Notebook: Westerville South Wildcats baseball team captures first league title since 1983
Entering this season, the last time the Westerville South baseball team won a league title, coach Tim Bates was a freshman player at Otterbein.
Bates went on to help the Cardinals advance to the 1983 Division III College World Series, where they finished second to Marietta.
Thirty-eight years later, Bates guided the Wildcats to their first OCC title since 1983 and fourth overall, finishing first in the OCC-Capital Division at 12-2.
South also won league titles in 1975 and 1976.
“I’ve got the banners,” Bates said. “I’ve kept up the tradition and I brought the banners out before one (of the final games). The players responded to it.”
Seeded fourth in the Division I district tournament, the Wildcats opened postseason play with a 6-4 win over 26th-seeded Hilliard Davidson on May 19 at home.
South, which had an opening-round bye, was 24-3 overall before playing 21st-seeded Gahanna in a district semifinal May 24.
The winner faced seventh-seeded Hilliard Darby or 15th-seeded Olentangy in a district final May 26. The regional semifinal is June 3.
Leading Davidson 2-1, South scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and two in the sixth for a 6-1 lead. Although Davidson scored three times in the seventh, Logan Hunn pitched out of trouble to cap his complete-game effort.
Hunn allowed five hits, struck out six and walked none.
Matthew Bame led South at the plate with three hits, while Kaden Saunders, Brayden White and Nick McConnell had two apiece. White, McConnell and Santo Scillia each had two RBI and Saunders stole three bases.
“People will make mistakes, but there’s always someone there to pick them up,” Bates said. “The seniors are such a close-knit group that they understand each other’s assets. They understand everybody’s strengths and they play off of it. It helps when Kaden gets on first base and he’s at third three pitches later.”
White said winning a league title was one of many goals entering the season.
“We wanted a league title before going on to the (district) tournament,” he said. “The brotherhood is special. We’re able to be a family and know that everybody has their back. We’re able to have fun with each other. We’ve been waiting for this since freshman year. We knew our junior and senior year that we were going to be good.
“The fact that the 2020 season got taken away stinks and it made us hungry.”
•The South boys and girls track and field teams tuned up for the Division I district meet by competing in the OCC-Capital meet May 13 and 15 at North.
“We’re excited to be in a new conference and compete against some different schools,” coach Jimmy Gaul said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of the efforts our kids put forth. We talked about putting all your training to use and being focused on delivering your best effort and they did that.”
The girls team finished second (142) behind Big Walnut (144.4).
Marissa Saunders, the younger sister of Kaden, led the Wildcats by finishing first in the 100 meters (12.63 seconds), 100 hurdles (meet-record 14.18) and 300 hurdles (45.47).
Saunders, Lauryn Swanson, Zoe Guice and Abby Cumming-Vukovic won the 400 relay (50.91).
Cumming-Vukovic in the 200 (27.19) and Tiara Takyi in the 400 (1:00.81) also placed first for South, which competed in the district 1 meet May 18, 20 and 22 at Hilliard Darby.
The boys team finished third (99) behind Canal Winchester (174) and Big Walnut (142.5).
Winners for South were Michael Donkor in the 300 hurdles (39.44) and Jaiden Guice in the long jump (21 feet, 7 3/4 inches).
South competed in the district 3 meet May 19, 20 and 22 at Darby. Guice earned a regional berth by finishing second in the long jump (22-8) on May 19.
The top four finishers in each district event advanced to the regional meet May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North.
At regional, the top four finishers in each event advance to state June 4 and 5 at Darby.
•The Central boys and girls track teams competed in the OCC-Ohio meet May 12 and 15 at Thomas Worthington.
The boys finished third (106) behind Gahanna (143) and Pickerington North (131).
Justin Braun, a transfer from Thomas, led the Warhawks by winning the 400 (meet-record 46.4) and 100 (10.72), while Tasos Cook won the high jump (6-2).
Central competed in the district 3 meet May 19, 20 and 22 at Darby, and Cook finished second in the high jump (6-4) to earn a regional berth.
The girls team was fourth (78) in the league meet behind champion Gahanna (207).
Moriah Johnson, Sharon Ndiki, Taylor Hickman and Skylar Themelaras won the 400 relay (48.41).
The Warhawks also competed in the district 3 meet, and Kayla Napper finished third in the high jump (4-10) to qualify for regional.
•After reaching the Division I state tournament in 2019 and having its 2020 season canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Central softball team was hoping for a return trip to state.
The Warhawks fell short of that goal, however, as they lost 10-2 to 24th-seeded Dublin Coffman in the second round of the district tournament May 12 at home.
Eighth-seeded Central, which had an opening-round bye, finished 21-6 overall.
“We had a very solid record," coach Brian Wamsley said. “If you’d asked me back in January, ‘I guarantee you a 21-6 record, would you take it’ and I’d say ‘I’d take it in a heartbeat.’ We lost six games and four of them were very close, tough-fought games.”
The Warhawks went 8-2 in the OCC-Ohio to finish second behind Grove City (10-0), with both losses coming against the Greyhounds.
Sophomore Tatum Hubble (C) led Central with a .557 batting average, followed by seniors Hanna Hunt (.556, 3B/OF), Lexi Recinella (.522, P) and Emily O’Dee (.505, SS), sophomores Lydia Wilkerson (.488, CF/3B) and Gwen McMenemy (.457, OF) and freshman Kate Yaussy (.420, 2B/OF).
Hubble, O’Dee, Recinella and Wilkerson tied for the team lead in home runs (5) and Wilkerson (46) and Recinella (41) led in RBI.
In the circle, Recinella was 16-5 and had a 3.55 ERA with 48 strikeouts and 37 walks in 112 1/3 innings.
Others eligible to return are juniors Lindsay George (OF), Laiken Hendricks (P), Emily McMenemy (2B), Kiersten Stepp (1B) and Amelia Wares (C) and freshmen Casey Ingram (1B/OF) and Addie Ransopher (P).
•Amanda Cooper and Ashley Kisor helped lead the North girls track team in the OCC-Capital meet.
Cooper was second in the 800 (2:27.4) and fourth in the 1,600 (5:18.85), and Kisor was runner-up in the 400 (1:01.6) and fourth in the long jump (15-1 1/4) as the Warriors finished fourth (78.5).
Kisor was joined by RayNah Baker, Autymn Briggs and Erin Mayle on the runner-up 1,600 relay (4:10.22), and Cooper was on the second-place 3,200 relay (9:54.28) with Mayle, Emily Widman and Colleen Lynch.
Hannah Hutto was third in the high jump (4-8), and Briggs was fourth in the 200 (27.32). Briggs also was on the fourth-place 800 relay (1:54.63) with Widman, Grace Freeman and Kisor.
The boys team finished sixth (60) and was led by two third-place relays. Ahmed Madani, Bryce Abston, Isaiah Hutcherson and Alex Hendon were on the 1,600 relay (3:31.25), and Hutcherson, Abston, Andrew Bracken and Hendon made up the 3,200 relay (8:21.8).
Hutcherson was third in the 800 (2:02.12) and Howard Baumann was fourth in the pole vault (11-6), while Chris Campbell, Koltyn Scarantine, Okiki Adeniyi and Abston were on the fourth-place 400 relay (44.59).
The Warriors competed in the Division I, district 1 meet May 18, 20 and 22 at Darby, with the top four finishers in each event advancing to regional May 26 and 28 at Pickerington North.
•The North softball team finished 14-11 overall and tied South for second (10-4) in the OCC-Capital behind Delaware (13-0).
Second-year coach Brian Anderson was pleased with the squad’s progress.
“We described it as a roller-coaster season because there were ups and downs and it was definitely exciting at times,” Anderson said. “Counting the players on our j.v. team, we had 23 kids and only three had played any varsity before this season. It was fun to see some of the kids that struggled early, to see it start to click with them midway through the season.”
Freshman Sophie Minister was the primary pitcher, going 13-9 with a 3.31 ERA and 168 strikeouts. She also batted .347 with one home run, 14 RBI and 12 runs.
Senior outfielder Zsofia Kacsandi (OF) led in batting average (.417) and runs (24) and had four homers and 16 RBI. Senior Emily Jones (1B) batted .408 with four homers, a team-leading 24 RBI and scored 17 runs.
Freshman Anna Williams (C/2B/3B) had a .382 batting average with one homer, 16 RBI and 21 runs. Junior Caitlyn Meier (C/1B) batted .333 with a team-best seven homers, 16 RBI and 10 runs.
“We had tremendous growth from start to finish,” Anderson said. “I’m happy to finish second in the league and hopefully we can take that next step and win it next year.”
•Record: 21-6 overall
•OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (10-0), Central (8-2), Gahanna (6-4), Pickerington North (4-6), New Albany (2-8), Westland (0-10)
•Seniors lost: Sydney Good, Hanna Hunt, Emily O’Dee, Lexi Recinella and Sydney Zuelzke
•Key returnees: Laiken Hendricks, Tatum Hubble, Gwen McMenemy, Lydia Wilkerson and Kate Yaussy
•Postseason: Lost to Dublin Coffman 10-2 in second round of Division I district tournament
•Record: 14-11 overall
•OCC-Capital standings: Delaware (13-0), Westerville North and Westerville South (10-4), Canal Winchester (9-5), Big Walnut (5-9), Dublin Scioto (4-8), Worthington Kilbourne (3-11), Franklin Heights (0-13)
•Seniors lost: Riley Farrell, Sabrina Hernandez-Krause, Emily Jones and Zsofia Kacsandi
•Key returnees: Caitlyn Meier, Sophie Minister, Anna Williams and Ryanne Wilson
•Postseason: Lost to Teays Valley 16-0 (5 innings) in second round of Division I district tournament