Except for a small minority, a year ago, the Olentangy and Olentangy Berlin softball teams competed as one team going on a wild ride, picking up OCC and district titles while coming one step short of a regional championship and a trip to the final four.
Fast forward to Wednesday night and there was a different kind of celebration as a procession of Olentangy yellow and Berlin light blue jerseys lined up with bats held high to honor seniors Ana Oliverio, Brooke Wells, Emily Bullock, Megan Rease and Emily Scott.
“The junior parents were always responsible for our senior events,” Olentangy coach Alan Tharp said. “Half that team was us … so, we felt it was a good time to schedule them. When we were making the schedule, I called (Berlin coach Jenna Haskins) and said that the girls would really love this.”
Olentangy plans to return the favor next year when Berlin has its first senior ceremony to honor the likes of Kirsten Kracht, Blythe Beaumont and Lexie Lewis – all of which played roles in last year’s long tournament run along with sophomore Maia Crumb.
“We had to have it with Berlin,” Oliverio said. “If we didn’t have our senior night with Berlin – it wasn’t going to be fun. It was really special to have the old girls.”
Crumb hit a three-run homer in the top of the first inning that staked the Bears to an early lead.
“She’s such a hard-worker in the offseason and it’s really starting to pay off,” Haskins said. “She’s really stepping up right now. And she’s coming off an injury. She had surgery on New Year’s Eve on her ankle. It speaks to her work-ethic – just working really hard and coming back and being able to play within the second or third week of the season.”
But Olentangy (10-14), sparked by an Oliverio double, scored seven runs in the fourth inning to run away with an 8-3 victory.
Oliverio failed on a couple of bunt attempts to move up Lexi Bretzinger, who opened the inning with a groundball single to center.
“I guess I was glad that happened,” Tharp joked. “That’s something that I yell at them about.”
“Honestly, I don’t know why I was bunting,” Oliverio quipped back. “I do my worst when I’m behind in the count. I just told myself that I gotta hit the ball or be sad because it’s senior night. So, I just hit the ball.”
Oliverio laced a liner that fell just fair along the left field line to set up a game-tying, two-run single by Scott.
Oliverio caught Olentangy sophomore pitcher Brynn Kibler, who settled in after the homer. She allowed eight hits and a walk and struck out two in a complete-game victory.
Berlin showed its youth in the deciding fourth after Olentangy tied it up. The next two runs scored on fielder’s choices when the defender threw home trying to snag the runner instead of getting the sure out at first.
“We have girls playing positions that they’ve never played and they are still learning,” Haskins said. “We’re playing outfielders that are now playing infield. We’ve got girls that normally play middle infield that are now at the corners.”
Payton Cox drove in the first and Kibler followed. Cox later scored on a passed ball and and an error on a stolen base attempt capped the rally.
Kracht had three hits and Lewis and Crumb added two apiece for the Bears (7-14).
Ally Siegrist and Kali Bateman flip-flopped in the circle for much of the game.
“It’s something we’re trying because we have two very young pitchers,” Haskins said. “We’re just trying to figure out what works for our team still.”
Siegrist started and ended up tossing two innings all told. She allowed five runs, four earned on five hits and three walks and Bateman gave up three runs, all earned, on four hits and two walks over four innings.
Berlin closes the regular season with a doubleheader at Canal Winchester, facing the hosts at 10 a.m. before taking on Westerville South at noon.
Olentangy, seeded 25th in the Division I district tournament, opens postseason play in the first round at 24th-seeded Hamilton Township Monday at 5 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.