In its quest to win an eighth consecutive City League championship, the Whetstone High School baseball team dispatched its toughest competitors in the first round of City League-North Division play.
The Braves defeated Centennial 8-0 on April 10 and Northland 4-1 on April 1 and were 10-2 overall and 6-0 in the City-North after beating East 16-0 on April 12.
"We had great pitching from Ben Paugh and Jeffrey Golding in those two games," coach Tim Broskie said. "Our hitting hasn't been consistently strong, but we took advantage of walks and errors when we've had chances.
"Our situational hitting has been OK at times, but it's something we're working on hard. We've got six sophomores starting who haven't had much experience facing upperclassmen pitchers. We've taken a ton of live (batting practice) with players, coaches and alumni, both lefties and righties throwing. I'm sure we'll come around as it gets warmer."
The rematch with Northland was April 17, following back-to-back league games with Mifflin on April 15 and 16.
Against Centennial, Paugh allowed three hits and struck out nine in a game that ended after six innings because of darkness. The Braves scored three runs in the fourth inning and five in the sixth.
"I'm just throwing strikes and trying to get ahead of hitters and let my defense do its job," said Paugh, who was 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings through 10 games. "My thoughts (against Centennial) were to just do my job and sooner or later we were going to come around with the bats and put some runs up there."
Against Northland, Golding pitched into the fifth and was relieved by Paugh. The two combined on a three-hitter.
"Ben has been dominant on the mound and Jeffrey, our crafty lefty, has been throwing very well lately," Broskie said. "Ben has allowed only five hits in over 19 innings and basically has been lights-out. Jacob Price also is pitching very well right now."
Golding was 1-1 with a 3.89 ERA after pitching a complete game in a 7-2 loss to Thomas Worthington on April 11. Price was 1-1 with a 4.32 ERA through 12 games, but much of the damage came in a 17-1 loss to Gahanna on April 2.
The Braves expect their pitching staff to be deeper now that junior Aidan Stephens has rejoined the team after recovering from a broken collarbone. He made his season debut April 12 when he pitched the first three innings against East, combining with Caleb Gloeckner on a five-inning one-hitter.
Paugh hit his second home run of the season against Thomas and was batting .436 with 18 runs scored, 19 RBI and 13 stolen bases through 11 games. Price was hitting .361 with four doubles, 19 runs and 20 RBI and Alex Timmons was batting .382 with 17 runs and 17 RBI.
The Braves were batting .367 as a team and had outscored their opponents 153-30 through 11 games.
Softball team hangs on against Stars
For the third season in a row, the softball team defeated Centennial in the teams' first City-North meeting.
The Braves built a 7-1 lead and held off the host Stars 7-6 on April 10, as Whetstone improved to 7-0 in the City-North and Centennial fell to 7-1 in the league.
"We've got to remember that we were in the same position the past two years and lost the rematch and then (Centennial) won the playoff and got to represent the North in the City championship (game)," coach Larry Peck said. "I'm real happy with the way we're playing and competing against City teams, but we're not playing well at all in our non-league games. It's like the girls don't even have enough confidence to compete in those games. It's a mental thing right now."
The Braves were 7-6 overall before playing Mifflin on April 15, East on April 16 and Northland on April 17.
Against Centennial, Roz Hannah and Anna Mary Absalom both went 3-for-4 and Grace Brigle was 2-for-4. Hannah scored two runs and drove in two runs and Absalom had a double and an RBI.
"We made three errors and only allowed two earned runs, but Anna Mary didn't pitch well," Peck said. "She didn't have command of a few of her pitches and finished with nine walks. But she gutted it out and got the final out with the tying run at second base when she caught a line drive from Gwen Moran. It's never easy against Centennial."
Hannah led the team in hitting through eight games, batting .600 with two doubles, 10 runs, 10 RBI and 11 stolen bases, and Jolie Mason was batting .500 with nine runs and eight RBI. Other top hitters included Absalom (.500), Kassidy Keegan (.430) and Megan Harrison (.409).
Track teams to host Braves Invitational
The track and field teams will play host to the annual Braves Invitational on Wednesday, April 24.
In addition to Whetstone, scheduled to compete in the meet are Beechcroft, Bexley, Briggs, Centennial, East, Hartley, Independence, Linden-McKinley, Northland, Walnut Ridge, Watterson and West.
In last year's Braves Invitational, the girls team tied Northland for third (60 points) of 14 teams, behind champion Watterson (96), while the boys team tied Watterson for sixth (42) behind champion Eastmoor Academy (105).
The boys team finished 15th (7.5) in the 16-team Joe Lenge Dublin Classic on April 14 at Dublin Coffman, behind champion Pickerington Central (142).
Matthew Conroy placed sixth in the 1,600 meters (4 minutes, 43.67 seconds), Hassan Sesay was seventh in the high jump (5 feet, 10 inches) and Brack Dillon was eighth in the 400 (52.91).
Mariyanna Lacy finished eighth in the 400 (1:04.33) to lead the girls team, which finished 16th (1), behind champion Thomas Worthington (95).