Gahanna Lincoln Roundup: Lions softball squad excited for future

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Sophomore Kirnan Bailey is expected to be one of the top returnees for Gahanna, which saw its season end in a Division I district semifinal after winning district championships in 10 of the past 12 seasons.

When she was still in her early elementary school years, Kirnan Bailey was among those who attended camps put on by the Gahanna Lincoln softball program. 

After losing her freshman season to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the sophomore was among those who got their first experiences at the prep level this spring in what the program hopes will represent a bridge season for future success. 

After winning Division I district championships in 10 of the past 12 seasons, the Lions had their season end in a district semifinal with a 4-3 loss in eight innings May 17 at third-seeded Mount Vernon. 

Gahanna, which was the 18th seed and beat 15th-seeded Thomas Worthington 7-1 on May 12 in the second round, finished 13-11 overall. 

The Lions were leading Mount Vernon 3-1 before the Yellow Jackets rallied to force extra innings.

Gahanna’s 2019 season also ended with a loss to Mount Vernon, as the Lions fell 8-5 in a regional semifinal. 

“We’re a young team,” Bailey said. “We just needed to jell together before we could actually compete. It’s definitely a change (to compete at the prep level for the first time) because you need to adapt to every single pitcher because every pitcher is different.” 

According to coach Jim Campolo, players such as Bailey and her freshman sister, Mattie Bailey, are reasons to be optimistic about the program’s future. 

Kirnan started at shortstop, hit better than .500 and never struck out while batting leadoff for most of the season. Mattie served as a flex player and also played at third base. 

The Lions ended the year with just three seniors in Kelsey Cripe (CF), Dani Shoulders (1B) and Olivia Zeltman (RF). 

Gahanna, which finished third (6-4) in the OCC-Ohio Division behind Grove City (10-0) and Westerville Central (8-2), got three hits, three runs and three stolen bases from Kirnan Bailey in the postseason win over Thomas. 

“She comes from a family that’s really just dedicated to softball,” Campolo said. “Ever since those kids were babies, they’ve traveled all over the country with us. We’ll be playing in Florida and there’s the Bailey family. (Kirnan) told me years ago that the only thing she wanted to do was play for (me).” 

Sophomore Ella Esterby gave up just two hits against Thomas and should return as the No. 1 pitcher next season. 

Juniors Lexi Berry (P/OF), Lilly Campbell (3B) and Lindsey Linker (OF) and sophomore Nicole Waters (C) also were key contributors. 

Others eligible to return include juniors Regan Browne (OF), Cayla Farbizo (LF) and Juju Morris (OF), sophomores Allie Kovacevich (2B) and Sarah Carr (OF) and freshman Lola Campbell (OF). 

“I cannot explain how much these girls mean to me,” Kirnan Bailey said. “I have their back and they have my back, so it’s just really about trusting one another and believing in one another.” 

Midfielder Zacc Hoffman is among six players the Lions boys lacrosse team will lose to graduation.

Boys lacrosse team 

to return large group 

The boys lacrosse team loses six players to graduation after finishing 1-15 overall, with its win coming 5-3 over Newark on May 4. That victory was an OCC-Ohio matchup, as the Lions finished 1-4 in the league. 

The 16th-seeded Lions had their season end with a 20-0 loss to third-seeded St. Charles in the second round of the Division I, Region 3 tournament May 18.

It was the final prep game for seniors Trey Ebert (midfielder), Zacc Hoffman (midfielder), Maciah Houpe (midfielder), Juan Miranda (goalie), Colton Ramsey (midfielder) and Michael Walsch (long-stick midfielder/defender). 

“The seniors have really worked hard,” first-year coach Collin Blaney said. “We were (1-15) but we really did grow a lot as a program and they’ve done a huge part in our drills and helping the others know our expectations. They’ve been good leaders with how they’ve conducted themselves on and off the field.” 

Junior midfielder Caleb Mason, who scored two goals against Newark, and junior attacker Brendan Ross should be among the top returning offensive players. Junior Joshua Knuckles (long-stick midfielder) is expected to be one of the top defenders back next season. 

Juniors Luciano Frissora (attacker/midfielder), Kyle Hendrick (defender) and Rohan Schmidt (midfielder) and sophomores Gavin Pape (midfielder) and Brecken Parsons (goalie/defender) also were key contributors. 

“(The win over Newark) was big for the young guys to be a part of,” Blaney said. “We had some (junior varsity) guys step up and play well and it was a really good program win.” 

Track teams sweep 

OCC-Ohio titles

The boys and girls track and field teams headed into the Division I postseason coming off championships in the OCC-Ohio meet May 12 and 15 at Thomas. 

The girls scored 207 points and the boys scored 143 to capture titles in the six-team events. 

The girls began the postseason with the district 2 meet, while the boys were in district 3. Both concluded May 22 at Hilliard Darby.

The top four in each event advanced to the regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North, and the top four in each event at regional advance to state June 4 and 5 at Darby.

In the league meet for the girls, winning individual titles were Ayannah Stafford in the 100 meters (12.42 seconds), Camden Bentley in the 100 hurdles (league-record 13.95) and 300 hurdles (league-record 43.7), Joi Bradley in the 400 (56.78), Alyssa Shope in the 1,600 (league-record 5:00.68) and 3,200 (league-record 10:49.64), Savannah Flusche in the discus (108 feet, 11 inches) and shot put (37-2 1/4) and Faith Hunter in the high jump (5-4).

Also finishing first were the 800 relay of Stafford, Bradley, M’Kaia Trent and Keena Sanders (1:42.73), the 1,600 relay of Bradley, Bentley, Trent and Sanders (3:59.34) and the 3,200 relay of Addy Galloway, Shope, Meredith Clay and Hannah Reich (9:43.79). 

“I really wasn’t sure what to expect about this season and I did everything possible to stay healthy,” Hunter said. “My goal was to increase my height incrementally with each meet, work on my technique, with a focus on indoor and outdoor states. I’m really looking at things long term.” 

Winning for the boys were Ronald Blackman in the long jump (22-2), Griffin Flusche in the shot put (46-11 1/4) and the 400 relay of Drew Pizzico, Blackman, Maxwell Cummings and Tristin Cook-Fisher (43.11). 

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek 

BOYS LACROSSE 

Record: 1-15 overall 

OCC-Ohio standings: New Albany (5-0), Pickerington North (4-1), Westerville Central (3-2), Pickerington Central (2-3), Gahanna (1-4), Newark (0-5) 

Seniors lost: Trey Ebert, Zacc Hoffman, Maciah Houpe, Juan Miranda, Colton Ramsey and Michael Walsh 

Key returnees: Luciano Frissora, Joshua Knuckles, Caleb Mason, Gavin Pape, Brecken Parsons, Brendan Ross and Rohan Schmidt 

Postseason: Lost to St. Charles 20-0 in second round of Division I, Region 3 tournament 

SOFTBALL 

Record: 13-11 overall  

OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (10-0), Westerville Central (8-2), Gahanna (6-4), Pickerington North (4-6), New Albany (2-8), Westland (0-10) 

Seniors lost: Kelsey Cripe, Dani Shoulders and Olivia Zeltman 

Key returnees: Kirnan Bailey, Mattie Bailey, Lexi Berry, Lilly Campbell, Ella Esterby, Lindsey Linker and Nicole Waters 

Postseason: Defeated Mifflin 29-0, def. Thomas Worthington 7-1, lost to Mount Vernon 4-3 (8 innings) in Division I district semifinal