Notebook: Olentangy Braves baseball team surges at right time

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Tommy Chilicki and Olentangy were surging entering a Division I district semifinal May 24 against Hilliard Darby, going 11-2 in their past 13 games. The winner faced Gahanna or Westerville South in a district final May 26.

By no means was Olentangy baseball coach Ryan Lucas surprised that his team surged into the Division I district tournament.

Counting a 7-0 win at 12th-seeded Teays Valley in a second-round game May 19, the 15th-seeded Braves were 11-2 in their past 13 games before visiting seventh-seeded Hilliard Darby for a district semifinal May 24.

That stretch included at least one win over each of the other five teams in the OCC-Cardinal Division, including Darby, and a combined no-hitter May 15 for Jace Middleton and Carter Williamson in an 11-0, five-inning victory at Thomas Worthington.

“It’s kind of what I expected. We have a talented group but we were just a work in progress … and just getting guys to understand what we do day in and day out,” Lucas said. “We lost five or six games early in the year by a run. A play here and a play there, when we were 11-10 we could have been 16-4 or 17-3 and top-five in the area. That’s how close we were earlier in the year and we started to figure it out.”

Olentangy was 15-11 overall before playing Darby and finished 9-6 in the league.

The Olentangy-Darby winner faced fourth-seeded Westerville South or 21st-seeded Gahanna in a district final May 26.

The district champion will play Berlin, Orange, Pickerington North or St. Charles in a regional semifinal June 3.

Austin Sizemore earned a complete-game win against Teays Valley, striking out seven, walking two and scattering three hits.

“Once we started getting some confidence and winning games, that was critical. We started stringing things together,” Lucas said. “I’m really happy with how balanced we are. … Where we went in the draw was really good for us.”

•The Orange boys volleyball team captured its first league championship.

The Pioneers defeated Hilliard Bradley 25-20, 27-25, 16-25, 25-17 on May 13 to finish 10-2 in the OCC-Central. Bradley and Liberty tied for second at 9-3.

“After four years of trying to win it, it was incredible (to win the title),” senior outside hitter Luke Little said. “I know coach (Kalie Foy) and I broke down after that final point. We’ve wanted this for so long and it’s an unreal feeling.

“We knew coming in that we’d beaten them (25-22, 25-19, 25-21 on May 6) but Jonah Gilbert is a phenomenal player for them, and he can really do some damage with the ball. We had to make sure we covered him and keep swinging to zone 1.”

The Pioneers were seeded fourth in the Division I East Region tournament and were 13-10 overall before opening May 22 against 11th-seeded Dublin Coffman or 16th-seeded Upper Arlington. The winner played seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome or 13th-seeded Westerville Central in a regional semifinal May 25, with the winner reaching a regional final May 28. Second-seeded Bradley is a possible opponent.

—Scott Hennen

•In a program first, the Olentangy boys tennis team advanced all seven players to the Division I district tournament May 20 at Reynoldsburg, although none qualified for state.

In a sectional May 15 at Pickerington Central, Sam Routzahn defeated teammate Vedant Dave 6-1, 6-0 in the singles final. Mitch MacDowell placed fourth, and in doubles Dakshin Pisini and Sujan Sriram defeated teammates Trevor Gerald and Roshan Sriram 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the third-place match.

The top four finishers in singles and doubles qualified for district.

At district, Routzahn got the Braves’ only win when he defeated New Albany's Dhruv Chavan 6-1, 7-5 in the first round. He lost 6-0, 6-2 to Gahanna’s Brandon Carpico in a state-qualifying match.

—Dave Purpura

After being eliminated from the Division I district tournament, Lindsey Leeds and Liberty defeated Hilliard Bradley 6-2 on May 14 to earn a share of the OCC-Central title. The Patriots finished 16-9 overall and 9-1 in the league.

•Seeded 13th for the Division I district tournament, the Liberty softball team was upset 11-10 by 26th-seeded Newark in a second-round game May 12, but there still was an opportunity for a celebration two days later.

With a share of the OCC-Central title on the line May 14 at Bradley, the Patriots won 6-2 to finish 16-9 overall and 9-1 in the league to share the championship with UA.

“We’ve been through a lot this season,” junior catcher Ashley Chevalier said. “Everyone has, but to go through the stuff we went through and to be on this field (celebrating), it means everything.”

The Patriots had just one senior in left fielder Dani Schoenly, who finished with six home runs and 40 RBI and batted .540.

Chevalier batted .473 with six home runs and 35 RBI, and junior pitcher Lindsey Leeds went 15-5 with 159 strikeouts in 134 innings and batted .433.

Freshman center fielder Brooke Aberle batted leadoff and hit .505 with 16 stolen bases, and sophomore shortstop Luci Matteo hit .475.

Others eligible to return include juniors Tyler Krohn (INF), Lauren Shirilla (INF), Lacy Thompson (INF) and Morgan Williamson (INF) and freshmen Allie Jenkins (OF) and Allie Motyka (OF).

“Our culture was so good this year and that’s one reason why we’re OCC champs,” Schoenly said. 

—Jarrod Ulrey

•The Berlin softball team posted a winning record in its second season under coach Jenna Haskins.

The Bears finished 14-12 overall and tied Darby for second (7-3) in the OCC-Cardinal behind Marysville (9-1). In their inaugural season, they went 8-15 overall and 5-9 in the league.

“I think the season went well when I reflect on the first season compared to this one,” Haskins said. “We almost doubled our amount of wins. That’s not always a great measure of success, but this will help us to build more success in the future. We grew as a team and as individual players.”

Sophomore Izzy Wilson (OF/3B) led the Bears with a .474 batting average, 48 runs, 10 doubles, four triples, 12 stolen bases, a .527 on-base percentage and a .722 slugging percentage. She also had two home runs and 26 RBI.

Senior Allie Burkhart (1B/2B) batted .432 with two homers, 27 RBI and 14 runs, and senior Sydney Cain (OF/2B) hit .352 with 13 RBI and 12 runs. Senior Remy Camp (SS/2B) batted .341 with 23 runs and a team-leading 29 RBI, and junior Syd Billy (2B/OF) hit .338 with 15 RBI, 20 runs and seven stolen bases.

Sophomore Sydney Davis (2B/SS/3B) had a .338 batting average with 26 RBI, 28 runs and eight stolen bases, and freshman Ella Erwine (2B/P) batted .291 with one homer, 10 RBI and 13 runs.

Junior Kali Bateman was the primary pitcher, finishing 8-8 with a 5.90 ERA in 105 2/3 innings.

—Scott Hennen

•The Orange softball team gained experience for the future, finishing 10-17 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Central.

The Pioneers had just six players with previous varsity experience, but they hit a program-record 22 homers. Sophomore Anna Wilming led with seven, which more than doubled the former record of three set by Alyssa Laisure in 2018.

“Our mindset was that we were going to hit balls hard and make good contact,” second-year coach Morgan Robinson said. “If you do that, the home runs will take care of themselves.”

Junior Riley Jestadt (SS) led the Pioneers in batting average (.505), RBI (35), on-base percentage (.553) and slugging percentage (.860). She also had five homers, 12 doubles and three triples.

Senior Alli Rubal (1B/OF) batted .500 with two homers, 15 RBI, three triples, a .519 on-base percentage and an .808 slugging percentage. She also led the team with 52 hits, 35 runs and 20 doubles.

Morgan Powell (1B/P) batted .356 with four homers, 25 RBI and nine runs, and senior Morgan Woycitzky (2B) had a .329 batting average with 15 RBI and 19 runs. Sophomore Kensi Steele (C/OF/INF) batted .311 with three homers, 15 RBI and 15 runs, and Wilming batted .299 with 20 RBI and 20 runs.

—Scott Hennen

•There will be new coaches for Berlin girls basketball and field hockey, pending school board approval.

Brock Cunningham will lead the girls basketball program and Allison Martin will take over the field hockey program.

Cunningham has been a longtime assistant with the Marysville boys program. He replaces Megan Phillips, who led Berlin in all three of its seasons. Phillips is expecting a child in November.

The Bears went 30-40 under Phillips, including 6-17 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Cardinal last season.

Martin is a familiar face in the field hockey program after being an assistant under Maddie Goelz in all three of the Bears’ seasons. The 2017 Olentangy graduate also played the sport at Slippery Rock.

The Bears finished 1-12-2 last fall and have gone 2-39-4 in three seasons.

—Scott Hennen

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BERLIN SOFTBALL

Record: 14-12 overall

OCC-Cardinal standings: Marysville (9-1), Berlin and Hilliard Darby (both 7-3), Thomas Worthington (3-7), Dublin Jerome and Olentangy (both 2-8)

Seniors lost: Allie Burkhart, Sydney Cain, Remy Camp and Autumn LeFevre

Key returnees: Kali Bateman, Syd Billy, Sydney Davis, Ella Erwine and Izzie Wilson

Postseason: Lost to Groveport 3-2 in second round of Division I district tournament

LIBERTY SOFTBALL

Record: 16-9 overall

OCC-Central standings: Liberty and Upper Arlington (both 9-1), Hilliard Bradley (6-4), Dublin Coffman (4-6), Orange (2-8), Hilliard Davidson (0-10)

Senior lost: Dani Schoenly

Key returnees: Brooke Aberle, Ashley Chevalier, Lindsey Leeds, Luci Matteo, Lacy Thompson and Morgan Williamson

Postseason: Lost to Newark 11-10 in second round of Division I district tournament

ORANGE SOFTBALL

Record: 10-17 overall

Seniors lost: Tristen Hatfield, Rylee McCord, Alli Rubal, Morgan Woycitzky and Holly Yurkovich

Key returnees: Riley Jestadt, Morgan Powell, Kensi Steele and Anna Wilming

Postseason: Defeated Marion Harding 11-4; lost to UA 12-2 (6 innings) in second round of Division I district tournament