It’s been a breakthrough spring for the high school softball teams from Madison County. Better teams mean better seeding and of course higher expectations as the Central District tournament draw took place Sunday, May 4 at Pickerington North High School.
Two of the county’s teams, Jonathan Alder in Division II and West Jefferson in D-III, were tabbed as No. 2 seeds in their respective tournaments and will carry the weight of being favorites to win district titles.
In addition to the two highly seeded squads, the county also has No. 8 seed London in Division II and No. 12 Madison-Plains in D-III. There are 23 D-II softball teams and 21 D-III squads.
With his team sporting an 18-1 record, Jonathan Alder coach Dave McGrew expected his squad to be seeded fairly high, but when he saw the Pioneers had been pegged the No. 2 seed he admitted to being a bit surprised.
“I wasn’t sure how it would all come out,” McGrew said. “Licking Valley (No. 1) is the defending state champion, Granville (3) has played a brutal schedule and beaten some really good teams. I figured we’d be in the top four, but I think we jumped a couple teams because of our record.”
The Pioneers have a first-round bye and will play host to either No. 10 Centennial or No. 17 Beechcroft at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14. With a win the team will advance to a D-II district semifinal.
McGrew expected a number of the top teams to come to the same side of the bracket as his squad, but to his surprise that wasn’t the case. Granville, No. 5 River Valley and No. 6 Heath are the highest seeded teams Alder might meet en route to a district championship.
“I thought for sure (No. 4) Lakewood and (No. 7) Bishop Hartley would come after us but they didn’t,” the coach said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better draw, but there’s definitely a pressure that comes with being seeded so high.”
London (9-10) the eighth seed will host No. 16 Columbus South at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 12, with the winner advancing to face No. 9 Buckeye Valley Wednesday, May 14. The second round game will be played at the better seeded teams home field.
If the Red Raiders were to win two games and advance to the district semifinal they would likely run into No. 1 Licking Valley.
The West Jefferson coaching staff came into the district tournament draw with the intent of going right after what was clearly going to be the top seed, defending D-III state champion Bloom-Carroll. The Bulldogs ended the Roughriders season last spring in a classic district championship game showdown.
But as soon as it was revealed that coach Jim Stevens’ team was the No. 2 seed and could avoid Bloom-Carroll not only in the district but all the way up to the D-III state championship game the plan of going after the Bulldogs went out the window.
“I thought we’d get a pretty good seed, but I didn’t think it’d be No. 2,” Stevens said. “We wanted to go right at Bloom-Carroll, but it was a better for us to go in the bottom bracket.”
The bottom bracket which feeds into the regional at Wright State University quickly filled up with quality teams looking to do exactly what West Jeff did, avoid the powerful Bulldogs.
Third-seeded Bexley, No. 4 North Union, No. 5 Cardington-Lincoln and No. 7 Johnstown-Northridge all went into the same side of the bracket as the Roughriders.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Stevens said. “There are some good teams in our bracket, but I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out.”
West Jefferson has a first-round bye and will host the winner of the first-round matchup between No. 13 Elgin and No. 17 Utica at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14. If West Jeff makes it past that game it’ll face either Cardington-Lincoln or No. 10 Bishop Ready in a D-III district semifinal Monday, May 19.
With a lot of the top D-III teams choosing to stay out of the bracket with Bloom-Carroll, Madison-Plains (11-7) finds itself with a good chance to get to a district semifinal. The squad will open tournament play at home at 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 12 against No. 14 Sparta Highland. A win there would mean a date at No. 11 Northmor Wednesday, May 14.
Bloom-Carroll will likely be waiting in a district semifinal Monday, May 19 at Pickerington Central.
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 18 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.