The Reynoldsburg High School baseball team headed into the Division I district tournament following a regular season in which it was forced to navigate challenging circumstances.
In addition to being faced with three matchups apiece against a trio of OCC-Ohio Division opponents that were among the top eight seeds for the postseason in Lancaster, Gahanna and Pickerington North, the Raiders dealt with injuries to several key players.
Before playing May 13 at 21st-seeded Canal Winchester in their opening tournament contest, the 32nd-seeded Raiders were 9-15 overall.
"When I make a pitching change, four people move to make it work," coach Bob Benjamin said. "With the injuries, we lost our (Nos.) 3 and 4 (hitters). The other seniors have been stepping up. (Junior) Reece Crabtree has been stepping up. (Junior) Drew Cook has been stepping up. ... We've pitched pretty well this year."
If the Raiders beat Canal Winchester, they played May 15 at 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto in a second-round game.
The winner faces fourth-seeded and defending state champion Olentangy Liberty, 31st-seeded Marion Harding or 47th-seeded Columbus West in a district semifinal Monday, May 20, at a neutral site. The winner of that game plays in a district final Wednesday, May 22, at a neutral site, with the most likely opponents being seventh-seeded Upper Arlington or 10th-seeded Dublin Coffman.
The district champion plays in a regional semifinal May 30 at Coffman.
Senior Michael Tooker and Crabtree have led the pitching staff.
Tooker earned the win as the Raiders beat Grove City 5-2 on May 7 for one of their two league victories.
Reynoldsburg, which lost to North 6-3 on May 8 and Lancaster 6-2 on May 10 to finish 2-12 in the OCC-Ohio, earned its other league victory April 10 when Tooker gave up three runs over the first two innings but settled down to help the Raiders win 7-3 over Grove City.
In a 1-0 loss in 11 innings to North on April 24, Crabtree gave up seven hits and three walks while striking out four as he threw 118 pitches over 10 1/3 innings.
Cook began the season battling injuries but has stepped in at catcher and also could see time in the future at pitcher.
The Raiders lost senior infielder Drew Hall and sophomore shortstop Corey Brafford -- both were hitting in the middle of the lineup -- to midseason injuries.
Brafford was batting .418 when he broke a thumb sliding into second base April 29.
Junior Gavin Smith (2B/OF) and junior outfielder Kaleb Holland both have hit better than .300 to lead the offense.
Tooker, a Baldwin Wallace commit, has tried to do his part to keep the Raiders in games when he's on the mound.
"It's really been just everybody trying to throw strikes, not trying to do too much," Tooker said. "I've just been working my curveball really well, working different pitches in, changing speeds a lot, going from fastballs to curveballs to two-seams and changing speeds as much as I can and not letting batters get a groove on me."
Track teams earn pair of OCC titles
Jeremiah Burton won the boys shot put (54 feet, 11 1/4 inches) and Jessica Ricks won the girls 100-meter hurdles (14.94 seconds) in the OCC-Ohio track and field meet held May 9 and 11 at Groveport.
The boys placed fourth (72) behind Pickerington Central (158), Lancaster (108) and Pickerington North (97) and ahead of Gahanna (59) and Grove City (29). The girls were fifth (51) behind Gahanna (176), Lancaster (125), North (79) and Central (72) and ahead of Grove City (20).
The teams now are competing in the Division I, district 3 meet, which concludes Saturday, May 18, at Hilliard Darby. The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional Wednesday, May 22, and May 24 at North.
Also in the league meet, Muhammad Fall was runner-up in the 300 hurdles (39.6) and third in the 110 hurdles (14.81). He scraped his knee while competing in the 110 hurdles and didn't compete on the 1,600 relay, but expects to be in that event during the postseason.
"I'll be fine for (district)," Fall said. "Overall, since we've had a lot of lineup changes, I thought we did pretty well. We're still trying to get our chemistry back up. We have a lot of younger kids (in the relays). I've got a lot of optimism and am just trying to stay humble."
The boys were runners-up in the 800 relay (1:32.24) and 1,600 relay (3:28.86), and placing third were Adrian Logan in the 300 hurdles (40.2) and Keyshawn Brown in the 200 (22.81). Kyle Cannon was fourth in the 400 (51.75) and Camby Goff was fourth in the long jump (21-5).
Earning a runner-up finish for the girls was its 400 relay of Adja Mbow, Jamiona Ross, Mya Graham and Ricks (49.22), while its 1,600 relay of Mbow, Graham, Ross and Bre Johnson (4:10.45) and its 3,200 relay of Mbow, Kristin Sheets, Abby Robinson and Tayla Lee (10:44.85) both were third.
Also for the girls, Milan Patterson was fourth in the long jump (17-1/4) and Leah Goodwin was fourth in the shot put (33-9 1/2).
Tennis team wins two sectional matches
In a Division I sectional May 9 on its home courts, the boys tennis team picked up a pair of victories but didn't have anyone advance to the district tournament.
In singles, Preston Harmon beat Olentangy Orange's Dillon Messick 6-4, 6-1 but lost to Mount Vernon's Matthew Dinnen 6-0, 6-0 in the second round. Boban Mihajlov and James Knorr lost in the first round.
The doubles team of Chase Cotner and Brian McClain opened with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Chillicothe's Jonah Halm and Garrett Anders but lost to Thomas Worthington's Ryley Briones and Mitch Button 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) in the second round.
Gunnar Green and Sean Burns lost in the first round of doubles.
Volleyball team preps for tourney
The boys volleyball team found out its drawing for the Division I East Region tournament May 13.
The Raiders were 1-22 overall before facing Westerville North on May 14. They lost to New Albany 22-25, 25-22, 25-14, 26-24 on May 7 to close OCC-Ohio play at 0-14.
On May 8, Reynoldsburg lost to Thomas 25-19, 27-25, 25-9.
Softball team falls short against Tigers
The softball team held a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning but couldn't hang on as it lost to 11th-seeded Pickerington Central 4-3 on May 8 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
The 29th-seeded Raiders opened the postseason with a 9-5 victory over 39th-seeded Westerville South on May 6. Senior pitcher Olivia Rettke struck out nine while throwing a complete game and senior infielder Zoe Kirk had two hits and two RBI.
Then against Central, the Raiders took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh but gave up two in the bottom of the inning. Junior infielder Nicole Pearce and senior outfielder Alexis Langwasser both had two hits, but Reynoldsburg committed five errors.
After going 15-10 overall and 4-6 in the OCC-Ohio last season, the Raiders were 8-16 overall and 0-10 in the league this spring.
The Raiders lose a five-member senior class that also featured Amanda McIntyre (OF) and Alejandra Zamora (2B/3B).
Rettke, who will play for Ohio Dominican, finished among the area leaders in strikeouts with 182 and also hit five home runs.
Others eligible to return include juniors Tiffany Bailey (OF/1B), Deanna Boster (OF), Josie Dunn (utility) and Ellie Rannebarger (utility), sophomore Paige Coey (2B/OF/P) and freshmen Olivia Elston (utility), Madelyn Rettke (P/1B/2B) and Alexis Romero (SS/3B/C).