Since reaching its first Division I regional semifinal last season, the Westerville Central High School softball team has been motivated to advance even further this spring.
The Warhawks appear to be on their way to achieving that goal, as they were 18-1 overall before playing Gahanna on April 23 and 6-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Olentangy Orange on April 24.
"When they came in this year, the first thing they said was we had such a good time last year, we want to get further than what we did last year," coach Brian Wamsley said. "There's no reason we can't, but we still have to play the games."
The Warhawks' season has not gone unnoticed, as they are tied for fourth with Massillon Perry in the state poll.
"I'm not surprised. I knew that they could do it, but it's still one game at a time," Wamsley said. "I knew they had the capability. We've had a tough schedule, so this is great."
Leading Central has been a pitching staff anchored by junior Emily Ruck, a transfer from Amanda-Clearcreek. Through 18 games, she was 12-0 with a 1.05 ERA, 129 strikeouts and 40 walks in 67 2/3 innings.
She pitched a no-hitter in an 11-1 win in five innings over Olentangy Liberty on April 17.
"This is a lot better than I expected," Ruck said of her first season at Central. "I'm so happy with our team and how we're doing this season. There's a big difference here. D-I softball is so much different than D-III. There was a lot of talent in D-III, but the competition is different in D-I. There's a lot more commitment. They're more experienced."
At 5-foot-9 and about 125 pounds, Ruck said she derives most of her power from her arms and that her pitches have hit 65 mph on a radar gun. Last season at Amanda-Clearcreek, she was first-team all-MSL-Buckeye and second-team all-district.
Ruck committed to Ohio State in December of her freshman year.
"I knew she was good, but I didn't have any idea she was this good," Wamsley said.
The pitching staff also includes senior Sydney Stepp and junior Rachel Fields, giving Wamsley a luxury most teams can't match.
Stepp and Fields shared time in the circle last season, as they helped lead the Warhawks to their first district title before losing to Teays Valley 8-4 in a regional semifinal.
Stepp hasn't yet played this season because of a torn tendon in her right bicep, but she was able to avoid surgery and rehab through physical therapy. She said she's near 100 percent and should be available for the postseason, which begins May 6.
"It's hard to watch, but it's still fun," said Stepp, who has committed to Bowling Green. "We're doing really well this year. It's fun working with the other pitchers."
Wamsley is looking forward to having all three pitchers available.
"There are only so many starting jobs for a pitcher, but it's a problem I'd like to have," he said. "Any of the three would be a No. 1 on most teams in central Ohio."
Fields was 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA, 50 strikeouts and 17 walks in 41 1/3 innings.
"We had a lot of expectations going into the season and they've been confirmed by the way we're playing," Fields said. "We're playing really well. The state rankings really don't mean anything right now. We're trying not to let it get in our heads. We're just trying to play our game."
Central outscored its first five league opponents 68-1 as Ruck and Fields combined to allow only one unearned run on six hits with 53 strikeouts in 26 innings.
"Emily has come in and done a fantastic job and I can't say enough about Rachel Fields, the way she stepped up last year and this year," Wamsley said. "She's grown up a lot. She's gotten a whole lot better."
Central won its first 10 games before losing to Hilliard Bradley 5-4 on April 6. The Warhawks then won eight consecutive games, outscoring opponents 90-4, including Westerville North 7-2 on April 22.
"I can see this team going very far," Ruck said. "I don't want to jinx anything, but we are a really great team."
The Warhawks also have received several strong efforts offensively. Cami Compson led the team in batting average (.617), hits (37), doubles (9), home runs (5) and RBI (36) through 18 games.
Emily O'Dee was batting .514, followed by Kylie Collins (.466), Ruck (.459), Danielle Ingram (.439), Avrey Schumacher (.433) and Lexi Recinella (.425). Schumacher led in triples with six.
"The thing we have right now and what's been great is the offense," Wamsley said. "We've been able to support (the pitchers) when they get (in the circle) and they go out there and just do their job. It makes it easy to coach when it works that way."
Baseball team avenges loss to Olentangy
The baseball team avenged a 13-7 loss to Olentangy on April 15 by defeating the Braves 9-8 on April 17.
The Warhawks were 10-5 overall and 4-3 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing Liberty on April 24. They lost to the Patriots 9-7 on April 22.
In the rematch against Olentangy, Central trailed 8-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh before rallying for three runs. Niko George delivered the game-winning RBI single.
Michael Hause did not allow an earned run in 5 2/3 innings of relief, striking out four while earning the win.
"Our strengths continue to be our offense and our resiliency," coach Jeff Keifer said. "We are scoring over eight runs a game (through 14 games) and our approaches and execution at the plate have been impressive."
Through 14 games, Justin Fleetwood was batting .444, followed by George (.440), Ryan Raybould (.436) and Camron Hubble (.423).
Hubble and Brett Dahman shared the team lead in RBI with 13, with Hubble also hitting two home runs.
Jake Yaussy was 3-0 with a 3.11 ERA, 10 strikeouts and 12 walks in 18 innings.
"Our pitching has been somewhat inconsistent as we try to figure out our rotation, but hopefully when we solidify that we can be a very dangerous team down the stretch," Keifer said.
Boys lacrosse team defeats rival North
The boys lacrosse team was 7-5 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Buckeye before playing New Albany on April 23.
Central defeated North 16-2 on April 16 as Dawson Kindall led with six goals. Jake Schorling had three goals, Jack Lammert and Cole Peck each scored two and Logan Moore had 10 saves.
Central lost to Columbus Academy 12-9 on April 18. Kindall and Schorling each scored three goals and Moore had nine saves.
Three student-athletes announce commitments
Three student-athletes announced their college commitments April 17.
Kaila Aaron will compete in swimming and diving at Savannah College of Art and Design, Erice Bonner Jr. will compete in track and field at Allegheny and Elisa Summanen will play soccer at Mount Union.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 26 -- At Westerville South
*April 29 -- Home vs. South
*May 1 -- Home vs. Westerville North. The Warhawks defeated the Warriors 7-5 on April 5 and 9-8 on April 8.
*April 25 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 30 -- At South
*April 25 -- At Liberty
April 29 -- Home vs. Bexley
*April 30 -- Home vs. South
*April 25 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Warhawks defeated the Braves 13-0 in five innings April 15.
*April 29 -- At Liberty. The Warhawks defeated the Patriots 11-1 in five innings April 17.
April 30 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
*May 1 -- Home vs. South. The Warhawks defeated the Wildcats 17-0 in five innings April 18.
April 25 -- At Pickerington North
April 26 -- Home vs. Watterson
April 29 -- At Olentangy Berlin
May 1 -- Home vs. Marysville
TRACK & FIELD
April 26 -- Boys: Ranger Invitational at Hamilton Township; Girls: Dan Adams Classic at Muskingum University
April 29 -- At North with South
*April 25 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange. The Warhawks lost to the Pioneers 19-25, 25-19, 20-25, 25-12, 15-13 on April 9.
*April 30 -- Home vs. Olentangy. The Warhawks lost to the Braves 25-13, 25-21, 25-22 on April 11.