The Upper Arlington High School baseball team's first Division I district championship since 2010 might prove especially memorable given how it had to grind out its two biggest wins of the season so far.
The seventh-seeded Golden Bears needed 11 innings to edge 30th-seeded Pickerington Central 1-0 in a district semifinal May 20 at Hamilton Township, and two days later led fourth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 3-0 in a district final at Dublin Coffman only to see the Patriots rally to tie the game, a rally aided by a catcher's interference call.
In the seventh inning, Tommy Dilz scored the winning run on a balk and the Bears held off the Patriots 4-3 to advance to face fourth-ranked New Albany in a regional semifinal Thursday, May 30, at Coffman.
UA enters the game 20-9, while New Albany is 27-1.
"We told our guys when I got hired in July that we had three goals: we wanted to win 20 games, win our league (the OCC-Central Division) and win a district title. We came into (May 22) 19-9 and we had a chance to accomplish goals two and three. That was real important to us," coach Sam Clark said. "This was a big win. Now, we'll get ready for New Albany."
UA took a 1-0 lead against Liberty in the first inning when Charlie Fleming drove in Sammy Sass. The Bears added two runs in the third, scoring one on an RBI double by Andrew Whetsell and the other on a groundout.
Liberty, last year's Division I state champion, scored twice in the fourth and tied the game at 3 in the sixth when Corbin Parrish tagged up from third base. Right fielder Ben Krimm's throw beat Parrish to home plate, but Sass was called for catcher's interference for blocking the plate.
Dilz singled to lead off the top of the seventh, Sass singled him over to third base and Dilz scored when Patriots catcher Jack Metzger was called for a balk.
Liberty coach Ty Brenning argued the call and was ejected.
"I thought (Metzger's) shoulders were definitely towards the plate and thought it was a balk," Clark said. "Umpires make the calls."
Fleming and Ethan Hammerberg combined to hold the Patriots to one hit while UA managed 10.
"Our bats have been dead lately," Sass said. "We haven't really come up swinging it, especially with not even scoring a run (in the district semifinal) until the 11th inning, but we feel really confident in how we did and in the way we prepped (May 21). The bats came alive a little bit and it felt good."
Clark became the third consecutive UA coach to lead his team to a district final in his first season, following Matt Middleton in 2010 and Tom Marker in 2015.
"We've battled all year," Sass said. "We're a senior-driven group, but seniors through freshmen have guided this team. We just grind. That kind of describes us. We're going to grind every time we're out on the field."
The UA-New Albany winner will play Hilliard Darby or Lancaster in the regional final Friday, May 31, at Coffman. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal June 7 at Canal Park in Akron.
The Bears lost to Lancaster 11-1 in five innings on April 25.
UA is vying for its first regional championship since 1990, when the Bears won their last state title a year after finishing as runners-up. UA also advanced to state in 1987 and 1947, finishing first and second, respectively.
For now, the Bears are trying to downplay that this week features its most important game, or more, in almost a decade.
"(The regional tournament) is no different than any other game," Dilz said. "We've just got to play as hard as we can and do what we can do and just get a win."
Girls lacrosse team returns to state
The girls lacrosse team played Cincinnati Sycamore in a Division I state semifinal May 29 at Beavercreek, needing two wins to capture its fifth consecutive state championship and 10th overall.
UA was 18-2-2 before playing Sycamore, coming off an 11-4 win over second-seeded Dublin Jerome in the Region 3 final May 23 at Dublin Scioto. The top-seeded Bears edged the Celtics 11-10 on May 7 but dominated the draw in the rematch, losing only two for the game and building a 6-1 lead by halftime.
Clara Gallapoo took most of the draws, splitting those duties with Ellena Schildmeyer.
"We struggled on the draw with them when we played the first time and that was such a key component, to make sure we sustained possession," coach Wendy Pinta said. "We limited their looks to the cage much better. Depending on what the draw personnel is doing, we use Ellena just because she can hustle out some draws when we need them."
Three goals each from Sophie Ballou and Camryn Callaghan led UA. Schildmeyer added two goals.
The UA-Sycamore winner will play Massillon Jackson or New Albany in the state final Saturday, June 1, at Ohio Wesleyan.
The Bears defeated New Albany 11-8 on April 20 and 11-5 in last year's state final.
"It feels great that we got another win, but we can't guarantee anything," Schildmeyer said. "If we keep playing like we have been ... (the regional final) was the best we've played this tournament season. If we keep the momentum going, we have a really good chance."
Heuerman, McRae prep for state track
Distance runner Heidi Heuerman of the girls track and field team and boys thrower Sean McRae both used personal-best efforts in their respective events to earn berths in the Division I state meet Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1, at Ohio State.
Heuerman advanced to state in the 3,200 meters for the second consecutive season by finishing third (10 minutes, 51.56 seconds) in the regional meet that concluded May 24 at Pickerington North. McRae was runner-up in the shot put (54 feet, 5 3/4 inches).
The top four finishers in each event automatically qualified for state. In addition, two at-large berths were awarded in each event based on time, height or distance statewide.
"I pretty much knew I had to be under 11 minutes. I feel pretty good considering I'd already done that twice this season," Heuerman said. "Our regional was so competitive. It helps you prepare for state because I know that coming from one of the best regions in the state, I have all these girls to compete against."
Heuerman is seeded 10th at state.
McRae, who will make his state debut, is seeded ninth.
"Honestly, I surprised myself a little bit," McRae said. "Throughout the season, my throws had been shorter, in the 48-foot range, and it was really going into district that I got back up toward 50, 51 and 52 feet."
Also competing at regional for the boys team was Isaac Perry, who finished ninth in the 110 hurdles (15.04) and 10th in the 300 hurdles (40.03). UA scored eight points and tied Athens, Jerome, Newark and Westerville South for 25th behind champion Pickerington Central (101) as 42 teams scored.
On the girls side, Adrienne Wachtman placed sixth in the discus (117-10) and eighth in the shot put (36-7), the 800 relay of Cassidy Baran, Adiah Bonham, Elizabeth Schueler and Abbie Sells finished seventh (1:44.44) and Caroline Beery was 10th in the pole vault (10-4).
The Bears tied Franklin Heights and Watterson for 17th (12) behind champion Gahanna (89) as 38 teams scored.
Boys lacrosse team wins regional title
The top-seeded boys lacrosse team used a balanced offense to defeat second-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 13-7 in the Division I, Region 3 final May 24 at Westerville Central and return to the state tournament after a one-year absence.
A.J. Achatz, Sam Campbell and Jack Mason each scored three goals and UA erased a 3-0 deficit by scoring seven unanswered goals. The Bears were 16-5 before playing Cincinnati St. Xavier in a state semifinal May 28 at Centerville.
"Jack Mason stepped up and got us our first goal with seconds left in the first period and that kind of relaxed everyone," coach Kyle Olson said. "We all took a deep breath. When you're down 3-0 to a very good team, everyone was on edge and we lost last year to those guys in this game (8-7) so we were a little tense.
"When you can dominate the faceoffs and value possession, that's what this game is all about at this level. If you can do that, nine times out of 10 you're going to walk away with a win."
UA advanced to the final by defeating sixth-seeded St. Charles 6-3 in a regional semifinal May 21 at Wellington.
The UA-St. Xavier winner will play Cleveland St. Ignatius or Coffman in the state final Saturday, June 1, at Ohio Wesleyan. The Bears, who are seeking their first state championship since 2016 and 17th overall, lost to Coffman 16-5 on May 1 in a game that decided the OCC-Central Division title.
Rowers compete at SRAA Nationals
The girls rowing team's varsity 4 finished fifth (5:50.62) to lead UA at the Scholastic Rowing Association of America Nationals that concluded May 25 at Dillon Lake near Zanesville.
The boys second varsity 8 placed sixth (4:44.1).
UA's three other boats, the girls freshman 8, girls varsity 8 and girls second varsity 8, all were eliminated in the preliminaries.
Volleyball team looks to rebuild
Despite a 3-18 record, boys volleyball coach Chris Van Arsdale was encouraged by his team's growth throughout the season and hopes that progress continues despite losing five players to graduation.
"I think we had a very good year. We certainly wanted a few more in the wins column, but we showed a lot of effort and a desire to improve," said Van Arsdale, who was in his first season with the team and will enter his fifth season coaching the girls team this fall. "My kids loved being in the gym and they loved learning about the game. I couldn't ask for much more than that."
All of UA's wins came in OCC-Ohio play. The Bears won 25-15, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20 at New Albany on April 2, 25-12, 25-21, 25-21 at home against Reynoldsburg on April 10 and 22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-21 over the Raiders on April 25 and finished 3-11 in the league to tie New Albany for sixth behind champion Gahanna (14-0).
Seeded 17th in the 19-team Division I East Region tournament, the Bears lost to fourth-seeded Jerome 25-10, 25-18, 25-12 in a second-round match May 18 at Mount Vernon.
Junior outside hitter Josh Warner was named second-team all-league and senior right-side hitter Michael Edgington was honorable mention all-league.
Others eligible to return include juniors Blake Dean (outside hitter/defensive specialist) and Philippe Nguimbous (middle hitter/right-side hitter).
"Our big goals will be building the program and adding depth to our squad," Van Arsdale said.
"If things go well at the (Ohio High School Athletic Association) level and boys volleyball becomes an emerging sport, (2020) could be a big year for the sport."