As the New Albany High School baseball team gathered for photos after its 2-1 win over Pickerington Central in a Division I district final May 16, coach Dave Starling reminded his players not to celebrate too much quite yet.
"Remember to act like you've been here before," Starling said.
"Have we?" one player asked.
The program has, but not these players -- and rarely at this level.
New Albany will participate in its second Division I regional tournament, and first since 2010, when it plays Olentangy in a semifinal Thursday, May 24, at Dublin Coffman. Seeded sixth in the district tournament, the Eagles squeaked by the 10th-seeded Tigers with a run in the sixth inning as Parker Thompson singled home Nick Shroyer.
Shroyer led off the inning with a double, one of only five hits against Central's Justin Maynard, as New Albany avenged postseason losses to the Tigers each of the past two seasons. The teams met in the second round in 2016 and a district semifinal last year.
"Having some experience, we were calmer and we stayed within ourselves when we needed to," Thompson said. "I'd been seeing a lot of off-speed pitches, mostly changeups (earlier in the game). I went up there with the approach that I'd see an off-speed pitch. I knew they wouldn't change anything, so I sat on a changeup and finally timed it well and I was able to drive Nick in. We started to see tendencies in the way he was pitching and that helped us get to him."
New Albany was 19-8 before playing Lakewood in a regular-season game May 22.
"It's come together. The guys are peaking," Starling said. "They regrouped, and I admire their effort. I am glad to be able to do this. To come back and get this is big for the program. It creates excitement down through every level."
Pitcher Alex Arenschield allowed five hits, struck out two and walked one while inducing 12 groundball outs. According to Starling, Arenschield spent some time outside the rotation during the regular season but returned just before the district tournament out of necessity when Kevin Fee developed fluid behind one of his shoulder blades.
Arenschield said he developed a secondary curveball for the district final to compensate for not throwing a changeup.
"I normally go fastball and curveball but (May 16) I had a faster curveball that was more like a slider and then a slower, looping curveball," Arenschield said. "Once I threw those, I kept them off balance and that's when we got those big outs. I use the same grip but basically it's my arm angle and how hard I throw it."
New Albany also defeated 11th-seeded Big Walnut 6-5 in a district semifinal May 14 at Blacklick Elementary School. The Eagles had finished one game behind the first-place Golden Eagles in the OCC-Capital Division and lost two of three to Big Walnut during the regular season.
The New Albany-Olentangy winner will play Lancaster or Olentangy Liberty in a regional final Friday, May 25, at Coffman. The winner advances to a state semifinal June 1 at Huntington Park.
New Albany defeated Olentangy 6-2 on April 21 at Gahanna, a game Thompson said told him the Eagles could be a district title contender. Olentangy, which was seeded ninth in the district, defeated second-seeded Hilliard Darby 5-4 in a district final May 16 at Coffman to win its second district title in three years.
"At that point, we knew we could compete with anyone," Thompson said. "We could do stuff like this."
Boys tennis team advances four to state
Four boys tennis players, including two freshmen in Devin Boyer and Ryan Mudre, will represent New Albany in the Division I state tournament Friday, May 25, and Saturday, May 26, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Robert Cash and Mudre will play singles, and Boyer is playing doubles with Nathan Jose.
In the district tournament that concluded May 19 at Olympic Indoor Tennis Club, Cash finished first and Mudre was fourth, and Boyer and Jose were second in doubles.
Cash went 4-0, defeating Olentangy's Stu Brdicka 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Mudre went 2-2, retiring in the third set of the third-place match against Lancaster's Colton Clark.
Boyer and Jose went 3-1, losing to St. Charles' Jack Dabek and Reese Yakubov 7-5, 6-1 in the doubles final.
"It's an honor to get to state as a freshman. It's a big accomplishment for me," Mudre said. "I've tried to stay in points by getting a lot of balls back. When I'm in my offense and trying to put the ball away, I've been able to put approach shots away. I succeed by getting a lot of balls back. Recently, I've been able to have more offense in my game at the net and with my serve."
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
Cash and Jose both are making their third state appearances in as many years.
"Ryan had a draw that if he played well, he'd have the opportunity and that's all you can ask for," coach Marc Thomas said after Mudre qualified with a 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) win over Upper Arlington's Elliot Jones on May 17 at Hilliard Bradley. "A lot can go the other way if you're not focused, and he had some excellent returns in the second set. Ryan found a way to get past (Jones') big serve. We have two freshmen who will be at state ... and they will be pushing to do very well. To go play that well at the district level says they are ready for the big opportunities."
The doubles team of Dev Vasani and Ben Yan went 0-1 at district.
New Albany played for the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I district championship May 21 at UA. The winner advances to a state semifinal Sunday, May 27, at Reynoldsburg with the first- and third-place matches later that day.
The Eagles advanced by defeating Gahanna 4-0 in a district semifinal May 14. The win improved them to 14-0.
Matt, McDonald lead track teams to regional
Three individuals and two relays represented the track and field teams in the Division I regional meet that began May 23 and concludes Friday, May 25, at Pickerington North.
The girls finished seventh (41 points) of 16 teams in the district 1 meet that concluded May 19 at Darby, behind champion Pickerington Central (112). Sophie Matt was second in the 800 meters (2 minutes, 21.05 seconds), the 3,200 relay was third (9:47.64) and the 1,600 relay was fourth (4:04.03) as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional.
For the boys team, Kenny McDonald won the long jump (21-7 3/4) and Gabe Glenn was fourth in the high jump (6-1) as the Eagles finished 11th (24) of 16 teams behind champion Central (158).
At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state June 1 and 2 at Ohio State.
Boys lacrosse team wins despite injuries
The shorthanded boys lacrosse team took a seven-game winning streak into its Division I, Region 3 semifinal May 22 at Worthington Kilbourne, including two tournament wins at home last week.
The third-seeded Eagles defeated 11th-seeded Pickerington Central 15-8 in the second round May 15 and 12th-seeded Centerville 13-5 in a quarterfinal May 18.
Cody Roberts scored five goals against the Tigers. Nathan Reader's five goals and four from Brode White led the Eagles past the Elks.
New Albany, which was 15-5 before playing Kilbourne, has been without starters Ben Chaddock (defender), Aiden Day (midfielder), Drew Miller (attacker) and Chandler Wilson (long-stick midfielder) for all or part of the season because of various injuries. Miller has been sidelined by hamstring issues, and coach Danny Gibson is hopeful he can return depending on how long the Eagles remain alive.
"We will live and die by consistency. If we can play our game, I'm confident that we'll be fine," Gibson said. "When four of your most important players go down, it's the next man up mentality. We don't have a choice at this point. I'm rolling with the team that shows up the day of the game."
The New Albany-Kilbourne winner plays top-seeded UA or fifth-seeded Hilliard Davidson in the regional final Friday, May 25, at a neutral site to be determined. The regional champion plays Cincinnati Moeller, Cincinnati St. Xavier, Loveland or Springboro in a state semifinal Wednesday, May 30, at a neutral site.
The state final is June 2 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Of those teams, New Albany defeated Davidson 10-2 on March 29.
Girls lacrosse team beats North
Seeded first in the Division I, Region 1 tournament, the girls lacrosse team routed visiting and ninth-seeded Westerville North 17-2 in a second-round game May 18.
Emily Rezabek had four goals and Alyssa Kneedler added three to lead New Albany, which improved to 18-1 and played host to sixth-seeded Strongsville in a regional semifinal May 21. The winner will take on second-seeded Liberty or third-seeded Olentangy in the regional final Thursday, May 24, at a neutral site.
The regional champion will play Cleveland Heights, Hudson, Massillon Jackson or Uniontown Green in a state semifinal Wednesday, May 30, at a neutral site. The state final is June 2 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Of those teams, New Albany defeated Liberty 15-9 on April 5, Jackson 12-9 on April 13, Olentangy 17-7 on April 17 and Hudson 8-3 on April 28.
The Eagles have lost to Jackson in state semifinals each of the past two years, 9-2 last spring and 8-7 in 2016.
New Albany coach Dave Ferguson thinks that if the Eagles reach their third consecutive state tournament, balance will be the reason.
"We're doing a lot of good things," Ferguson said. "I like our defense. We're battling all over the field and continuing to get better on offense. We have a good culture. Things are going very well."
Boys volleyball season ends
The boys volleyball team ended its inaugural season May 16 with a 25-8, 25-9, 25-18 loss to 16th-seeded Bradley in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament at Olentangy.
New Albany, which was seeded 19th of 20 teams, finished 1-16.