central.
Kyle Klumpp is seeded second in singles for the Pacers. Jack Marks and Justin Sanclemente also will be in the singles field.
Competing in doubles will be the teams of Sam Bonofiglio and Eric Puthoff and Danny Brennan and Will Fogle.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 17 at Bradley and May 19 at Upper Arlington.
The Pacers lost to Jerome 5-0 on May 2 to drop to 10-4 overall and finish 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Below are the coming schedules for the Delaware Hayes boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
May 8 -- At Columbus Academy
May 11 -- At Strongsville
May 12 -- At Shaker Heights
May 7 -- At Hartley
May 10 -- Home vs. Buckeye Valley
May 12 -- At Bellbrook
May 7 -- Home vs. Marysville
May 8 -- Home vs. Watterson
May 10, 12 -- Division I sectional at Pickerington Central
TRACK & FIELD
May 10, 12 -- OCC-Cardinal meet at Dublin Coffman
May 10 -- At Westerville South