New Albany High School baseball coach Dave Starling looks beyond talent when recapping his team's resplendent start, instead pointing to a quality he says isn't a given.
"The beautiful thing about this roster is they all have their piece of the puzzle. They understand their role and it's made for a great team atmosphere up to this point," Starling said. "That's not always an easy thing. They're not trying to do too much. They've done everything we've asked them to do and we've seen the results."
The Eagles outscored their first 12 opponents 104-30 and were 12-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital Division before playing Groveport on April 15. Five players were batting .343 or better, including three hitting above .400, to complement a deep pitching staff that had a 1.38 ERA.
New Albany entered the week having won 15 of its past 16 games dating to last season, with the only loss coming to eventual Division I state champion Olentangy Liberty in the regional final.
"We're proving to ourselves that we have high expectations for a reason, but these first (12) games don't mean anything unless we finish out the season like we know we can," senior third baseman Parker Thompson said. "Each year I've been here, we've made it to another level and taken another step in the (postseason). That speaks a lot to our coaches and what they've been able to do with us. We believe in ourselves and play together well."
Catcher Ethan Swincicki was batting .486 with 17 hits, including two home runs, through 12 games. Outfielder Spencer Tammaro had a .441 average with 15 hits, ahead of second baseman and leadoff hitter Jimmy Stevens (.421, 16 hits), Thompson (.357, 15 hits) and shortstop Nick Shroyer (.343, 12 hits).
Jack Sokol led the pitching staff with a 3-0 record, 11 walks, 31 strikeouts and a 0.90 ERA in 23 1/3 innings. Mike Sokol was 2-0 with a 0.48 ERA, 12 walks and 17 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings.
Thompson typically bats third, one spot ahead of Swincicki.
"Ethan's been on fire," Starling said. "He understands the game. He has a great approach at the plate and is very disciplined. He gets his pitch to hit and hits the ball hard. The thing about hitting is stepping up and timing the situation right, and he has a knack for doing that."
Swincicki credited his approach to an aggressive, yet disciplined, approach.
"I am trying to be a lot more aggressive this year going after fastballs early in the count. If it's there, I'm going to swing," he said. "If not, I'll let it go and wait for something later in the count. I was still aggressive last year but maybe a little too much so chasing outside pitches, which is probably my weakness. Now that I'm not doing that and have more power, I can explode."
New Albany remained unbeaten with a 4-3, eight-inning win over Big Walnut on April 10. Jack Sokol struck out five in six innings and the Eagles won on an error off the bat of Kevin Fee.
Despite averaging 10 runs per game, that was the fourth game the Eagles had won by two or fewer runs.
"We've been able to go through situation after situation and luckily for our program, we have guys with the skill level that we can take over the game with one swing of the bat," Shroyer said. "We have guys who can throw 90-plus miles per hour or hit the ball to the fence and shift momentum. We have vocal leaders. We have guys who lead by example. The backups are as important as the starters. Everybody plays a role."
Boys lacrosse team off to fast start
With five players having scored at least 10 goals, the boys lacrosse team was 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Olentangy on April 16, having won four consecutive games for the second time this season.
Brode White's 24 goals led the Eagles, ahead of Cody Roberts (17), Grayson Passias (15), Max Dupler (13) and Owen Dunn (10). At least six players had scored in six of the team's first nine games, and 11 Eagles scored in a 17-0 win over Westerville North on April 11.
"Everything has to be about the team," coach Danny Gibson said. "Every single player has to be involved or we won't have the success we want. Everybody has to have the confidence to be a threat. We've kept the game clean; we've kept it fast and creative. We've controlled our controllables, our effort and our toughness. It can be tough to be consistent, to have a four-quarter win, but we've shown that sometimes."
New Albany scored 10 or more goals in seven of its first nine games.
Gibson said he and the team have adopted the phrase "good EAT" -- which stands for effort, attitude and toughness -- as a slogan.
"It's one of those things that when you play the best teams later in the season, they've had a season to prepare for you," Gibson said. "They're watching your tendencies and strategies and trying to feel out your strengths and weaknesses. Our goal is to make sure all six guys on the offensive end understand that and do our best not to go outside of the plan."
Girls lacrosse team faces big week
The girls lacrosse team put a six-game winning streak and its OCC-Buckeye lead on the line April 16 when it played host to Olentangy.
New Albany was 8-1 overall entering the game, coming off a 15-7 win at Cincinnati Sycamore on April 13, and 4-0 in the OCC-Buckeye. The Eagles outscored their first four league opponents 72-5, including wins last week over Olentangy Orange (22-1 on April 9) and Westerville North (22-2 on April 11).
Olentangy was 7-1-1 overall and 3-1 in the league before April 16.
Sycamore was a Division I state semifinalist last season.
After the Eagles play host to Columbus Academy on Thursday, April 18, they will play Upper Arlington on Saturday, April 20, at UA's Tremont Elementary School in a rematch of last year's Division I state final that the Golden Bears won 11-5.
Sikorski named girls basketball coach
Athletics director Richie Wildenhaus said Phil Sikorski's ability to build a program at multiple levels and sustain success was one of the factors that led to Sikorski being named the girls basketball team's next coach.
"He knows what it takes to be the guy in charge," said Wildenhaus, who announced the hire April 11. "I like what he brings in to complement the culture we already have here, and our culture is unbelievably positive at this point. He has experience at building and elevating the feeder system in a one high school environment like ours. We're already on the same page in a lot of areas."
Sikorski's hire is pending school board approval.
Sikorski coached Lakewood from 2009-17, leading the Lancers to Division II district runner-up finishes in each of his final two seasons and earning district Coach of the Year honors in 2016.
He was an assistant coach with the Lancers last year and also was an assistant coach at Wittenberg from 2000-07.
Sikorski replaces Jeff Blunt, who resigned in February after going 89-76 overall and 52-34 in the OCC-Capital in seven seasons.
The Eagles went 11-12 overall and 4-6 in the league this past season.