Grove City High School softball coach Ted Williams sees similarities between his current team and his 2014 squad that reached the Division I state final.
The 12th-seeded Greyhounds earned their first district title since 2014 with a 6-1 win over 19th-seeded Dublin Coffman on May 17 at Pickerington Central. They were 21-8 before playing Westerville Central in a regional semifinal May 22 at Ohio State, with the winner facing Gahanna or Mount Vernon in the regional final Saturday, May 25, at Ohio State.
The 2014 team lost to North Canton Hoover 10-2 in the state final. If the Greyhounds win a regional title, they'll play in a state semifinal May 31 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
"I compare that 2014 team to what we have right now," Williams said. "The '14 team we had a lot of speed, we hit the ball really well and we played defense, and that's what we have here. Our pitching isn't dominant. We're not going to strike out 15 a game. We have to play defense."
Mylie Torres went the distance in the circle against Coffman, allowing three hits while striking out six and walking one.
"I thought we were doing very well," Torres said. "I knew that we had the defense behind me and we can all hit, so I knew that we had it in the bag."
The Greyhounds took control early, scoring all their runs in the first two innings.
Maddie Wilcox doubled to lead off the first and scored on Abby Tschiggfrie's single. Tschiggfrie scored on Lauren Walls' single, and Walls scored the third run on Kendall Weber's double.
Grove City added to its lead in the second on Sydney Sharron's three-run double to right-center, which just eluded the reach of Coffman center fielder Haley Newland.
"That made things much nicer," Williams said of the early lead. "Sydney's hit to go up six in the second inning was huge. A little bit of the pressure was off us. It was on them to hit the ball and that took the bunt away from them."
Rylee Anspach homered in the fourth for the Shamrocks.
If the Greyhounds reach the regional final, they could face a Gahanna team that they defeated 8-2 on April 15 and 7-2 on April 30 in OCC-Ohio Division play.
"We're not surprised (by winning a district title)," Walls said. "We have a lot of confidence in ourselves. We're pretty good on defense and our offense has started to come together."
The Greyhounds advanced to the district final with a 6-3 win over third-seeded Delaware in a semifinal May 14 at Central.
After Delaware pulled to within 4-3 with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, Grove regained control on Torres' two-run home run in the seventh.
Walls had three hits, and Torres and Katelyn DeWeese each added two.
Torres allowed seven hits and struck out two in a complete-game effort.
Track teams send three to district
The boys and girls track and field teams advanced three athletes to the Division I regional meet that began May 22 and concludes Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North.
Kingston McKinstry and Adam Meister of the boys team and Morgan Lemponen of the girls squad qualified with top-four finishes in the district 1 meet that concluded May 18 at Hilliard Darby.
At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
McKinstry led the boys at district by finishing second in the long jump (22 feet, 1 inch). The senior said he began competing in the event late in the regular season.
"Coach (Jane Taylor) knew I had the talent to make it to regional and maybe even further," McKinstry said.
Meister was third in the 800 meters (1 minute, 56.23 seconds) and entered regional looking to establish a program record in the event. David Andrews has held the top time (1:54.6) since 1976.
"I'm very happy because that was a hard race," Meister said. "My legs weren't feeling too good before it. I ran as hard as I could. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't beat the school record. I'd like to beat the school record at the next meet. I'm close. If I went to regional and broke that record, I hope to go to state. That's been a goal for a long time."
The boys finished ninth (24 points) at district behind champion Pickerington Central (137) as 17 teams scored.
Lemponen earned the girls team's lone regional berth by tying for second in the pole vault (11-0).
"I'm so glad because she was so focused on getting to regional," Taylor said. "That was her big goal."
The girls finished 13th (14) behind champion Darby (106) as 17 teams scored.
"We're so happy," Taylor said. "It was a good (meet). All the kids did what they wanted to accomplish."
Baseball team endures disappointing season
As baseball coach Ryan Alexander reflected on what he considered a disappointing season, he couldn't help but look ahead to next year.
The Greyhounds finished 12-16 overall and went 5-9 in the OCC-Ohio to place fourth behind champion Lancaster (12-3).
"It was definitely a letdown for Grove City baseball and we're going to continue to work to fix that," said Alexander, whose team loses 11 seniors. "It will definitely be on our minds all offseason and how we prepare for games. We're going to have to take a deep look at everything we do."
After defeating 38th-seeded Westland 10-0 in five innings in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 14 at home, the 16th-seeded Greyhounds lost at 15th-seeded Central Crossing 10-2 in the second round May 15.
"We have a great community," Alexander said. "That game was awesome. There were tons of Grove City fans, tons of Central Crossing fans. It was a great atmosphere for our kids to play in. We brought our game that we brought too many times this year. Routine plays that did not get made gave them runs, and once you give a team runs, they start playing with a different energy level and different confidence level."
Junior Jacob Burris (C/OF) led the offense, batting .429 with a team-high 24 RBI, seven doubles and two home runs.
Senior Luke Barnhart (OF) hit .309, and freshman Jackson Ware (OF/P) hit .296 with 10 RBI after being promoted from the junior varsity in the 10th game.
Senior Connor Goss (P) had 19 RBI, senior D.J. Neff (2B) had 13 and senior Garrett Hardy (1B) added 11.
Senior Jacob Boyd (P) was 5-4 with a 3.42 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 20 walks in 43 innings, and senior Tyler Ebert (P) was 2-0 with a 2.80 ERA, 23 strikeouts and 10 walks in 25 innings.
Others eligible to return are juniors Laythen Arnold (OF), Zach Elliott (OF), Colby Gulick (utility), Brayden Quincel (INF), Cole Schreck (P), Brayden Skibinski (P), Luke Smith (OF/1B) and Gavin Wolf (P/3B) and sophomores Jared Knight (P/OF) and Sam Roy (C).
Highlights this season included winning all three league games against Gahanna, which finished second in the OCC-Ohio at 10-5, and defeating Lancaster 4-3 on May 1.