A slow start in OCC-Buckeye Division action didn't stop the Olentangy Liberty High School baseball team from reaching one of its goals this spring.
After enduring a three-game losing streak that included consecutive league losses to Orange 2-0 on April 5 and 8-7 on April 8, the Patriots won 15 of their next 17 and didn't lose another league contest.
A 9-1 victory over Olentangy on May 10 wrapped up a second consecutive league championship for Liberty, as it went 13-2 and Orange finished second at 12-3.
"The first week of April we lose two straight league games to Orange and then we go 13-2 in the league," coach Ty Brenning said. "There's a lot of different ways to win it, but that's a heck of a story. We were 14-1 (in the league) last year and had a bump in the road against (Westerville) South early on, but you just don't know how they'll respond when adversity hits. These kids are good-character kids."
Liberty was 20-5 overall and the fourth seed for the Division I district tournament as it began defense of its state championship May 15 at home against 31st-seeded Marion Harding or 47th-seeded Columbus West in a second-round game.
The winner plays 12th-seeded Dublin Scioto or 21st-seeded Canal Winchester in a district semifinal Monday, May 20, at a neutral site. The district final is Wednesday, May 22, at a neutral site, and the district champion plays in a regional semifinal May 30 at Dublin Coffman.
Against Olentangy, Jack Metzger struck out five and gave up six hits and one walk while throwing a complete game as he improved to 5-1. Metzger also was 3-for-3 with a walk, one RBI and two runs scored.
Brennan Rowe went 2-for-3 with one RBI, Corbin Parrish was 2-for-4 with one RBI, Justin Nelson went 3-for-4 with two RBI and one run and Brian Yamokoski was 2-for-4 with two RBI and one run.
Liberty also beat South 11-9 on May 9 and Westerville Central 12-9 on May 8.
"We started off 0-2 in the league and we'd lost three games in a row and could have gotten down on ourselves, but we bounced back as a team and won 13 straight league games, which is good momentum going into the tournament," Metzger said.
Doubles team wins sectional title
Junior Marcelo Aguilar and sophomore Vishnu Bodavula will represent the boys tennis team in the Division I district tournament Thursday, May 16, and Saturday, May 18, at Reynoldsburg.
The top four finishers in doubles advance to the state tournament May 24 and 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
"We've just been practicing a ton," Aguilar said.
"We've worked really hard the past couple weeks and have worked on a lot of stuff," Bodavula said. "We were playing for four or five hours (May 10)."
In a sectional May 11 at Hilliard Bradley, Bodavula and Aguilar beat Dublin Jerome's Andrew Dvorkin and Tanish Pairu 7-5, 6-2 for the championship. They didn't lose a set at sectional.
Also in doubles, Arvind Nair and Nandha Srivenkateswaran lost in the quarterfinal round.
In singles, Tarun Nandakumar was the fourth seed but lost to Scioto's Santhust Prasad 7-5, 6-3 in a quarterfinal.
Also competing in singles were Srihar Chakravarthy, who lost to eventual champion Max Fickas 6-0, 6-0 in a quarterfinal, and Matthew Bu, who defaulted in his quarterfinal against Jerome's Anish Patel.
Volleyball team gets league title share
With a 25-20, 25-16, 23-25, 25-17 victory over Olentangy on May 8, the boys volleyball team avenged a 25-18, 25-18, 12-25, 25-23 loss April 18 and secured a co-championship in the OCC-Buckeye with the Braves at 7-1.
Nick Irelan had 20 kills, five blocks, 13 digs and four serving aces to lead the effort.
"We were much better focused the second time (against Olentangy)," coach Dave Hale said. "The first time they made some plays and we got down early and couldn't come back after getting down by two games. This time we set the tone early.
"It means a lot. We try to win the league every year and Olentangy has won the past couple years. It's good to at least share the title."
Liberty lost to Hilliard Davidson 15-25, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21, 15-8 on May 9 to close the regular season at 11-7 overall.
The Patriots received the eighth seed for the Division I East Region tournament and open Saturday, May 18, at fifth-seeded Olentangy in the second round. The winner plays sixth-seeded Coffman, 12th-seeded Orange or 13th-seeded Westerville Central in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21. The regional final is May 24.
Boys lacrosse team earns outright title
With a 7-6 overtime win May 10 over New Albany, the boys lacrosse team wrapped up the outright OCC-Buckeye championship at 7-0. Sam McCormack scored the winning goal off a pass from Tyson Chapman.
The Patriots won despite losing attacker/midfielder Jacob Kessler to an injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season.
"We have overcome various injuries to key contributors," coach Jason Godwin said. "(Against New Albany) we overcame another one (to Kessler). To claim the outright title at 7-0 was incredibly rewarding to our players and coaching staff. We couldn't be more impressed with the grit, heart and resiliency of our players."
The Patriots were 12-5 overall heading into their Division I, Region 1 tournament opener May 14 against 14th-seeded Wadsworth.
With a win, third-seeded Liberty would play Friday, May 17, at home against sixth-seeded Olentangy or 11th-seeded Scioto. The winner of that game would play second-seeded Jerome, seventh-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne, ninth-seeded Orange or 15th-seeded Brunswick in a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 21, at the home of the better seed. The regional final is May 24.
Track teams open postseason action
The boys and girls track and field teams are competing in the Division I, district 2 meet, which began May 14 and 15 and 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 Pickerington North.
In the OCC-Buckeye meet, which began May 8 at Westerville North and concluded May 11 at Hilliard Davidson, the boys scored 136 points to finish second to Orange (139) and ahead of Westerville Central (95), Olentangy (77), Westerville South (40) and Westerville North (35). The girls were third (106.5) behind Orange (163.5) and Central (120) and ahead of Olentangy (52), North (45) and South (36).
Luke Bendick won the pole vault in an OCC-Buckeye record 15 feet, 9 inches. On his attempt at 16-4 3/4, his pole snapped.
"When I was on my third attempt, I felt like I was focusing on getting the school record too much and I just needed to focus on having fun," Bendick said. "I just tried to change my mentality."
Also winning titles for the boys were Matthew Onate in the 200 meters (21.96 seconds), the 400 relay of Ubby Suligavi, Onate, Aidan McClure and Justin Chrisman (43.8) and the 3,200 relay of Joseph Johnson, Drew Folwarczny, Jack Humenay and Drew Boggs (8:09.39).
Placing second were Humenay in the 3,200 (9:54.56), Johnson in the 800 (1:58.94), Alec Monnin in the high jump (6-0), the 800 relay of Chrisman, McClure, Onate and Suligavi (1:30.55) and the 1,600 relay of Camden Wegner, Holden DeVassie, Onate and Tasker Brown (3:28.01).
"(Winning the 400 relay is) encouraging because it shows our school has a lot of depth," Suligavi said.
For the girls, Gracie Sprankle won the 3,200 in an OCC-Buckeye record 11:09.52.
In the pole vault, Noelle Meeker took first in a jump-off with Orange's Sara Borton after both had cleared 11-0.
Mollie Kunar was first in the shot put (39-6). Finishing second were Sophie Culver in the high jump (4-10) and Nicole Tonetti in the long jump (16-1/4).
Girls lacrosse team begins tourney play
The third-seeded girls lacrosse team was 12-5 after opening the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 13 at home by beating 12th-seeded Westerville Central 24-7.
Liberty plays host to fourth-seeded Perrysburg on Friday, May 17, in a second-round game.
The winner faces second-seeded Olentangy or seventh-seeded Delaware in a regional semifinal Monday, May 20, at the home of the better seed. The regional final is May 23.
Liberty beat Jerome 11-8 on May 11 as Lauren Buddie led with three goals.
Softball team posts 17-win season
After going 10-13 a year ago, the softball team had a late-season coaching change but still finished 17-7 overall while also earning a runner-up finish in the OCC-Buckeye at 8-2, behind Westerville Central (10-0).
On May 8, the eighth-seeded Patriots lost to 18th-seeded Newark 3-2 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
Liberty was 14-6 when Cari DeAngelis stepped down as coach. Ty Kashmiry, who was in his second season as an assistant after previously coaching at the travel level for 15 years, took over as interim coach.
"They did a great job coming together," Kashmiry said. "(The seniors were) a good group for sure."
The Patriots lose a senior class led by Arica Flaugher (C/OF), Sammy Leonhardt (SS/3B), Lauren Pomorski (2B) and Katelyn Wilhelm (P).
Wilhelm went 10-2 with a 1.89 ERA and 171 strikeouts and also had 10 RBI and 11 runs scored. Flaugher batted .429 with six home runs, 28 RBI and 24 runs, Leonhardt batted .375 with 15 runs and Pomorski scored 16 runs.
Juniors Jordan Scheiderer (OF) and Kaitlyn Leary (P/3B) and sophomore Dani Schoenly (OF) should be the top returnees. Scheiderer led the Patriots in batting average at .431 with 24 runs, and Schoenly batted .404 with two home runs, 17 RBI and 21 runs.
Leary batted .321 and also was 5-4 with a 3.52 ERA.
Others eligible to return include juniors Lexi Byrd (1B) and Carrie Scherer (OF) and freshmen Ashley Chevalier (SS/3B/C) and Lindsey Leeds (P/designated player).
Against Newark, the Patriots tied it at 2 in the fifth but gave up the winning run in the 10th.
"We really outplayed them, but we left 15 on base and just couldn't get a run across," Kashmiry said.