Pickerington North Roundup: Bender, Mack set tone for maturing Panthers boys lacrosse team

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Midfielder Ryan Mack is one of two key leaders for the North boys lacrosse team, along with defender Reid Bender. Coach Kurt Restuccio calls the pair his “never say die” seniors.

Pickerington North boys lacrosse coach Kurt Restuccio had a feeling Reid Bender and Ryan Mack would be two cornerstones for the Panthers this season, and not simply because they were seniors who played for him at Lakeview Junior High School. 

“They’ve been playing longer than I’ve been coaching,” Restuccio said. “I’ve come to trust those guys immensely.” 

Restuccio was quick to add that Bender, a defender, and Mack, a midfielder – a pair he called his “never say die” seniors — sometimes do not log statistics in the scorebook because of their positions. 

Still, he lauded their leadership for a maturing team and for making plays that turned the tide of games, especially a 15-12 comeback win at Pickerington Central on April 6. The Panthers trailed 9-6 at halftime but pulled into an 11-all tie by the end of the third quarter.

“Ryan’s hustle, rides (and caused) turnovers were huge. He does that at practice and carries that into games,” Restuccio said. “I’ve known (Bender and Mack) since eighth grade. They’ve always been leaders, doing what they’re supposed to do and bringing messages the team needs to hear. They see stuff on the field we can’t see. It’s like having two extra coaches on the field.”

North was 4-3 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division after beating Gahanna 16-7 on April 13.

Bender and Mack’s careers date to elementary school, although Bender temporarily feared his would end short of a senior season. He had a benign tumor removed from his jaw in August, a procedure that necessitated the removal of his entire left fibula, and was not cleared to play until February.

“Stepping up and getting back into shape was hard for me. I had to work a lot just on walking and running again. Just being able to play is a blessing,” Bender said. “I take big pride in my role, especially since I didn’t even know if I’d play this season. Being a year-round player, I had to step up and be a leader and even point out to other guys and the coaches what we’re doing wrong.”

Mack considers himself an energetic leader who assumes both the offensive and defensive responsibilities of being a midfielder.

“It’s not as much on the field as off the field, getting everybody prepared and ready for games,” Mack said. “When we need energized, I need to take that over. We have to go out and give it our all. Effort is the biggest thing with us, something I definitely value most as a leader.”

North hadn’t won more than two consecutive games before April 13 but also hadn’t lost consecutive contests. The Panthers averaged 11.2 goals through six games while allowing 11.7.

“We just have to put it all together at once,” Restuccio said. “The tenacity stands out. They don’t give up. That showed (against Central) and even in the games we’ve lost. You have to go out and try to win a quarter, then build on that.”

Power paces 

baseball team

The baseball team averaged 8.5 runs in its first eight games, led by hot starts offensively from four hitters batting .400 or better.

Baylee Becker was batting .529 with nine hits and five RBIs, Troy Cruse had a .448 average with 13 hits, Harry Kreinbrink was batting .435 with 10 hits and two home runs — tied for the team lead with Kirby Shaffery — and Kyle Koehler had a .419 average with 13 hits and team-leading 12 RBI.

Koehler also had a team-high five doubles and fell a home run short of the cycle during a 5-4 loss in nine innings at Lancaster on April 5.

Becker is a freshman for North, which was 4-4 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Westerville Central on April 14.

Pitching also was balanced early, although the Panthers gave up an average of 7.5 runs through eight games. Adam Sadler struck out 13 and walked six in his first 12 2/3 innings of work, and Brett Madison — who like Becker is a freshman — struck out 14 and walked just four in 9 1/3 innings.

Shaffery won each of his first two appearances and had a team-best 1.27 ERA before April 14.

Softball team

seeking consistency

The softball team was 5-4 before beginning OCC-Ohio play April 15 at Westerville Central, having scored seven runs or more four times.

North, which had not won or lost more than two consecutive games at any point before beginning league play, averaged 5.3 runs and 9.3 hits in its first nine contests.

Reagan Coffey has been a stalwart in the circle. She started her season March 27 with a 10-strikeout performance against Central Crossing in an 11-0, five-inning win, then struck out eight and walked one while tripling at the plate in a 7-3 victory at Ready on April 13.

She also struck out eight in a 4-3 win over Hilliard Darby on April 7, a game the Panthers won when Sabrina Jensen drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh.

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave