A tight-knit Westerville Central High School softball team became even closer in pursuit of its second consecutive Division I district championship.
The Warhawks battled adversity away from the field in their march to the district title, as Angela Wamsley, the wife of coach Brian Wamsley, underwent surgery May 17 to remove a lesion near her brain.
This is her fourth battle with cancer and the prognosis looks promising, according to coach Wamsley.
The team also is coping with the death of Lloyd Linkhorn, the father of assistant coach Chip Linkhorn. The elder Linkhorn died May 11 at age 86.
Using both as motivation, the top-seeded Warhawks cruised to another district title by defeating 13th-seeded Upper Arlington 12-0 in five innings May 18 at Pickerington Central.
"This makes our drive even more," senior center field Avrey Schumacher said. "This makes us want to win even more because we know how much (coach Wamsley) sacrifices for us and for him to not be with his wife at a time like this is huge."
"Obviously, we've had to be a little bit flexible because (coach) has other things going on, but also we can find strength from (his wife) and be able to pull off that and use these games to make him proud," senior second baseman Kylie Collins said.
Wamsley and Linkhorn said they have been touched by the outpouring of support from the Central softball community.
"We're playing inspired," Linkhorn said. "My dad played ball for years and coached. He wouldn't have wanted me to miss this game. ... I don't have any choice but to be focused on this team because I don't want (Wamsley) to be focused on it. I want him to know everything is taken care of. This isn't the first time we've been in this situation. I'm bound and determined to make him proud."
Central was 26-2 before playing Grove City in a regional semifinal May 22 at Ohio State, with the winner playing Gahanna or Mount Vernon in a regional final Saturday, May 25, at Ohio State.
The regional champion plays in a state semifinal May 31 at Firestone Stadium in Akron.
Last season, the Warhawks won their first district title before losing to Teays Valley 8-4 in a regional semifinal.
Against UA, Central took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, capped by Emily Ruck's RBI single to center. Leading 3-0 in the third, the Warhawks broke the game open by scoring six runs, highlighted by Collins' grand slam.
Central secured the title in the fifth on Danielle Ingram's three-run home run.
Ruck earned the win in the circle, allowing four hits while striking out eight and walking three.
Schumacher singled three times, Cami Compson singled twice and doubled and Emilee O'Dee doubled and singled.
"Upper Arlington is a good team," Wamsley said. "They're much better than the 13th seed. They lost some games early that they probably shouldn't have. Kylie's grand slam was big. We can play all aspects of the game. They get the job done. I'm very proud of them."
Central reached the district final with an 8-0 win over 20th-seeded Hilliard Darby in a semifinal May 15 at Olentangy.
Track teams excel at district
Mabinty Kebe won the 300-meter hurdles (42.97 seconds) and was second in the 100 hurdles (15.07) to help lead the girls track and field team in the Division I, district 1 meet that concluded May 18 at Darby.
Kebe, Moriah Johnson, Kendall Allen and Taylor Hickman won the 400 relay (48.63), Kebe, Kayla Jones, Johnson and Chiedza Guyo won the 1,600 relay (3:56.09) and Allen, Hickman, Johnson and Jones won the 800 relay (1:43.27).
Skylar Themelaras won the 100 (12.96), Jones won the 800 (2:14.21) and Jones, Tara Will, Lauryn Chapman and Ashley Hockstok were second in the 3,200 relay (9:43.34).
Johnson was second in the 200 (25.94), Gianna Brooks tied for second in the pole vault (11 feet), Chapman was fourth in the 800 (2:24.6) and Will was fourth in the 1,600 (5:22.51).
The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional, which began May 22 and concludes Friday, May 24, at Pickerington North. At regional, the top four in each event advance to state May 31 and June 1 at Ohio State.
Central finished third at district (103 points) behind champion Darby (106) as 17 teams scored.
Rickey Hyatt Jr. led the boys, winning the long jump (23-8 1/4) and finishing second in the 300 hurdles (39.85) and fourth in the 110 hurdles (14.99).
Myles Williamson, D.J. Johnson, Tyrone Johnson and Dymon Gainey were third in the 1,600 relay (3:24.9), and Hyatt, Gainey, D.J. Johnson and Tyrone Johnson were fourth in the 800 relay (1:29.45).
Devon Richardson was second in the discus (147-6), Tyrone Johnson was fourth in the 400 (49.9) and Tasos Cook was fourth in the high jump (5-11).
Central finished fourth (58) behind champion Pickerington Central (137) as 17 teams scored.
Baseball team plays in district semifinal
The baseball team was 15-12 before playing third-seeded Orange in a Division I district semifinal May 21.
The winner plays sixth-seeded Darby or 18th-seeded Watkins Memorial in a district final Thursday, May 23, at a neutral site, and the district champion plays in a regional semifinal May 30 at Dublin Coffman.
The 13th-seeded Warhawks defeated 25th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 6-5 in the second round May 15 at home, scoring the winning run in the bottom of the seventh.
Boys volleyball team earns tournament win
The boys volleyball team split a pair of matches in the Division I East Region tournament to finish 7-12.
The 13th-seeded Warhawks defeated 12th-seeded Orange 25-15, 25-22, 18-25, 24-26, 15-12 on May 17 in the first round before losing to sixth-seeded Coffman 25-11, 25-14, 25-11 on May 18.
Boys lacrosse team falls to Medina
The 10th-seeded boys lacrosse team lost to fifth-seeded Medina 13-4 in the first round of the Division I, Region 1 tournament May 14 to finish 11-9.
Dawson Kindall scored three goals and Jake Schorling added one.
Girls squad has 'good rebuilding year'
The girls lacrosse team finished 4-13 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Buckeye under first-year coach Abby Schmitz.
Players eligible to return are juniors Aubrey Julian (defender), Rachel Kidd (goalkeeper) and Lucy West (defender), sophomores Nina Dominik (midfielder), Emma Fantine (attacker), Lex Jacobson (defender), Lauren Manton (defender), Jenna Pallaci (midfielder), Meili Tanzillo (attacker) and Kaitlyn Williams (defender) and freshmen Sheila Carpenter (midfielder), Ashley Kerscher (defender), Izzy Muccio (defender), Bailee Shepherd (midfielder) and Kira Shepherd (midfielder).
"We had a good rebuilding year and finally have interest in the sport again in the school," Schmitz said. "Next year will definitely be a good year with 15 returnees on the varsity and the new freshman class coming up."
Seeded 13th for the Division I, Region 1 tournament, the Wildcats lost to third-seeded Liberty 24-7 on May 13 in the first round.