The Whetstone High School boys tennis team is aiming for its second consecutive City League championship and its fourth in six seasons.
The Braves, who defeated West 4-1 in the City final last season, have returned three of their top seven players from a year ago, including their top two singles players.
Juniors Kaleb White and Colin Harmon-Ulmer are expected to lead the Braves. White was the City champion at first singles last year.
"Kaleb and Colin are fairly equal and will (alternate at first and second singles) this season unless one starts to pull away," 16th-year coach Bucky Walters said. "But right now, it's a dead heat. Both players are strong baseliners, but have a variety of shots to keep their opponents off guard."
Whetstone was 2-4 overall before playing Worthington Kilbourne on April 8 and 1-0 in the City League-North Division before playing Mifflin on April 10. The Braves opened league action with a 5-0 win over Northland on April 3.
"The City League-North looks similar to last season," Walters said. "Beechcroft and Centennial look to be the toughest competition. We have a tough non-conference schedule, which I hope translates into being tested and ready for another run at the City League championship."
In addition to White and Harmon-Ulmer, junior Louis Schirmer was in the Braves' Division I postseason lineup last season. He and 2018 graduate Jared Brown reached a district-qualifying match in doubles before losing.
Schirmer competed at second doubles last year, but has been paired with junior Richey Luu at first doubles to start this season.
Playing first doubles last year were 2018 graduates Atticus Bulgrin and Armando Prince, who won the City League title for the second year in a row.
Freshman Beaux Baldwin has replaced 2018 graduate Kalman Buterbaugh at third singles and juniors Ford Buterbaugh and Preston Buterbaugh are playing second doubles.
"We have no seniors, but I like the group," Walters said. "Their cohesiveness is a strength. They all get along and communicate well with each other. It's also an intelligent group, as every player is hovering around a 4.0 GPA."
Boys volleyball team showing improvement
The boys volleyball team is in a building phase.
After going 13-7 in 2017, the Braves finished 3-16 last season and were 0-11 this spring before playing Licking Heights on April 9.
"We were in disarray to start the season," 20th-year coach Errole Rembert said. "But the boys are working hard and we truly are playing much better, even if the record doesn't show it. When we started, we'd be lucky to get in double digits in points. Now, we're scoring into the 20s and we won our first game recently (in a 25-1, 24-26, 25-11 loss to Eastmoor Academy on April 3).
"We are getting better with every match and the next thing is to win the first match. But the boys are doing what I've asked and they are eager to learn and improve, so I'm proud of them."
The Braves, who lost to host Kent Roosevelt 25-20, 25-17 and Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 25-11, 26-24 on April 6, have five returnees in seniors Gabe Reeves (outside hitter), Gianni Signorio (outside hitter) and Nathan Vokac (outside hitter), junior Kyjuan Glass (middle hitter) and sophomore Emitt Schwier (outside hitter).
Vokac has been out with an injury.
Newcomers are seniors Antwan Allen (middle hitter) and Emerson Gonzalez (outside hitter), junior Malik Moorehead (back row) and freshmen Rafael Arebalo (setter), Joseph Didi (outside hitter) and Finn Lada (back row).
"With a number of the boys still learning the game, I'm excited to see what we can do by the end of the year and see if that sets us up for next year," Rembert said. "It's been enjoyable thus far because the guys are bonding and not splintering and they are willing to work and learn."
Everyone pitching in for baseball squad
With strong pitching and several solid hitters, the baseball team was 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the City-North before playing Linden-McKinley on April 8.
Ben Paugh and Jacob Price combined to pitch a one-hitter in an 8-1 win over Ready on April 4 after Zach Casto and Dominic Panzo combined on a five-inning no-hitter in a 16-0 victory over Beechcroft the day before.
Paugh had 10 strikeouts in five innings against Ready before Price relieved in the sixth.
Through eight games, Paugh was 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings and had allowed just two hits, Casto was 2-0 with a 4.37 ERA in eight innings, Jeffrey Golding was 1-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 5 1/3 innings and Price was 1-1 with a 3.89 ERA in nine innings. As a staff, the Braves had a 3.58 ERA.
Paugh led the team in batting average (.517) and RBI (16). Golding was batting .391, followed by Casto (.389), Alex Timmons (.385) and Jacob Hoffman (.353). Price had a team-best 16 runs scored and was batting .308 with 13 RBI, while Timmons also had 13 RBI.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone baseball, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 11 – At Thomas Worthington
*April 12 – At East. The Braves beat the Tigers 16-1 on March 27.
*April 15 – At Mifflin
*April 16 – Home vs. Mifflin in makeup from March 29
*April 17 – Home vs. Northland. The Braves beat the Vikings 4-1 on April 1.
April 16 – Home vs. Marysville
*April 12 – At East
April 13 – At Davidson with Olentangy Berlin
*April 15 – At Mifflin. The Braves beat the Punchers 15-0 on March 29.
April 16 – At Licking Heights
*April 17 – Home vs. Northland. The Braves beat the Vikings 17-2 on April 1.
April 15 – City tournament at Africentric
*April 16 – Home vs. Beechcroft
April 17 – City tournament at Africentric or South
TRACK & FIELD
April 13 – Joe Lenge Classic at Dublin Coffman
April 11 – At Beechcroft
April 15 – Home vs. Olentangy Berlin