Notebook: Westerville South Wildcats baseball team’s ‘amazing season’ ends in regional semi
It was a season of firsts – and near firsts – for the Westerville South baseball team.
The Wildcats earned their first district title and captured their first OCC championship since 1983.
They nearly got a chance to play for their first regional championship and first Division I state tournament berth, but lost 8-7 to Olentangy Orange in a regional semifinal June 4 at Dublin Coffman to finish 26-4 overall – the most wins in program history.
South fell behind 3-0 before rallying for a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning. After the Pioneers took a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the inning, the Wildcats tied the game at 6 in the sixth before Orange went ahead 8-6 with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
South pulled to within 8-7 in the seventh and had the tying run on third base before Orange reliever Jacob Tabor pitched out of trouble to preserve the win.
The Wildcats left 11 runners on base.
“It was an absolutely amazing season,” coach Tim Bates said. “The eight seniors that we had, they started this quest two years ago. They’re brothers and they kept pushing each other. They kept picking each other up. We knew it was going to be a special team. I didn’t realize how good our pitchers were. One through nine in the batting order, everybody was a threat.”
Seeded fourth in the district tournament, South defeated seventh-seeded Hilliard Darby 3-2 in the district championship game May 26 at home.
The Wildcats, who finished ninth in the final regular-season state poll, went 12-2 in the OCC-Capital Division to capture their first league title in 38 years and fourth overall, finishing ahead of second-place Canal Winchester (11-3).
Senior Brayden White (C/P) led the Wildcats throughout the season and was named first-team all-state and all-district and OCC-Capital Player of the Year. A Toledo commit, White batted .480 with five home runs and 39 RBI and scored 32 runs.
Junior Kaden Saunders (CF), who has committed to play football at Penn State, was first-team all-district and second-team all-league. He batted .420 with 30 runs scored and 27 stolen bases.
Senior Andrew Collinsworth (P) was first-team all-district and all-league, senior Logan Hunn (P/INF) was first-team all-league and second-team all-district, senior Matthew Bame (OF/P) was second-team all-district and all-league, junior Jack Bates (2B/OF) was honorable mention all-district and all-league and senior Santo Scillia (OF/INF/C) was special mention all-league.
Bates was named league Coach of the Year.
“Just having the record that we had and having the OCC championship and the district championship and (playing in the regional tournament), it feels good knowing that we’re the best team that Westerville South has ever seen,” Bame said. “We felt though we could have done a lot more than we did and our season got cut short (June 4).”
Other players eligible to return are sophomores Mitchell Berk (C), Thatcher Dietz (INF/C), Clark Metz (INF/OF) and Addison Polzin (OF) and freshmen Josh Hoffman (INF/P), Cameron Pinter (OF) and Dylan Shoemaker (OF).
•Central baseball coach Jeff Keifer was pleased with his team’s commitment, capped by a strong performance in its final game of the season.
After a first-round bye in the Division I district tournament, the 10th-seeded Warhawks beat 36th-seeded Groveport 11-1 in six innings May 19 before losing to fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty 4-2 in a semifinal May 24.
“We knew we could play with them,” Keifer said. “They’re good, but we’re pretty good, too. We thought we had a pretty good shot to make it to the final.”
Central finished 17-12 overall and went 8-7 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Gahanna and Pickerington North for third behind Grove City (11-4) and New Albany (10-5).
“Our division was really strong,” Keifer said. “Everybody kind of beat up on each other. ... The games were really competitive in the league. It was a grind. There were no breaks.”
Keifer must replace 12 players lost to graduation.
“They all had valued roles,” he said. “It’s a big group and we’re going to miss them, but there’s going to be a pretty big junior class that become seniors. Our classes are definitely a pretty good size.”
Senior outfielder Kyle Denney was named first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district after batting .382.
Senior Corbin Caplan (P/1B; .321, 23 RBI) was first-team all-league, juniors Cullen Hassel (C/OF; .346, 18 RBI) and Brad Leonard (INF/OF/P) were second-team all-league, senior Joey Ohl (P/INF) was special mention all-league and senior Evan Schumacher (3B/P; 26 RBI) was honorable mention all-league.
Ohl was 5-3 with one save and a 3.60 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 18 walks in 40 innings.
Other players eligible to return are juniors Andrew Beck (C/P/OF), Jason Boller (P/2B/SS; .393), Jake Borders (P/OF), Luka George (P/OF), Dylan Gorgias (INF), Owen Graff (INF), Liam McSweeney (OF), Andrew Sitz (P/INF) and Parker Tomlin (P) and sophomore Jay Tomes (P/SS/2B).
•The South girls lacrosse team split a pair of games in the Division I, Region 1 tournament to finish 9-7.
Seeded ninth, the Wildcats beat 11th-seeded Orange 11-9 on May 17 before losing to top-seeded Mason 22-4 on May 22.
“It’s good to see how far our program has come,” coach Wynleux Henderson said.
Senior Gracie Kisker (attacker/midfielder/defender), junior Kayla Arens (attacker) and sophomore Mia Dailey (goalie) were second-team all-league. Senior Kaitlyn McBride (midfielder/attacker) was honorable mention all-league.
South beat Westerville North 20-3 on April 6.
•The North boys lacrosse team recorded three times the victories it had in 2019 and also won its first postseason game since 2013.
The 13th-seeded Warriors defeated 15th-seeded Hilliard Bradley 13-6 on May 14 in their opening contest in the Division I, Region 3 tournament. They then lost to fourth-seeded Thomas Worthington 14-8 on May 18 to finish 9-10.
The Warriors went 3-15 in 2019.
“It shows just how far the team has gone from winning three games to nine,” said first-year coach Dan Bichsel, a 2012 North graduate. “Winning the postseason game was just the cherry on top. It’s nice to be able to send off the seniors with more wins than they have had in the past.”
Attacker Ian Evans (honorable mention all-region, first-team all-league), defender Ben Mantenieks (honorable mention all-region) and midfielder Griffen Messmer led a 10-player senior class. Evans had 52 goals, 18 assists and 62 ground balls, Messmer had 17 goals, 24 assists and 33 ground balls and Mantenieks had 59 ground balls.
Junior goalie Jake Bichsel, the brother of coach Bichsel, was first-team all-league. Sophomore defender Jackson Furman (second-team all-region, first-team all-league) had 79 ground balls.
Sophomore attacker Collin Howard (second-team all-league) had 26 goals, eight assists and 32 ground balls. Sophomore midfielder Anthony Snoddy-Cunningham (honorable mention all-league) added 16 goals and 16 assists.
“We had a lot of young guys step up for us this year,” coach Bichsel said. “Anthony, Collin and Jackson were all sophomores this year, and we expect they will be ready to take us to the next level.”
•The North boys volleyball team spent this spring on a learning curve after last season was canceled.
The ninth-seeded Warriors lost to top-seeded Olentangy Liberty 25-13, 25-16, 25-21 on May 25 in a Division I, East Region semifinal to finish 15-9 overall.
North finished fourth (7-5) in the OCC-Central behind champion Orange (10-2). The league had four of the region’s top nine seeds in Liberty, second-seeded Bradley, fourth-seeded Orange and the Warriors.
North had six seniors led by middle hitter Collin Cook (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league; 122 kills, 90 blocks, 50 aces), libero Logan Dowling (honorable mention all-region; 330 digs) and outside hitter Nathan Gillenwater (second-team all-region, first-team all-league; 187 kills, 40 blocks, 31 aces, 182 digs).
Sophomore setter Jayden Henderson (honorable mention all-league; 434 assists, 47 blocks, 39 aces, 120 digs) leads the list of expected returnees, along with sophomore outside hitter Ian Ford (127 kills, 34 blocks, 33 aces, 110 digs) and sophomore outside hitter/setter Corey Howlett.
“I think we really transformed into a true team quickly this past season as the fast-paced spring season demands from its athletes,” third-year coach Eva Opitz said. “I’m excited to see how our returners and j.v. players step up for us next year.”
•The Central girls lacrosse team finished 6-12 under first-year coach Brady Walston.
Seeded 13th in the Division I, Region 1 tournament, Central lost to fifth-seeded Perrysburg 20-5 in the first round May 18.
Junior midfielder Kira Shepherd (28 goals, 4 assists) was honorable mention all-league. Junior attacker Bailee Shepherd, Kira’s twin, had 47 goals and three assists.
Senior attacker/midfielder Emma Fantine had 46 goals and 11 assists, sophomore midfielder Gracie Misiuk had 41 goals and three assists and senior midfielder/attacker/defender Nina Domanik added 22 goals and 10 assists.
Sophomore goalie Emily Carson recorded 123 saves.
“We had a lot of success,” Walston said. “Some upperclassman got to score their first varsity goal this year, our j.v. team won its first game in four years and our varsity had six wins for the first time since the 2016 season.”
Walston said another highlight was beating North 18-1 on May 6 and South 18-11 on May 10.
•Record: 17-12 overall
•OCC-Ohio standings: Grove City (11-4), New Albany (10-5), Gahanna, Pickerington North and Westerville Central (8-7), Westland (0-15)
•Seniors lost: Corbin Caplan, Kyle Denney, Devon Farris, Andrew Fazenbaker, Justin Fleetwood, Owen Franks, Matt Logan, Joey Ohl, Andrew Reisinger, Tyler Sackett, Sam Scott and Evan Schumacher
•Key returnees: Cullen Hassel, Brad Leonard and Jay Tomes
•Postseason: Defeated Groveport 11-1 (6 innings); lost to Olentangy Liberty 4-2 in Division I district semifinal
CENTRAL GIRLS LACROSSE
•Record: 6-12 overall
•OCC-Ohio standings: New Albany (4-0), Pickerington Central (3-1), Pickerington North (2-2), Gahanna (1-3), Westerville Central (0-4)
•Seniors lost: Katy Alvarado, Nina Domanik, Emma Fantine, Lily Kalinke, Lauren Manton, Kaitlyn Williams and Laura Wolfe
•Key returnees: Emily Carson, Gracie Misiuk, Bailee Shepherd and Kira Shepherd
•Postseason: Lost to Perrysburg 20-5 in first round of Division I, Region 1 tournament
NORTH BOYS LACROSSE
•Record: 9-10 overall
•OCC-Capital standings: Worthington Kilbourne (5-0), Delaware (4-1), Big Walnut, North and South (all 2-3), Dublin Scioto (0-5)
•Seniors lost: D.J. Bridge, Xavier Dockery, Ian Evans, Mitchell Gillam, Andrew Hunter, Ben Mantenieks, Griffen Messmer, Sean Mitchell, Sam Olson and Ethan Zimmerer
•Key returnees: Jack Bichsel, Jackson Furman, Collin Howard and Anthony Snoddy-Cunningham
•Postseason: Def. Hilliard Bradley 13-6; lost to Thomas Worthington 14-8 in second round of Division I, Region 3 tournament
NORTH BOYS VOLLEYBALL
•Record: 15-9 overall
•OCC-Central standings: Olentangy Orange (10-2), Bradley and Olentangy Liberty (9-3), North (7-5), Dublin Coffman (5-7), Hilliard Davidson (2-10), Upper Arlington (0-12)
•Seniors lost: Collin Cook, Logan Dowling, Nathan Gillenwater, Nathan Sharpes, Zach Shields and James Touzinsky
•Key returnees: Ian Ford, Jayden Henderson and Corey Howlett
•Postseason: Def. Pickerington North 25-13, 25-18, 25-11; lost to to Liberty 25-13, 25-16, 25-21 in Division I, East Region semifinal
•Record: 26-4 overall
•OCC-Capital standings: South (12-2), Canal Winchester (11-3), Kilbourne (9-5), Scioto (8-6), Big Walnut (6-6) North (5-7), Delaware (3-11), Franklin Heights (0-14)
•Seniors lost: Matthew Bame, Andrew Collinsworth, Logan Hunn, Brandon Kim, Nick McConnell, Ryan Phillips, Santo Scillia and Brayden White
•Key returnees: Jack Bates, Kaden Saunders and Thatcher Dietz
•Postseason: Def. Davidson 6-4; def. Gahanna 10-3; def. Hilliard Darby 3-2; lost to Orange 8-7 in Division I regional semifinal
SOUTH GIRLS LACROSSE
•Record: 9-7 overall
•OCC-Capital standings: Kilbourne (5-0), Scioto (4-1), South, Big Walnut and Delaware (2-3), North (0-5)
•Seniors lost: Gracie Kisker and Kaitlyn McBride
•Key returnees: Kayla Arens and Mia Dailey
•Postseason: Def. Orange 15-8; lost to Mason 22-4 in second round of Division I, Region 1 tournament