A pair of sophomores are playing major roles for the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team, which had its eyes set on a fifth consecutive league championship entering this week.
Andrew Patrick is providing the Panthers with strong play in center field and on the mound and shortstop Paxton Schwandt is among the team leaders at the plate and in the field.
"Neither of them plays like a sophomore. Both are competitive and play the game the way it's supposed to be played," coach Mike Weer said. "Andrew is really good in all phases of the game, from defense to pitching, hitting and baserunning. Paxton has a high baseball IQ and just does everything very smoothly."
The Panthers were 15-6 overall and 10-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division after beating Thomas Worthington 10-0 on May 6 and before playing Bradley on May 8. They will close the regular season Friday, May 10, at home against Bradley. The Jaguars fell to 8-3 in league play with a 7-4 loss to Dublin Scioto on May 6.
"We had a bit of a lapse lately when we struggled as a team to string hits together and we just weren't scoring," Patrick said. "But I think we recovered from that and started to find some holes again and we've gotten a little healthier now and we're ready to go. I want to be part of helping this team to continue to add to our championship streak. This is my first time in this position with Darby and it's exciting."
Entering this week, Patrick was batting .386 with 14 runs scored and 17 RBI and led the team with four triples and 15 stolen bases. On the mound, he was 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.
Schwandt was batting .338 with 20 runs, 10 RBI and nine stolen bases.
"We want to keep the (league championship) streak going, but Bradley is one of our crosstown rivals and those games are a whole lot different than other games," Schwandt said. "You've grown up playing with and against those guys and there are a lot of friends in the other dugouts. But we've got great senior leadership and they've helped us have a great chemistry and they helped us through our little drought."
The Panthers had consecutive losses to Scioto (4-2 on April 22), Dublin Jerome (4-3 on April 24) and St. Charles (2-1 in nine innings April 27), but bounced back to beat Olentangy Berlin (10-2 on April 29), Jerome (2-1 on April 30), Berlin (3-1 on May 1) and Thomas (16-1 on May 3).
"We've been getting great pitching all season," Patrick said. "Jacob Wells and Connor Maruniak have been terrific. We need to continue with that and just put together timely hits and we'll have a chance to win the league championship and go far in the tournament."
Entering this week, Maruniak was 4-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 27 innings and Wells was 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.
Darby is seeded sixth of 48 teams in the Division I district tournament and has a first-round bye. The Panthers will play host to 19th-seeded Olentangy or 45th-seeded Walnut Ridge in the second round Wednesday, May 15, with the winner advancing to a district semifinal May 20.
Boys tennis team set for sectional
Members of the boys tennis team are set to compete in a Division I sectional Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, at Upper Arlington.
Competing in singles are juniors Noah Adams and Henry Kast and sophomore Krish Kondaveeti, while seniors Caleb Hughes and Raj Jani will compete in doubles, as will senior Ebun Obisesan and junior Ishan Somani.
The top four placers in singles and doubles advance to district May 16 and 18 at Reynoldsburg.
Boys volleyball team extends title streak
The boys volleyball team defeated Berlin 25-8, 25-16, 25-13 on April 30 to clinch its 20th consecutive league title.
The Panthers then defeated Thomas Worthington 25-12, 25-10, 25-22 on May 2 and Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-19, 25-20, 25-27, 25-22 on May 4 and were 20-2 overall and 13-0 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Bradley on May 7. They will compete in the home OCC Challenge on Tuesday, May 14.
The Division I East Region tournament draw will be held Monday, May 13, with the tournament scheduled to begin May 18.
The Panthers are seeking their 14th consecutive state tournament appearance.
Softball team opens postseason
The softball team had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 7-4 loss to Bradley in a game that began May 1 and concluded May 2 because of bad weather.
The Panthers fell to 12-12 overall and finished 10-4 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Darby is seeded 20th of 45 teams in the Division I district tournament and had a first-round bye. The Panthers played host to 23rd-seeded Davidson in the second round May 8, with the winner facing top-seeded Westerville Central or 41st-seeded Columbus West in a district semifinal Monday, May 13, at a site to be determined. That winner advances to a district final May 17 or 18 at Pickerington Central.
The Panthers were 7-11 before reeling off wins against Worthington Kilbourne (10-0 on April 18), Scioto (11-7 on April 22), Jerome (5-3 on April 24), Thomas (15-3 on April 29) and Berlin (5-1 on April 30).
Girls track team aims for another OCC title
The girls track and field team will be seeking its fourth consecutive league title when it competes in the OCC-Cardinal meet Thursday, May 9, and Saturday, May 11, at Davidson.
In last year's league meet, the Panthers scored 146.5 points to finish ahead of Thomas (141), Scioto (116), Delaware (93), Jerome (63.5), Kilbourne (39.5) and Bradley (31.5).
Darby competed in the seven-team Bradley Invitational on May 3, finishing first (164.5) ahead of runner-up Davidson (135).
The Panthers won nine events, including all four relays. Individual winners were Syd Thomas in the 200 meters (25.96 seconds), Daniella Santos in the 1,600 (5:12.52), Gabrielle Hammonds in the 100 hurdles (15.58), Stacia Rispress in the high jump (5 feet) and Naomi Walters in the long jump (16-2 3/4).
Hammonds, Maliyah Ellis, Thomas and Syd Wyngarden won the 400 relay (49.72), Ellis, Walters, Zayna Hampton and Wyngarden won the 800 relay (1:46.67), Hampton, Wyngarden, Santos and Thomas won the 1,600 relay (4:10.54) and Erin Cowen, Alivia Cannon, Mia Wyngarden and Kristal Singh won the 3,200 relay (10:07.56).
The boys team finished seventh (12) in the Bradley Invitational, behind champion Pickerington North (137).
In the league meet last season, the Panthers finished second (128.5), behind Bradley (143.5) and ahead of Thomas (104.5), Jerome (98), Scioto (77.5), Kilbourne (42) and Delaware (35).
Below are the coming schedules for the Darby boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse teams:
May 14 -- At fourth-seeded Centerville in first round of Division I, Region 3 tournament. Winner plays seventh-seeded Davidson or 13th-seeded Pickerington North in regional quarterfinal May 17. The Panthers are seeded ninth of 16 teams.
May 14 -- At ninth-seeded Centerville in first round of Division I, Region 3 tournament. Winner plays top-seeded Upper Arlington, 11th-seeded Miamisburg or 15th-seeded Marysville in regional quarterfinal May 17. The Panthers are seeded 10th of 17 teams.