The Westerville Central High School softball team reached new heights behind solid pitching from junior Emily Ruck and a potent offense.
The Warhawks played in their first Division I state tournament, where they lost to Liberty Township Lakota East 4-3 in a semifinal May 31 at Firestone Stadium in Akron to finish 28-3 overall.
"It was a magical season," coach Brian Wamsley said. "It was a real shame we lost, but I told them they can't dwell on the last game. They have to think about the entire season as a whole. There were a whole bunch of central Ohio teams back home listening to this or watching this and wishing they were here. They did a fantastic job.
"I told them if this is the worst thing that ever happens to you in your life, you're going to be fine."
Central opened the scoring on senior Avrey Schumacher's RBI single in the first inning. After falling behind 3-1, the Warhawks tied the game on junior Cami Compson's RBI groundout and Schumacher's home run to right in the third.
Schumacher also doubled and singled.
Lakota East scored the eventual winning run in the bottom of the fourth. It went on to lose to Louisville 14-10 in 10 innings in the title game June 1.
Ruck, a transfer from Amanda-Clearcreek, finished 22-1 with a 0.96 ERA. She had 231 strikeouts and 73 walks in 123 2/3 innings and helped her cause at the plate by batting .400. She was named OCC-Buckeye Division Player of the Year and first-team all-state and all-district.
Compson (OF) led the Warhawks in batting average (.600), hits (57), doubles (9), home runs (9) and RBI (53). She was first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state.
Schumacher (OF) batted .540 with a team-high seven triples and was first-team all-district and all-league. Sophomore Emily O'Dee (SS) batted .451 with a team-high 51 runs and 13 stolen bases and was second-team all-league. Senior Kyle Collins (2B) batted .426 and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
"If I could go back to freshman year, my first game, I couldn't have written a better story for how our careers would have gone," Collins said. "It's special to be a part of. Beyond all the wins and losses, the memories we had at practice and off the field, those things are the biggest trophy I could have ever gotten."
Junior Danielle Ingram (OF) hit .383 and was second-team all-league, sophomores Hannah Hunt (3B) and Lexi Recinella (2B/OF; .392) were special mention all-league and junior Rachel Fields (P) was honorable mention all-league.
"It was a magical team to coach," said Wamsley, who was named league Coach of the Year. "I'm going to miss coaching this team. This is the best team that I've ever coached and not just as far as wins and losses, but just the team unity that they had. They're magical and we're going to miss these six seniors."
Senior Sydney Stepp (P/1B) missed most of the year with a right bicep injury, but returned late in the season and played first base during the team's postseason run.
"It was really special," Stepp said of her return to action. "My teammates were supportive the whole time and it was fun to be out there."
The Warhawks won their second consecutive district title by defeating Upper Arlington 12-0 in five innings May 18 at Pickerington Central. They captured their first regional title with a 3-2 win over Mount Vernon on May 25 at Ohio State.
Central also won the OCC-Buckeye at 10-0.
Other players eligible to return are sophomore Sydney Zuelzke (OF) and freshman Kiersten Stepp (2B/1B).
Boys volleyball team 'grew a lot'
A highlight for the boys volleyball team was defeating 12th-seeded Olentangy Orange 25-15, 25-22, 18-25, 24-26, 15-12 in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament May 17.
The 13th-seeded Warhawks lost to sixth-seeded Dublin Coffman 25-11, 25-14, 25-11 in the second round May 18 to finish 7-12.
"Although this season didn't go as expected, the team grew a lot as the season went on," coach Jimi Yu said. "I'm extremely proud of the seniors and will miss them very much. They played hard and inspired the underclassmen, which is more than anything I could ask for."
Senior setter Stephen Gerardi was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-region.
Seniors Ryan Kannenwischer (outside hitter) and Will Latham (middle hitter) were second-team all-league, and senior libero Maxwell James was honorable mention all-league.
Kannenwischer led Central in kills (226) and aces (27), Gerardi led in assists (389) and James led in digs (179).
Other players eligible to return are juniors Aidan Flannery (right-side hitter/outside hitter), Richard Marple (right-side hitter) and Justin Wade (outside hitter).