With a strong trio leading a deep pitching staff, the Whetstone High School baseball team entered the week seeking to secure its ninth consecutive City League-North Division championship.
The Braves were 15-5 overall and 10-0 in the league before playing Centennial on May 6 and Linden-McKinley on May 8. The Stars were 10-1 before May 6 and hoped to force a playoff game with the Braves to determine who would represent the North in the City final.
"I think the key for us this year has been our pitching," said coach Tim Broskie, whose team has won the past seven City titles. "We've got a number of guys who can throw, so we don't have to rely on our top three all the time and they don't get overworked.
"But there's no doubt that we're very comfortable anytime Ben Paugh, Jeffrey Golding and Jacob Price are on the mound. They are definitely our leaders and we have trust in them to get the job done in our biggest games."
Through 20 games, Paugh was 4-2 with one save and a 1.83 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 16 walks in 30 2/3 innings.
"I have a lot better control and command of all my pitches and I can throw all of them for strikes this year," said Paugh, a junior. "I didn't start really focusing on pitching until I reached high school and I'm basically a pitcher-only guy now with the Columbus Cobras (travel team) in the summers."
For the Braves, Paugh plays in the outfield when not on the mound.
"The thing with Ben that's been so impressive is how his control has improved," said Price, a senior who was 1-2 with two saves and a 2.53 ERA in 19 1/3 innings. "He's definitely been our No. 1 guy this year and our pitching has kept us in a lot of the big games."
Golding, a senior left-hander, was 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 1/3 innings.
"Ben is our most improved player," Golding said. "Last year, he could come out one game and get 15 strikeouts and the next game he would walk eight or 10 batters. But as he has gotten a bigger role as a junior, he's got his mind right. He's more focused and he has worked hard at it."
The Braves' top three pitchers also are leading the team in most offensive categories.
Through 20 games, Golding had a team-best .451 average with six doubles, 24 run scored, 21 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Price was hitting .357 with team highs in RBI (32) and doubles (7) and had scored 29 runs and stolen 14 bases, while Paugh was hitting .424 with 25 runs, 22 RBI, 19 stolen bases and a team-best two home runs.
"Jeffrey has turned into our top hitter," Broskie said. "He's a four-year letterman who has a ton of experience pitching and playing first base. He takes a ton of swings daily and it sure does show. He's using all of the field and it's great seeing him get so many backside hits.
"Jacob also is a four-year letterman and a very solid all-around player. He is a solid hitter, good pitcher, good infielder and very smart. He is the type of player that makes it easy for a coach."
Other leading hitters were Zach Castro (.410), Alex Hurd (.359, team-high 31 runs, team-high 22 stolen bases) and Alex Timmons (.308, 23 RBI).
The Braves are seeded 24th of 48 teams in the Division I district tournament and will play host to 29th-seeded Westerville South in the first round Monday, May 13, with the winner playing at seventh-seeded Upper Arlington in the second round Wednesday, May 15.
Softball team opens postseason
The softball team had won three games in a row and was 13-9 overall before playing at 19th-seeded Dublin Coffman in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 6.
The winner visited 16th-seeded Westerville North in the second round May 8, with that winner likely facing sixth-seeded Lancaster in a district semifinal Monday, May 13, at a site to be determined. The district final will be played May 17 or 18 at Pickerington Central.
The Braves defeated Beech-croft 15-0 on April 29, International 19-1 on May 1 and Linden-McKinley 18-1 on May 2 to move to 13-0 in the City-North. They have a makeup game remaining with Centennial, which is 12-1 in the league.
The City final is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15.
Boys tennis team set for sectional
The boys tennis team will compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, at Upper Arlington.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament May 16 and 18 at Reynoldsburg.
Competing in singles are juniors Colin Harmon-Ulmer and Kaleb White and freshman Beaux Baldwin. In first-round matches, Harmon-Ulmer will face Westerville North's Carter Jones, White will play Teays Valley's Ryan Wolfe and Baldwin will face Pickerington North's Brady Hertl.
In first-round doubles matches, juniors Conner Gott and Preston Buterbaugh will play Central Crossing's Christian Petry and Josh Toscano and juniors Louis Schirmer and Richey Luu will face Teays Valley's Eli Burgett and Jack Kennedy.
Track teams prep for district meet
The track and field teams are competing in the City meet, which began May 7 and concludes Thursday, May 9, at Africentric.
The Braves then will shift their attention to the Division I district meet, which begins Tuesday, May 14, and concludes May 18 at Hilliard Darby.
The Braves competed in the Tiger Invitational on May 3 at East, where the boys team finished first (76 points) in a 16-team field, edging runner-up Bexley (75) as well as Eastmoor Academy (73) and Walnut Ridge (72).
Brack Dillon won the 400 meters in 50.51 seconds, Matt Conroy won the 3,200 in 10:31.35, Hassan Sesay won the high jump in 5 feet, 10 inches and Ibrahim Bangura won the long jump in 21-1.
Also finishing first was the 1,600 relay of Adams, Sesay, Dillon and Elnah Siaway (3:29.88).
In addition, Adams placed third in the 800 (2:09.13), Thaine Nederveld was third in the 1,600 (4:46.14), Sesay was fourth in the 400 (51.55) and the 800 relay of Rashaun Broomfield, Edmund Michel, Siaway and Abdourahman Sallah was fifth (1:3.27).
The girls team finished 11th (24) of 14 teams in the Tiger Invitational, behind champion Hamilton Township (89).
Mataya Stokes was runner-up in the 200 (27.56) and placed third in both the 100 (13.47) and 400 (1:03.6), and Micah Stromsoe was sixth in the 1,600 (6:58.69).
Below are the coming schedules for the Whetstone girls lacrosse and boys volleyball teams:
May 9 -- At Centennial. The Braves lost to the Stars 9-4 on March 26.
May 9 -- At Northland. The Braves lost to the Vikings 25-17, 25-9, 25-20 on March 28 and 25-20, 25-20 on March 30
May 14 -- Home vs. Licking Heights. The Braves lost to the Hornets 25-14, 25-11, 25-15 on April 9.
May 15 -- Home vs. DeSales