The DeSales High School boys lacrosse team felt like it was finally rounding into form as it won its second consecutive Division II, Region 7 championship May 23, defeating Watterson 10-6 at Westerville South.

But if not for the struggles the Stallions faced earlier in the season, junior Dante Fuller might not have had the chance to make the impact he did.

Fuller considers defender his natural position, as that is where he has played “all my life,” but he also has been an attacker and faceoff specialist this season because of various injuries on the team.

Second-seeded DeSales improved to 14-6 with its regional final victory over the top-seeded Eagles and played Cincinnati Mariemont in a state semifinal May 29 at Centerville.

“I do anything they ask me to. I love playing defense, but I also like scoring goals,” Fuller said. “I like switching things up. If we need an offensive player to score goals, put me in. If we need a stop on defense, put me in there. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

The Stallions have been shorthanded most of the season, at least in comparison to what they expected. Tommy Clayton missed several games early in the year because of a broken hand, Carter Hilleary aggravated a back injury during the season opener March 17 and did not return to game action until a 17-8 home win over third-seeded Columbus Academy in a regional semifinal May 20, and Mason Rickens was out for several games because of a broken right ankle.

Without Clayton, a Jacksonville University recruit who scored 67 goals as a junior, Fuller began the season as an attacker and moved back to defense once Clayton returned in mid-April.

“Wherever we need a quick boost, (Fuller) is the one who steps up and answers the call,” coach Matt Triplet said. “We’ve always known he’s a talented kid and a jack of all trades. We weren’t sure where we’d put him. He’s just been all over the place. Sometimes, we’d switch him in the middle of the game, but we’d usually let him know beforehand.”

Fuller admitted the versatility could be tiring.

“At the start of the year, I’d have to go on offense and then run off the field, grab my pole and then go back on defense,” Fuller said. “It was a lot of running for me, but I think that whatever I have to do, I’ll do it. I don’t care if I’m going to get tired. I have to keep pushing through it. Our coaches expect that from us. I want to play at the next level and be the best player I possibly can be so whenever they put me out there, I’ll go.”

Against Academy, Clayton had six goals, Grant Rodgers scored four, Cole Perrine scored three and goalkeeper Connor Thune made 16 saves.

Kole Perrine and Rodgers each had three goals against Watterson and Thune made six saves.

The DeSales-Mariemont winner will play Chagrin Falls or Toledo St. Francis in the state final Saturday, June 1, at Ohio Wesleyan.

The Stallions defeated St. Francis 7-3 on April 7.

Thomas leads track team at regional

Isaiah Thomas of the boys track and field team won the 200 meters in the Division II regional meet that concluded May 25 at Lexington, breaking a 44-year-old program record in the process, to lead the Stallions into the state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.

Thomas won the 200 in 21.96 seconds, .04 of a second better than the previous record set by Mike Sansone in 1975, and DeSales had 43 points to finish third behind champion Shelby (77) as 44 teams scored.

Thomas was on the runner-up 1,600 relay (3:24.53) with Ian McCandlish, Jonathan Pusateri and Caden Zellner. The 3,200 relay was third (8:04.28) with McCandlish, Pusateri, John Shoemaker and Zellner as the top four finishers in each event automatically advanced to state.

The 800 relay was fifth (1:30.59) with McCandlish, Quintell Quinn, Angelo Ricci and Thomas, as was the 400 relay (43.15) of Jaylen Ball, Erik Nguyen, Quinn and Thomas. Both earned at-large berths, which were awarded to non-automatic qualifiers with the top two times statewide in their events.

Also competing but failing to advance were Ricci in the long jump (fifth, 21 feet, 5 1/2 inches), McCandlish in the 800 (seventh, 22.67), Quinn in the 100 (seventh, 11.3) and 200 (seventh, 23.03), Shoemaker in the 1,600 (eighth, 4:37.27), Pusateri in the 400 (12th, 52.26), Noah Thompson in the high jump (12th, 5-10) and 300 hurdles (14th, 42.88) and Zellner in the 800 (13th, 2:09.17).

The girls team’s season came to an end on the first day of the Division I regional May 22 at Pickerington North.

Raina Jackson finished 11th in the shot put (34-6 1/4), four spots ahead of teammate Ayannah Mabry (15th, 30-4 3/4), and Alexis Johnson was 12th in the 100 hurdles (16.53).

Girls team wins regional title

The girls lacrosse team won its fourth consecutive Division II, Region 7 championship May 24, defeating second-seeded Academy 13-7 at New Albany, and then focused on winning its first state title since 2016.

Sophia Finotti scored five goals to lead top-seeded DeSales. Liz Renken had three goals and Izzy Sauer scored two as the Stallions improved to 19-1 and advanced to a state semifinal against Mariemont on May 29 at Centerville. Mariemont defeated DeSales 15-14 in a state semifinal last year.

The Stallions used an almost identical scoring output May 21 in a 12-10 win over visiting and fifth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in a regional semifinal. Finotti had four goals, Renken scored three and Sauer added two.

The DeSales-Mariemont winner will play Chagrin Falls or Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in the state final Saturday, June 1, at Ohio Wesleyan.

The Stallions defeated Chagrin Falls 13-4 on April 27.

Baseball team falls in district semifinal

The baseball team played another tight postseason game with CCL rival Hartley in a Division II district semifinal May 20 at Ohio Dominican, losing 8-6 to the top-seeded Hawks to finish 17-11 overall.

Seven players had one hit each for the seventh-seeded Stallions.

Hartley led 5-0 after two innings and DeSales took a 6-5 lead with one run in the third and five in the fourth, only to see its lead disappear for good when the Hawks scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth.

Hartley defeated the Stallions in a district final last year with a no-hitter. The two teams went 6-2 in the CCL this season to share the league championship with Watterson.

“We were finally able to punch some (runs) across and … unfortunately we gave them way too many bases,” coach Tom Neubert said. “We gave them too many baserunners, too many passed balls and too many wild pitches. You’re putting them in scoring position and, unfortunately, that’s a tough way to win games when you go like that.”

DeSales, which started 1-4, had won seven of its previous eight games before the district semifinal. The only loss in that stretch was to Hartley, 12-6 on May 6.

“The second half of the year was really good. I’m proud of my guys for the work they put in,” Neubert said. “We battled, we went to work and they started believing in themselves and started playing with some confidence.”

Senior Joey Velazquez (P/OF), who will play baseball and football at Michigan, led the Stallions in batting average (.474), hits (36) and RBI (39) and had all seven of the team’s home runs. Senior Aaron Kauser (P/1B/C) batted .400 with 26 hits and 14 RBI.

Also recording more than 20 hits were seniors Michael Pallaci (P, .392, 29 hits) and Thomas Sauer (C/P/3B, .367, 21 hits).

Kauser was 5-2 with a 1.74 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 13 walks in 40 1/3 innings and Velazquez was 2-1 with a 1.34 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 14 walks in 28 1/3 innings.

Junior Dominic Verne is a candidate to help anchor the pitching staff next year, as he was 2-1 with a 1.27 ERA, 16 strikeouts and five walks in 27 2/3 innings.

Other players eligible to return include juniors Owen Faulkner (P/INF/OF) and Jonathan Franzmann (OF/P). Faulkner, Kauser, Sauer and Velazquez all were named first-team all-league and senior Colin Doyle (1B/3B/P) and Pallaci were second-team all-league.

Boys volleyball team hopes to reload

The boys volleyball team is losing several of its top players to graduation, including seniors Zach Clarke (libero), Kevin Nguyen (outside hitter) and Nick Topacio (setter), after finishing 9-11 overall.

Nguyen had a team-high 87 kills as well as 258 assists and 55 digs. Clarke had 216 digs and 17 aces, and Topacio had 260 assists.

“We had some growth with our young players in the program, (but we) could never get a consistent offensive performance in crucial parts of matches,” coach Andy Feltz said. “Zach Clarke had a tremendous year with his defense and leadership. Kevin Nguyen was our most improved player. His serve receive and attacking were solid during the second half of the season when we piled up most of our wins.”

DeSales went 7-3 after a 2-8 start, but went 0-4 in the CCL. Seeded fifth in the 12-team Division II East Region tournament, the Stallions lost to fourth-seeded Kilbourne 25-14, 25-16, 25-18 in a second-round match May 18 at Licking Heights.

“I look forward to next year’s incoming freshman class with lots of volleyball experience and size,” Feltz said. “The CCL graduates a lot of talent this year, and we hope to surge back into contention as our young players grow.”

Athletes announce college decisions

Four student-athletes announced their college decisions May 21.

Mikey Cockerell and Cristian Gomez will play soccer at Ohio Wesleyan, Kayin Derden will play basketball at Ohio Dominican and Cesar Ramirez will play soccer at Mount Union.

Cockerell is from Blacklick. Derden, Gomez and Ramirez are from Columbus.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave