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BASEBALL

The conference baseball race is starting to look more clear. Ross and Harrison were the first teams to double digit wins. Ross (11-4, 7-0) has been impressive early on, to say the least. The Rams have allowed just seven runs in seven conference games. Harrison (13-2, 6-1) has allowed just five runs in as many conference games. Little Miami (9-5, 5-2) has played well; the Panthers are positioned nicely to try and make a run within the conference. Don't look past Northwest (8-5, 3-4). The Knights haven't played as well in conference games as they would like, but they have a nice pitching rotation that could win some games late in the season. 

SOFTBALL 

Just like in baseball, Ross and Harrison sit atop the conference standings. Harrison (9-3, 7-0) has been dominant in conference, outscoring SWOC opponents 69-18. Defending champions, Ross (7-4, 4-1), have been solid defensively and pitching, but the Rams have struggled to score runs with just 59 in 11 games. Little Miami (9-3, 4-2) has scored the most runs in the conference (112) - they had 156 all of last season. 

Harrison's Shelby Scott has put together a nice season so far. Scott is hitting .667 with 36 at bats and a conference-best 24 hits. 

Three consecutive days of lengthy, consistent rain shortened the opening week of the spring season for many of the SWOC schools. Track and field events were sloppy, but we're left with a nice picture taking shape for the true contenders this season. Several teams were able to take advantage of poor conditions on the baseball and softball diamonds as there are several SWOC teams that remain unbeaten. It may have been most difficult for the boys' tennis teams to get anything going. Wilmington has been able to get three matches in, but no one else played more than one. 

BASEBALL

Harrison and Northwest each came away looking strong in the earliest part of the season. The Knights and the Wildcats are both 4-0 and they've also won games in the Reds Futures Showcase. Northwest defeated Talawanda and Harrison beat Lawrenceburg (Ind.) in the Showcase. Wilmington and Ross are the only other ball clubs with wins at this point. Mount Healthy, Edgewood, Little Miami and Talawanda are still searching. The season is long, and it rewards determination. Harrison pitcher Michael Knollman is the first in the conference to two wins on the mound. Drew Dietz (Ross) hit the first home run of the season and currently leads the SWOC in RBI (7). Little Miami's Grant Christman and Northwest's Danny Hentz are tied for the league-lead in strikeouts with nine. 

Coming up -- Monday (April 7), Wednesday (April 9) and Friday (April 11) are conference matchup nights. Northwest travels to Ross on Monday for what should be a competitive bout. 

SOFTBALL

Ross is coming off one its more successful seasons in school history and the Rams were rewarded for the success with some nice preseason accolades. Ross is ranked No. 1 in The Enquirer Divisions II-IV area coaches' poll and Ross (which has started season 2-1) didn't shy away from scheduling tough games very early in the season. The Rams lost their season opener to Ursuline, 3-2 in extra innings and then followed that loss up with wins over McAuley and Colerain. Little Miami has been tough in its first three games. The Panthers are 3-0 and they've scored a conference-best 23 runs. Little Miami pitcher Brianne Hageman has two wins and hasn't allowed an earned run. Her teammate, Abbey McKee, leads the conference with nine RBI. Katie Carroll (Ross) - the 2013 SWOC Player of the Year - has a league-best 21 strikeouts in her first three games. Talawanda won its season opener, but hasn't been able to get another game in yet due to the weather. 

Coming up -- Inter-conference games are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday this week. Within a three-day period, Ross and Northwest and Little Miami and Harrison play twice. 

BOYS' TRACK AND FIELD 

It's early, but it's nice to look at the start of the season and see who's strong out of the gate. In the 100M dash, Wilmington's Chris Gunkle currently holds the top time (10.89) followed closely by Northwest's DeVohn Jackson (11.00). Gunkle didn't stop there, he's also occupying the top spot for the 200M dash (22.86). Talawanda's Maurice Thomas has posted a strong time in the 400M (52.45). Mount Healthy has the top three runners in the 800M run; Joe Abrams (2:14.60), Xavier Bradley (2:16.40) and Kahlil Phipps (2:17.30). The Owls also have the top times in all four relay races. Check back in as the season progresses. It's always interesting to see who can get rolling at the right time. Case in point, Northwest got on track last season and rode that focus all the way to a state championship relay team. 

GIRLS' TRACK AND FIELD 

Mount Healthy has filed top times from its runners in the 100M, 200M and 400M. They are LaShawnda Dobbs, Shaqualia Gutter and Tatyiana Montgomery, respectively. Harrison's Megan Bernhardt leads the SWOC in the 800M run (2:55.56) and Talawanda's Sarah Starrett leads the 1600M run (5:51.04). It will be interesting to see what becomes of the relay races as the season goes deeper. Currently, three different teams have claimed top spots in the four relays. The field events should be equally hard to predict. 

As winter's reign slowly comes to an end, high school athletes work their way outside for the final season of the athletic calendar. Little time is wasted as the weather gets closer to optimal. 

On Saturday (Mar. 29) baseball and softball seasons begin. Ross was the 2013 SWOC softball champion, while Harrison and Ross split the baseball title. Last season, Edgewood, Talawanda, Ross and Harrison all won at least 16 baseball games. Ross won 23 softball games which included an impressive postseason run that ended at the regional final.

Northwest is coming off a boys' track conference title and a state championship in the 4x100. The Knights lost some key runners and athletes to graduation and they'll most certainly be the team to beat in the conference and into postseason action. Talawanda won the girls' track title last season. Wilmington is the defending boys' tennis conference champion. 

Middletown connected on a 3-pointer, banked off the glass, at the buzzer to beat Wilmington 54-53 in a Division I District final at Xavier University's Cintas Center on Saturday night. 

Wilmington has now lost in the District finals in consecutive seasons (lost to Alter in Division II last season). 

Wilmington sophomore forward Jarron Cumberland is the SWOC Player of the Year and Wilmington coach Mike Noszka repeated as SWOC Coach of the Year. 

Wilmington beat Lakota West 68-59 Tuesday at Xavier University's Cintas Center to earn a Division I Sectional title.

Next up for the Hurricane is another Greater Miami Conference opponent for a District title in Middletown on Saturday (March 8) at 9 p.m. at the Cintas Center.

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