Some of the area’s top current softball and baseball teams were able to escape the cold northwest Ohio weather during spring break and begin their 2018 seasons in Florida.
None fared better than two-time defending Northern Buckeye Conference softball champion Eastwood, which highlighted its 7-0 start to the season with five wins in the Sunshine State.
Eastwood High School pitcher Ashley Hitchcock was dominant during the Eagles' trip to Florida, posting a 5-0 record.
Junior Ashley Hitchcock, a first-team All-Ohioan who pitched the Eagles to the Division III regional final last year, was dominant in the circle in Florida. She went 5-0 with one perfect game and another no-hitter.
In 28 innings pitched, Hitchcock struck out 67 batters, walked just six, yielded only 11 hits and allowed three earned runs in posting an 0.75 ERA.
At the plate, senior shortstop Maddy Dyer was 10-for-16 (.625 average) with a double, triple, 10 runs scored, and eight RBIs.
Defending Northern Lakes League champion Perrysburg also fared well, going 5-1 during the break with the lone loss coming against a highly-regarded Rockledge (Fla.) team.
Senior ace pitcher Bri Pratt, a first-team Division I All-Ohioan in 2017, was 3-0, striking out 31 batters in 16 innings, allowing just two runs on five hits. Pratt also batted .500 with a home run and 11 RBIs. Perrysburg’s pitchers combined to allow just nine hits and three earned runs in the six games.
Mars Deemer led the Yellow Jackets’ impressive offense, batting .711 with five RBIs. Joining the hit parade were Kylie Griggs (.538, 11 runs), Kate Dheel (.533, HR), Morgan Pruss (.467, 4 HR, 9 RBIs), Brooke Miller (.412, 8 RBIs), and Reyann Kruger (.385, 9 runs, 10 RBIs).
The Jackets currently are 6-1 after an NLL win Monday against Northview.
In baseball, two-time defending Three Rivers Athletic Conference champion St. Francis de Sales played against what Knights coach Tim Gerken called the best competition the team has seen in Florida in five seasons.
Playing without senior third baseman and fourth-year starter Tim Organ, Jr., who was playing in a hockey showcase event in Wisconsin, the Knights went 2-3. Organ was the Northwest Hockey Conference Red Division player of the year, and helped St. Francis reach the state hockey championship game in March.
“That kind of put us behind the eight-ball a little,” Gerken said of missing Organ, “and we played five games in three days, which is a real challenge. We were also trying to be cognizant of pitch counts and give some [pitching] opportunities to certain guys.”
The Knights opened TRAC play with a 4-2 win at Clay, a victory Gerken said would not have been possible without the experience gained during the trip.
TRAC rival Central Catholic also played in Florida during spring break, and the Irish went 2-2 in their four games.
Junior shortstop Jase Bowen, who attended Michigan State’s spring football game Saturday and committed to the Spartans to play that sport while there, led Central in batting with a .625 average (10-for-16).
The pitching highlight was a six-inning effort turned in by senior Parker Swartz in winning the first game.
Preseason NLL favorite Anthony Wayne traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for its spring break trip, with coach Mark Nell’s Generals going 4-1.
Leading the potent AW hitting attack were Nick Schneider (.526), Stave Haugh (.500), Camron Kottenbrock (.412), Carter Hock (.409), Brady Theis (.391), and Andrew Murphy (.368).
Murphy, Haugh, Brock Nartker, and Chip Gottschalk each had pitching victories.
Longtime St. John’s Jesuit coach Jim Davis has something of a luxury this season in setting the Titans’ lineup — three No. 1 singles players.
Seniors Dev Laungani, Alan Fahoury, and Akhil Katragadda have each beaten each other in practice playoff matches, and thus have all earned the right to rotate in as St. John’s top singles player through the team’s seven matches (5-2 team record).
Laungani is 6-1, Fahoury 5-1, and Katragadda 5-2 for the Titans, rotating between the first three spots.
Last season, each were part of doubles teams that advanced to the Division I state tournament and reached the quarterfinal round.
“In the 14 years that we’ve done this, we’ve always gone by our challenge matches,” Davis said. “We’re very even in our singles, and we’re confident in all of them playing either No. 1, No. 2, or No. 3.
“We’re giving them all an opportunity to experience No. 1 for the season. We’ll keep doing that unless somebody really steps forward, but they’ve all done well.”
The Titans’ lineup also has gotten a boost from the addition of two freshmen. Aidan Williams plays first doubles with senior Tate Reno, and Alex Kufner plays second doubles with the alternating pair of Ryan Miller and senior Joey Beltri.
In two matches against top Ohio competition, St. John’s has beaten Columbus Academy, 3-2, and lost to Massillon Jackson, 3-2. The Titans travel to the Columbus area this weeked for a Friday match at New Albany and a Saturday match at Dublin Coffman.
Perrysburg senior Ben Weider — who last year won singles titles in the Northern Lakes League and the Division I sectional and district levels before eventually falling in a state quarterfinal — is off to a 4-0 start this season with No. 1 singles wins against foes from Lexington, Central Catholic, Napoleon, and Clay,
The Yellow Jackets play at Lakewood St. Edward on Friday and remain there for St. Ed’s eight-team tournament Saturday.
Also competing at the St. Ed’s tourney will be St. Francis, led by Greg Leroux, a TRAC champion at No. 1 singles who advanced to the D-I state singles tournament last year.
Leroux is 2-0 this season.
Track and field
In one of the bigger in-season track and field meets Friday, the Whitmer boys and Notre Dame girls were team champions, respectively, at Whitmer’s Gold W Invitational.
The Panthers’ boys posted 180 points to top runner-up Eastwood (114).
Individually, Whitmer got a hurdles double victory from Jacob Gladieux, who ran the 110-meter highs in 15.56 seconds and won the 300 in 43.11.
Notre Dame’s girls scored 142 points to top runner-up Whitmer (116).
Highlighting the girls meet was a triple by Springfield senior Victoria Abunaw, who won the 100-meter dash in 13.13, took the 100 hurdles in 15.64, and was first in the 300 hurdles in 50.26.
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