The Centennial High School softball team is on the same path as it was the previous two seasons when it won the City League-North Division title and played in the City championship game.
The Stars lost to Whetstone 7-6 on April 10, as their rally from a 7-1 deficit came up just short when Gwen Moran lined out to pitcher Anna Mary Absalom for the final out with the tying run on second base.
In both 2017 and 2018, Centennial lost its only games in league play to Whetstone in the teams' first meeting. Both times, the Stars won the rematch to force a playoff game to determine who advanced to the City final.
"We know how to do this because we've done it the past two years," coach Malik Dean said. "I just hope we're playing better defensively by the time we play them again (in the City-North finale May 6 at Whetstone). We are really, really struggling on defense right now.
"I'm moving players to different positions almost every game. I'm serious. I don't know if we've had the same starting lineup defensively in back-to-back games all season."
Dean pointed to the stats of freshman pitcher Kassy Stefanski as evidence. Entering this week, she was 6-3 with a 1.12 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 50 innings. She had allowed 39 runs, but only eight were earned. As a team, the Stars had allowed 119 runs with just 41 being earned.
The Stars were 10-8 overall and 7-1 in the league before playing East on April 15, Reynoldsburg on April 16 and Linden-McKinley on April 17. Their next game is April 29 at Northland.
"It's so difficult to win when you play good competition and you're making all those errors," Dean said. "Our hitting gives us a chance in most City League games, but it's just tough to have success in non-league games."
Centennial split a three-team doubleheader April 13 at Worthington Kilbourne, losing to the host Wolves 4-1 and rallying to beat Franklin Heights 11-4.
Against Franklin Heights, the Stars trailed 4-3 entering the top of the seventh inning before scoring eight runs.
Toni Sfikas doubled, tripled, drove in two and scored twice in the seventh. Moran had an RBI double, Jordan Fischer had an RBI single and an RBI groundout and Giana Francescon had an RBI single. Emilee Flowers drove in the tying run on a fielder's choice.
"I think that could be a key win for us and it was our 14th game in 14 days," Dean said. "In the loss to Kilbourne, we finally played an error-free game. But we had seven errors against Franklin Heights and overcame them. We had to cram in all those games because of the late spring break. There basically are no league events in the next week and we'll have about 12 days off (from games)."
Through 18 games, Sfikas led the Stars in batting average (.514), runs (20) and triples (4) and had 15 RBI. She was followed in average by Etta Coale (.467), Shalin Ortega (.462), Ikera Ike (.439), Fischer (.419) and Stefanski (.418). Ike had 22 RBI and Stefanski had 20, and Fischer had scored 17 runs.
Moran was 4-5 with a 4.27 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 54 innings.
Baseball team still seeking its rhythm
The baseball team will be looking to get into a groove in the latter half of the regular season.
The Stars were 4-7 overall and 4-1 in the City-North before playing East on April 15 and Linden on April 17.
"We've had some issues with consistency," coach Pat Nance said. "We've been down an arm with our No. 3 pitcher, Nate Dorinsky, being injured. Plus, our pitchers play a big role on defense and if we bring in a reliever in the middle of an inning that means they don't have time to get loose and it sometimes weakens our defense.
"Defensively, we're not making enough routine plays. Like (in an 8-0 loss to Whetstone on April 10), we gave up two earned runs. We also gave up too many free bases on walks and we didn't cash in on our opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the third when we had the bases loaded and two outs. So we didn't get that timely hit that could've given us the momentum and changed the game."
The Stars were batting .263 through eight games, with shortstop C.J. Dean leading the way at .457.
"As a team, we're not putting the ball in play as much as we would like to force defenses to make plays on us," Nance said. "C.J. has been strong and also has made some terrific plays defensively. Evan (Teeters) has been starting to hit well in the past week and he's also one of our top guys on defense. He does a great job (at catcher)."
The Stars managed just three hits against Whetstone. The game was called after six innings because of darkness.
"If we take care of our business, we can at least force a playoff with (Whetstone) for the (City-North) title," Nance said. "Plus, don't forget Northland. They're right in this thing, too."
The Stars play host to Northland on April 29 and close league play at Whetstone on May 6. Centennial edged Northland 5-4 on April 3.
Track teams compete at Heath
The boys and girls track and field teams competed in the Hank Smith Invitational on April 13 at Heath.
The girls finished 16th (11) of 17 teams behind champion Big Walnut (97). Competing without a handful of their top athletes, the boys placed last (3) of 18 teams behind champion Heath (114.5).
Sky Harris led the girls, finishing third in the long jump (14 feet, 11 inches) and joining Lucy Bednar-Warren, Sophia Ferry and Paige Williams on the sixth-place 400-meter relay (54.14 seconds). Shamara Bridges placed seventh in the shot put (30-4 1/2).
Brandon Pugh scored all the points for the boys by placing sixth in the long jump (18-8 1/4).