Notebook: Olentangy Berlin Bears softball team makes leap forward

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Through 17 games, Izzie Wilson led the improving Berlin softball team in batting average (.492), runs (32), on-base percentage (.542), doubles (7) and stolen bases (8). The sophomore also had one home run and 13 RBI.

Coach Jenna Haskins has seen marked improvement in the Olentangy Berlin softball team.

The third-year program, which missed a potential growth spurt after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of last season, finally has a senior class and the leadership that goes along with it.

“We have four seniors on our team — Allie Burkhart, Sydney Cain, Remy Camp, Autumn LeFevre — and we have tremendous leadership from them,” Haskins said. “These girls have been with us for three full years, and our juniors have been there for all three as well. We’re building on that experience that we didn’t have in that first season.”

The Bears were 10-8 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Hilliard Darby on April 30. Two years ago, they finished 8-15 overall and 5-9 in the league.

Berlin also had a signature win over perennial Central District power Marysville on April 22, defeating the visiting Monarchs 12-10 in league play.

“We don’t quit,” Haskins said. “One thing about our team right now is that we live in clutch moments. We just overcome. We embrace the tough moments, and we’re creating a mentally strong team right now.”

The Bears had a .298 team batting average through 17 games. They were led by Izzie Wilson in batting average (.492), runs (32), on-base percentage (.542), doubles (7) and stolen bases (8). The sophomore also had one home run and 13 RBI.

“We have been working a lot with having a lot of hitting practices and really focusing on the mental aspects of hitting,” Haskins said. “I think it helped our hitters to go after the ball aggressively instead of just defensively swinging.”

Burkhart was hitting .408 with one homer, 14 RBI, seven runs and a .462 on-base percentage, and Cain had a batting average of .404 with 12 RBI and seven runs. Camp was hitting .322 with 16 RBI and 14 runs, and sophomore Sydney Davis was batting .296 with 16 RBI and 15 runs.

Sophomore Jocelyn Franz had a .289 batting average with one homer, seven RBI and nine runs, and freshman Ella Erwine was hitting .268 with one homer, nine RBI and seven runs. Junior Syd Billy was hitting .256 with seven RBI and 10 runs.

“We have been working on building their confidence,” Haskins said. “They mesh well and the chemistry’s there, and that matters. It boils down to leadership and experience, and we finally have that.”

•The Orange boys tennis team swept through the OCC-Central, defeating Liberty 3-2 on April 27 to finish 5-0. It’s the Pioneers’ first league championship since winning back-to-back OCC-Buckeye titles in 2017-18.

Freshman Kallan Arledge won 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 at second singles in a two-hour, 45-minute match that clinched the championship. Also winning were senior Pranav Krishnan at third singles and the first-doubles team of sophomore Nick Clifford and freshman Zach Haar.

“This is the biggest win I have ever had in my career,” Arledge said. “To win it for my team and have them come out and celebrate, it was great.

“I did feel some pressure out there, but I had my teammates behind me when I was out there so that helped. It’s just a great feeling.”

The Pioneers dropped to 8-2 overall after losing to New Albany 4-1 on April 28 in the Division I OTCA team tournament. Krishnan won to improve to 5-0 at third singles.

“We’re one cohesive unit and right now and it’s all about togetherness and fine-tuning adjustments,” coach Matt Rutherford said. “It’s about small over big. We have to continue to have big energy.”

—Scott Hennen

•Coach Richard Hunt has seen steady improvement from his Berlin boys tennis team, which was 10-3 overall before playing Dublin Scioto on May 3.

“I have seen the varsity improve over the course of the season, but we have some big matches coming up,” Hunt said. “My singles kids have been playing well recently at the top and that has helped set the tone.”

The Bears finished 3-2 in the OCC-Cardinal by defeating Thomas Worthington 4-1 on April 27. Winning were sophomore Josh McKnight at first singles, freshman Logan Van Horne at second singles, sophomore Akhil Damarla at third singles and juniors Jace Boyce and Kathir Maarikarthykeyan at first doubles.

“Josh McKnight and Logan Van Horne are doing great for us,” Hunt said. “Josh started off strong and slowed down a little but is back to that high level of play.

“Logan is only a freshman, but he plays like a junior or senior. He’s smart on the court, and he has a lot of developed shots.”

—Scott Hennen

•The members of the Orange boys volleyball team have been adjusting to new leadership roles.

The Pioneers were 8-6 overall and 6-2 in the OCC-Central after defeating Upper Arlington 25-13, 25-13, 25-11 on April 29. Coach Karlie Foy said her team is finally finding its footing.

“It’s been mental more than anything,” she said. “We have five senior starters but many of them didn’t get the opportunity to be upperclassmen before with no season last year because of the pandemic.

“When they were freshmen and sophomores, they had strong leaders to learn from, but this is a new level of play for some of them. We have gotten better with every loss, and I can see where we have grown and matured.”

Through 12 matches, middle/right-side hitter Luke Little led the Bears in kills (128), blocks (27) and aces (38) and had 71 digs. Setter Owen Dickson led with 298 assists and had 52 digs and 18 aces, and libero Alex Heffner had a team-high 96 digs.

Outside hitter Lawton Hinley had 119 kills, 95 digs and 32 aces, and outside hitter Jake Smith had 94 kills, 18 blocks, 90 digs and 27 aces.

—Scott Hennen

•The Liberty boys volleyball team went through its first rough patch of the season, losing consecutively to Orange (25-19, 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 15-11 on April 26) and Hilliard Bradley (25-18, 25-23, 25-19 on April 27) to fall to 6-3 in the OCC-Central. 

After beating Olentangy 25-19, 25-13, 25-21 on April 29, the Patriots were 10-3 overall. 

Liberty has been playing since early April without 6-foot-6 junior middle hitter Carter Smith, who has been out with an injury. 

“Some of it is having guys figure out where they’re at,” coach Dave Hale said. “We’ve been dealing with that injury to Carter, so it’ll be interesting when he comes back how well we can blend together.” 

Senior middle hitter Cole Young and senior outside hitter Parker Budreau are 6-10 and 6-6, respectively, and junior outside hitter Noah Koknat has been leading the Patriots in kills. 

“Really we’ve been playing well as a team,” Hale said. “We’ve got lots of guys that can do lots of good things. It’s good to have some balance, and we’re also really tall, so it’s also good to be that, too.” 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

•Several key contributors helped the Olentangy boys volleyball team to starts of 9-4 overall and 5-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Berlin on May 4.

Among the Braves’ top performances were a 15-kill, eight-ace, four-dig and two-assist outing from Gavin Grover in a 22-25, 25-15, 25-18, 25-22 win over Hilliard Davidson on April 23. The night before, Sam Irwin had five kills, nine service points and two blocks in a 25-19, 25-21, 25-22 league win at Worthington Kilbourne on the heels of six kills April 20 in a 26-24, 24-26, 25-20, 25-16 loss to Dublin Jerome.

Sam Kaylor had 22 kills, 12 digs and three aces in a 19-25, 25-16, 22-25, 27-25, 15-13 win over Thomas on April 27.

Olentangy was ranked sixth in the East Region in last week’s coaches poll and eighth in the state in Division II.

—Dave Purpura

Michael Parsio and Olentangy were 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal entering a May 4 game against Hilliard Darby.

•While the Olentangy boys lacrosse team seeks consistency as the regular season winds down, coach Austin Ford noted particular improvement from two players who are in their only season in prominent positions for the Braves.

Seniors Alec Palmer and Toby Wilson are starting goalie and faceoff specialist, respectively. Wilson will be a preferred walk-on for the Ohio State football team this fall after earning second-team all-state honors last season in Division II as an offensive lineman as Olentangy advanced to a Division II, Region 7 semifinal.

“It can be tough when you have a new goalie and a new faceoff (specialist). Alec never played goalie until this season and Toby had never taken faceoffs until now, so now we’re finding consistency with them,” said Ford, whose team was 8-5 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Cardinal entering a May 4 game against Darby. “We’ve been trying to find our stride in a sense. There have been games Alec has kept us in solely because of his athletic ability and times recently where we’ve dominated in faceoffs.”

Palmer previously played defender but was pressed into service in goal because of a lack of players at that position in the program.

Ford cited consistency and leadership from a handful of other players, including Dan Kelley, Ryan Petrone, Owen Reidel and Ben Wilch.

“We have guys who have emerged as leaders and a lot of young talent looking up to these older guys and learning to do the right things,” he said.

—Dave Purpura

•All four local track and field programs participated in the Freedom Relays on April 23 at Liberty, with the Orange boys scoring 85 points and the Orange girls scoring 95 to sweep the titles.

Also in the eight-team meet, Liberty was second (66), Berlin was fourth (62) and Olentangy was seventh (39) in the boys competition, and Liberty was second (90), Olentangy was third (68) and Berlin was seventh (27) in the girls competition. 

Winning girls titles for Orange were its 400-meter relay (50.07 seconds) and 800 sprint medley (1:51.47), while Sara Borton was first in the pole vault (11 feet, 6 inches) and Noel Frye was first in the shot put (36-11 1/2) and discus (108-0).  

Also in the girls meet, Liberty won the 400 shuttle hurdles (1:06.73), Nicole Tonetti was first in the long jump (17-7 1/2) and Camryn Thompson was first in the high jump (5-2). The Olentangy 800 relay also was first (1:48.53). 

In the boys meet, Berlin was first in the 400 relay (44.21) and 800 relay (1:32.76), and Orange was first in the 800 sprint medley (1:36.95) and 440 shuttle hurdles (1:02.6). 

Berlin’s Luke Walden was first in the pole vault (16-7) and long jump (21-3 1/2), and Olentangy’s Reilly Worthington was first in the shot put (49-1) and discus (144-9).

—Jarrod Ulrey 

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports