Johnny DeRing has stressed the importance of team unity in his first season as Whitehall-Yearling High School baseball coach.

The Rams took a break from competing April 13 to perform a community-service project at two locations in the area. Players and coaches spread mulch and gravel and cleaned areas at the Whitehall Community Park and John Bishop Memorial Park.

"They were excited to be there and they were happy to be there," DeRing said. "We're doing a team dinner this week because we're on spring break."

The message of being selfless on and off the field was clear to the players.

"The whole team was there and I feel we all had fun with each other helping out the community," junior Garin Barnes said.

DeRing also is hoping the team bonding carries over to the field when the Rams return to action Friday, April 19, against visiting Independence and resume MSL-Ohio Division play Monday, April 22, against visiting Grandview.

Whitehall opened league play with a pair of five-inning losses to Bexley, 13-3 on April 8 and 16-0 on April 10.

"Grandview is on a tear right now," DeRing said. "They're the team to beat (in the league). Bexley is a hell of a ball club. They have depth with pitching and they can swing the bat pretty well, too."

After finishing 1-18 last season, the Rams were 2-6 overall before playing Caledonia River Valley on April 16. They lost 11-10 to Westland on April 9, but DeRing said they had chances to win.

"We're going through some tough times, losing some hard games, getting beat pretty handily, and then we showed up (April 9) and competed like hell," DeRing said. "That's all you can ask for. It they compete like that day in and day out, we'll win a lot of ballgames."

Mitchell Webb had four hits with Barnes, Bradley Buchert, Jace Peck, James Reed and A.J. Scott adding two each.

Whitehall also plays host to Westland on Tuesday, April 23.

Through eight games, Reed was hitting a team-high .444, followed by Webb (.409), Barnes (.375) and Scott (.316).

"Mitchell continues to be a staple in our lineup batting leadoff," DeRing said.

Barnes and Buchert each had a team-high six RBI.

"Things are good this year," Barnes said.

"People care more and the coaches care more, so I'm proud to see what's happening now and looking forward to see what's going to go forward."

Boys track team wins home meet

The boys track and field team won the 10-team Pat McMillin Invitational on April 12 at home, totaling 177 points to finish ahead of second-place Eastmoor Academy (128).

Chris Ceasar won the 300-meter hurdles (41.17 seconds). He also joined Raymell Byrd, Christian Gordon and Charles Miller on the first-place 800 relay (1:31.67) and Kyzion Freeman, Erick Martinez and Hezekiah Freeman in winning the 440 shuttle hurdles (1:08).

Chris Charles won the 1,600 (4:55.36) and joined Daba Hordofe, Anthony Hampton and Alex Rodriguez on the winning 3,200 relay (8:42.56).

Keon Freeman won the shot put (47 feet, 11 inches) and Hezekiah Freeman won the long jump (20-2 1/2).

The girls finished third (114) of nine teams behind champion Northland (178). Liana Betts won the shot put (32-5) and discus (110-5).

Softball coach likes team's growth

Despite a disappointing record, first-year softball coach Kirsten Turner has been pleased with her team's progress.

The Rams were 3-10 overall and 2-2 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Grandview on April 17.

Whitehall earned its first two league wins by defeating Grandview 7-5 on April 8 and Bexley 13-11 on April 15.

The Rams led Bexley 9-5 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning April 3 before the Lions scored five runs to win 10-9.

"Every game we are improving and showing more heart than any high school girls have showed me," Turner said. "Having a young group of girls that I can build with has been a journey, but only a positive journey this far. I'm excited to continue to watch them grow and bond as a team throughout the remainder of the season."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank