Several New Albany High School baseball fans wore shirts featuring the hashtag "#unfinishedbusiness" to the Eagles' Division I district final against Gahanna on May 22 at Ohio Dominican.
Those shirts might make another appearance Thursday, May 30, as New Albany takes on Upper Arlington in a regional semifinal at Dublin Coffman, the same field on which the reason for the Eagles' "unfinished business" took place a year ago.
While the Eagles will not get another shot at Olentangy Liberty, which eliminated New Albany 8-1 in a regional final last year on its way to the state championship, the Eagles simply are focused on winning four more games to capture their first Division I state title.
"We've been thinking about this since last year, working our way back and taking it one game at a time," shortstop Nick Shroyer said. "Unfinished business, we've still got some of it."
New Albany, which was the top seed in the district tournament, improved to 27-1 with a 1-0 win over fifth-seeded Gahanna. Pitcher Mike Sokol held the Lions to two hits in a complete-game win, striking out five and walking two, and Shroyer singled home Jack Scharfe with the only run in the bottom of the seventh.
"We knew those hits would fall eventually. Luckily, it came to me and I was able to come through," said Shroyer, who was 2-for-3 with a double. "I just wanted to be aggressive. I didn't want to regret anything. I was swinging at anything and luckily it was over the plate and I was able to push it through."
Sokol gave up only two singles, in the fourth and sixth innings.
"I just had to throw strikes, get ahead of batters and do my job," Sokol said. "I trust my defense. I was able to throw my pitches and let the defense take care of it. We have a good hitting team. All of us just have to do our job, come out here and let whatever happens happen."
New Albany is 6-0 in one-run games, including two victories last week. The Eagles scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh May 20, the second coming on Brock Tibbitts' walk-off single, to defeat 20th-seeded Groveport 4-3 in a district semifinal at Coffman.
New Albany has won 15 consecutive games dating to a 4-1 loss to Groveport in OCC-Capital Division play April 15.
"The way we've played all year, they've been pitching battles pretty much every time out and we have the staff to keep us in those games," coach Dave Starling said. "(The district final) was one of those games where we hit the ball hard and if we got a couple of those line drives to fall, we certainly have a few more runs on the board. You can get as mad or frustrated in the dugout as you want but sometimes it works out that way. You just have to be resilient and keep coming back with great at-bats and that's what we did. We finally found a way to push a run across."
The New Albany-UA winner will play Hilliard Darby or Lancaster in the regional final Friday, May 30, at Coffman. The regional champion will advance to a state semifinal June 7 at Canal Park in Akron.
Starling congratulated each of his players as they lined up to receive their district championship medals and admitted he teared up in the process.
"I was a lot emotional," Starling said. "I love these guys. To see them experience this, I am so happy for them. They're an exceptional group and yes, we still have things to accomplish."
Zimmerman to throw at state track meet
Henry Zimmerman of the boys track and field team called the discus throw that qualified him for this weekend's Division I state meet "a safety throw," because it came two attempts after he began the regional meet May 22 at Pickerington North with a foul.
And although his runner-up throw of 164 feet, 5 inches was by far his best toss of the night, the junior thinks he has plenty left to prove in the state final Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
"One referee was pretty focused on where my feet were, especially because I'd fouled earlier, so it wasn't necessarily an 'all-out' throw. I just wanted to advance at that point," Zimmerman said. "I definitely think I have more left in the tank. I am pleased but not satisfied."
Zimmerman was 11 inches shy of first-place Christian Burkhart of Darby. The top four finishers in each event advanced to state Friday, May 31, and June 1.
Zimmerman's other throws May 22 went 157-2, 148-11 and 142-4.
Also competing May 22 but failing to advance were boys runner Michiah Burton in the 100 meters (11th, 11.43 seconds) and the girls 3,200 relay of Kiara Crumbley, Mia Lachey, Lindsey Neff and Sammie Sika (13th, 10:07.84).
Finals for the running events took place May 24.
Girls lacrosse team wins regional title
Emily Rezabek had five goals and two assists and Jillian Bingman, Blythe Ferguson and Alyssa Kneedler each added three goals May 23 as the top-seeded girls lacrosse team won its fourth consecutive regional championship, defeating second-seeded Olentangy 21-7 in the Division I, Region 1 final at Westerville Central.
New Albany improve to 18-3 and advanced into a state semifinal against Massillon Jackson on May 29 at a neutral site. The winner will play Cincinnati Sycamore or Upper Arlington in the state final Saturday, June 1, at Ohio Wesleyan.
New Albany lost to UA 11-8 on April 20 and fell to the Bears 11-5 in last year's state championship.
The Eagles routed visiting and fifth-seeded Medina 18-3 in a regional semifinal May 20 as Rezabek scored five goals, Liz Beckner had four and Chloe Platte added three. Goalkeeper Julia Brisk made three saves and Aubrey Bagenstose stopped one shot.
Tennis team competes in state tourneys
The boys tennis team wrapped up its season last weekend when it competed in both the Division I state individual tournament and the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I state team tournament.
Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose sought their second consecutive doubles championship and Ryan Mudre competed in singles in the individual tournament, which was May 24 and 25 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
On May 26, the Eagles tried for their first team championship in the OTCA tournament at Reynoldsburg.
The Eagles, who were 15-1 before playing Mason in a state semifinal, were OTCA state runners-up each of the past two seasons.
'Tight-knit' boys lacrosse team reflects
The boys lacrosse team won 15 games for the second consecutive season and was in the hunt for the OCC-Buckeye championship until the final night of the regular season, but advanced just two rounds into the postseason.
New Albany went 15-5 overall and was seeded third in the 16-team Division I, Region 3 tournament, losing to visiting and sixth-seeded St. Charles 5-4 in a regional quarterfinal May 17. The Eagles went 5-2 in the OCC-Buckeye, finishing third behind champion Liberty (7-0).
"We had a very talented group of players this year (and) an even better group of young men," coach Danny Gibson said. "The senior class was very tight-knit and showed their passion and care for this program more than I've seen before in the past. We had a great opportunity and showed greatness multiple times, which shed light on who we 'could be' when we played our game. Our staff continued to build as a second-year staff at New Albany and we continued to integrate our culture with our program all the way down to the youth."
Senior midfielder Brode White, a Furman recruit, scored a team-high 45 goals and had 19 assists. Senior attacker Cody Roberts, who will play at Ohio Wesleyan, had 35 goals and 13 assists and sophomore Max Dupler had 25 goals and 15 assists.
Senior goalie Perry Doran, a Monmouth recruit, made 118 saves.
Senior midfielder Peter Ackley (1 goal, 239 faceoff wins), a Bates recruit, was league Player of the Year. Senior long-stick midfielder Ben Chaddock, senior defender Luke Muter and White also were first-team all-league and Dupler, junior defender Patrick Gurd and Roberts were second-team all-league. Doran was named honorable mention all-league.
Chaddock will play at Nazareth. Senior defenders Lonnie Kelley and Grayson Yanok are Otterbein recruits and Muter will play at Furman.
Other players eligible to return include juniors Alex Brendle (attacker), Lucas Kasper (defender) and Sal Poggiali (attacker) and sophomores Grayson Passias (midfielder) and Brayden Wong (midfielder).