New Albany Roundup: Eagles baseball coach Dave Starling earns milestone victory

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
New Albany baseball coach Dave Starling earned his 500th career victory with an 11-0, five-inning win over Whetstone in the second round of the Division I district tournament May 19. The Eagles won their third consecutive district title May 26, defeating Olentangy Liberty 5-2.

Only in the final moments of an 11-0, five-inning win over Whetstone in the second round of the Division I district tournament May 19 did the New Albany baseball team learn the full importance of the victory.

Not only did the win prolong the Eagles’ season, but it was the 500th in the career of coach Dave Starling.

Senior Ian Hoff was one of the players who got to douse Starling with ice water on a warm afternoon with the temperature exceeding 85 degrees, and five days later his walk-off single capped a four-run seventh inning and sent the second-seeded Eagles into a district final with a 7-6 home semifinal win over 13th-seeded Watkins Memorial.

“He’s a great guy. He has a great personality. He always wants the best for you. If you’re not doing well, he’ll let you know, but he’ll say it in a way to motivate you to do well and not to put you down,” said Hoff, one of the team’s starting pitchers who also plays first base. 

“He’s the same all the way through the ups and downs. He always has the same energy all the way through. If you have a bad game, you can’t let that hurt you. If you have a great game, you can’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

Starling won 398 games at Reynoldsburg from 1983-2009. His players included future major leaguers Eric Fryer and Mike Matheny.

In five seasons at New Albany, Starling’s teams won district titles in 2018 and 2019 and the OCC-Capital Division championship in 2019, when he was named state Coach of the Year.

The Eagles won their third consecutive district title May 26, defeating fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 5-2. Starling’s 503 wins entering a regional semifinal June 3 – against Grove City or Lancaster at Dublin Coffman – unofficially ranked 26th all-time in state history, according to Ohio High School Athletic Association records. The Eagles are 25-5.

“If I hadn’t sat out for six seasons, I might be over 600,” Starling said. “It’s a milestone and maybe an indication I’ve been doing this for too long, but it is pretty special. I won’t deny it. It’s one of those things that isn’t so much an individual award because so many people are involved, all the coaches and players. They make all the difference.”

Athletics director Richie Wildenhaus lauded Starling’s steady demeanor and leadership.

“If you went back and talked with guys who played for him, whether it’s a guy who finished his career in high school or a guy like Mike Matheny who continued on to the highest level, they’d all give you the same message about Dave Starling,” Wildenhaus said. “He’s a steady guy, very calm. He’ll get fiery at times and throw out a ‘dagnabbit’ out of him here or there, but that’s just the kind of leader he is.”

The regional semifinal winner will face Olentangy Berlin, Olentangy Orange or Westerville South in the regional final June 4 at Coffman.

New Albany went 1-2 against Grove City in OCC-Ohio Division play, winning 5-4 on April 13 and losing 7-2 on April 14 and 5-0 on May 11. The Eagles defeated South 3-2 in eight innings March 27.

Goalie rotation pays off

for girls lacrosse team

While junior and Louisville commit Aubrey Bagenstose has seen most of the time in goal this spring for the girls lacrosse team, coach Elaina Enich also entrusted junior Annika Duncan with considerable playing time throughout the regular season.

Duncan made perhaps her two biggest saves of the year May 24, stopping two Liberty shots in the final minute — including one from free position with less than 2 seconds left — as the second-seeded Eagles held off the fourth-seeded Patriots 9-8.

Katie Kaucheck scored the tying and winning goals from free position in the final minute.

Makena Harrington’s shot as time expired caromed off a pad and bounced to Duncan’s right.

“When your name is called, you have to be ready. There (Duncan) is against one of the top scorers in the state making a save with 0.2 of a second left. It gives me chills,” Enich said. “It’s all about confidence. Aubrey is a stud of a goalie and they’re very comparable goalies. Annika stood up and made some huge saves in practices and games. We’re very confident in both of them.”

Through 21 games, Bagenstose had stopped 112 of 188 shots (59.6 percent), while Duncan had 27 saves on 36 shots (.750).

New Albany was 18-3 before playing top-seeded Medina in the regional final May 28.

The regional champion faced Hudson, Massillon Jackson, Rocky River Magnificat or Shaker Heights in a state semifinal June 2. That winner will play Coffman, Loveland, Mason or Upper Arlington in the final June 5 at Ohio Wesleyan.

New Albany defeated Mason 16-11 on May 1, beat Coffman 15-4 on May 6 and lost to UA 7-3 on April 15.

Jayla Reese was one of several Eagles who competed in the Division I regional meet May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North. She advanced as part of the girls team's 400-meter relay.

Orsinelli, Stewart lead

track teams to regional

Four individual boys competitors, two girls and a combined three relays earned Division I regional berths with top-four finishes in the district 2 meet that concluded May 22 at Darby.

Nicole Stewart was district runner-up in both the 100 meters (12.34 seconds) and 200 (25.13) and was on the third-place 400 relay (49.99) with Olivia Gaines, Kate Partridge and Jayla Reese. 

Caroline Ebert placed fourth in the high jump (5 feet) as the top four finishers in each event advanced to regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North.

The girls scored 45 points and finished seventh behind champion Gahanna (154) as 14 teams scored.

Paced by Victor Orsinelli’s runner-up finish in the 1,600 (4:25.88) and fourth-place effort in the 3,200 (9:40.6), the boys finished fifth (66) behind champion North (121) as 15 teams scored.

The 1,600 relay was second (3:24.3) with Xavian Andrews, Eric Dehmer, Christion Files and Julian Meacham-Dean, the 3,200 relay of Lleyton Axline, Will Benseler, Dehmer and Orsinelli was third (8:12.14) and Axline was fourth in the 1,600 (4:33.58).

Also placing fourth were Brock Kidwell in the 300 hurdles (40.82) and Josh Richardson in the high jump (6-0).

At regional, the top four finishers in each event qualified for state June 4 and 5 at Darby. Also, two at-large berths were awarded in each event based on times and distances statewide.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave