Columbus East teams can add to stellar season with tourney championships

Columbus East’s chances at bringing home Hoosier Hills Conference boys and girls All-Sports titles will hinge on the Olympians’ performances this week.

Five East teams — three girls and two boys — will compete for conference titles in the next five days. The HHC baseball, softball and girls tennis tournaments are today, Wednesday and Friday; the girls track meet is Tuesday at Seymour and the boys track meet is Thursday at Madison.

Boys golf is the only spring sport that won’t have its HHC championship this week. That tournament will be May 20 at Jeffersonville Elks.

Olympian squads have legitimate title chances in all five sports that are being contested this week. That includes girls tennis, which hasn’t won an HHC championship since 1982.

East, however, has lost in the conference title game each of the past five years. Four of those have come against Floyd Central, the team the Olympians (10-3) host in today’s opening round.

“I know they got us last year in the final, but they lost their No. 1 singles player, and we didn’t lose anybody,” East girls tennis coach Matt Malinsky said. “I think we have a pretty good chance at getting out of that first round, and once we get out of that first round, who knows? But our focus is just that first round.”

The Olympians and Highlanders have not met yet this season.

Meanwhile, the East baseball team will look to avenge an 11-10 eight-inning loss at Jennings County when the teams meet again today in North Vernon. The Olympians are 11-5, and the Panthers are 7-9.

“Our guys are hungry to get another shot at them,” East baseball coach Jon Gratz said. “We’re hitting the ball pretty well, and our defense is getting back to where it needed to be and our pitching is coming around. I feel like we’re playing pretty good baseball right now.”

East’s softball team is enjoying its best season in several years. At 12-7, the Olympians have won at least twice as many games as any year in the past seven seasons.

Today, East opens at Jeffersonville. The teams have not met this season.

“I really think we have a good chance,” East softball coach Rusty Brummett said. “We competed with Jeff the last two years. I keep telling our girls if we ever get offense, defense and pitching together in a game, we’re going to be pretty good.”

The Olympian softball team will play all three of its games this week on the road. If it wins tonight, it likely will play Wednesday at Jennings County, which hosts New Albany today.

The Panthers beat East 6-2 on April 25.

“Our girls have talked, and we really didn’t feel we played to our potential when we lost to Jennings County,” Brummett said. “We believe that we can have a better showing the next game. I really like the position we’re in. We talk about playing our best softball at sectional time, and we’re still a couple weeks away. But we have strung a couple games together and are really playing some good softball.”

Olympian girls track coach Glen Brown has said since the beginning of the year that his team will be shooting for a conference title. The might have a chance, given that three-time defending champion Floyd Central isn’t as strong as in years past.

East could benefit from the likely return of a couple athletes from injury on Tuesday.

“I think the team is progressing along like we wanted to, and we set ourselves up that we’re going to have a shot at it,” Brown said. “I think our team is ready. As I told the girls (Friday), ‘We’re right there.’ We’ll do what we need to do and see what happens.”

The boys track team will look to defend its HHC title on Thursday. Last year, East won for the first time since 2008.

Boys track coach David Miller thinks New Albany might be team to beat, with Floyd Central also being a contender.

“I think we have a good chance,” Miller said. “It makes it difficult sometimes because we don’t go against New Albany, Floyd or Jeff, and they’re usually the top three schools in our conference. But we’ve been improving all year and working toward another conference championship.”

If you go

This week’s schedule involving Columbus East and Jennings County in Hoosier Hills Conference events:

Today

Baseball

Columbus East at Jennings County, 5:30 p.m.

Softball

New Albany at Jennings County, 5:30 p.m.

Columbus East at Jeffersonville, 6 p.m.

Girls tennis

Floyd Central at Columbus East, 5:30 p.m.

Jeffersonville at Jennings County, 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday

Girls track meet at Seymour, 6 p.m.

Wednesday

Baseball

Columbus East-Jennings County winner/loser at Madison-Bedford North Lawrence winner/loser in HHC Tournament, 5:30 p.m.

Softball

Columbus East-Jeffersonville winner/loser at Jennings County-Seymour winner/loser, 5:30 p.m.

Girls tennis

Seymour-Bedford North Lawrence winner/loser at Columbus East-Floyd Central winner/loser, 5:30 p.m.

Jennings County-Jeffersonville winner/loser at New Albany-Madison winner/loser, 5:30 p.m.

Thursday

Boys track meet at Madison, 6 p.m.

Friday

Baseball

TBA at Columbus East, 5:30 p.m.

TBA at Jennings County, 5:30 p.m.

Softball

Columbus East at TBA, 5:30 p.m.

Jennings County at TBA, 5:30 p.m.

Girls tennis

TBA at Columbus East, 5:30 p.m.

Jennings County at TBA, 5:30 p.m.

Author photo
Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.