Last summer was all about preparation for the high school season to come for the Bexley (Hartley) American Legion Post 430A baseball team.

Last summer was all about preparation for the high school season to come for the Bexley (Hartley) American Legion Post 430A baseball team.

For the first time, Post 430A was dealing with a roster entirely composed of Hartley High School players, unlike past teams that had included some from Bexley. Coach Steve Daley kept the focus on individual improvement that hopefully would pay off for Hartley the next spring.

Once again, Post 430A will feature an all-Hartley lineup, and the goals for Daley remain largely the same. He's got a suspicion, however, that this team is one that can fare well within District 12 if it wants to.

"Our objective is very similar to last year, but I think we're going to be a little more competitive this year from the start," he said. "Last year, we improved throughout the year and were pretty competitive in the tournament, but this year it looks like we're going to start out being competitive with those teams."

Post 430A went 16-19 overall last season and made strides in the league, finishing 5-10 in District 12 compared to 2-13 the year before. The translation from summer ball to the high school season has been positive, however, as Hartley wound up having two of its best seasons in 2007 and 2008, winning a total of 40 games.

"For me, I think winning a lot over the summer builds your confidence for the season," senior Tim Heinmiller said. "It's the same guys that are playing on the high school season, too, so if you're winning with them over the summer, it builds trust in your teammates and gives you confidence for the spring season."

Post 430A does appear to be on better footing to start the year, despite being without a couple of its best players for significant stretches already. Before last Sunday, Post 430A was 4-4 overall and 4-3 in league play.

The strong point of the team is expected to be its pitching, where Post 430A has a deep rotation, but one without a particular ace.

Daley said he expects five pitchers -- senior Steve Williams, juniors Tim Schmitz and Justin Momeyer and 2008 graduates Jared Quinn and Jeff Daley -- to carry most of the load.

Although Kyle Barr, a 2008 graduate who anchored the staff last summer, isn't back, coach Daley feels confident about this group.

"I do think one of our strengths is going to be our pitching staff," he said. "We don't have what I'd call a dominant pitcher. We've got several very good pitchers."

At the plate, Post 430A has been hitting well of late, but coach Daley said that with the young teams that Post 430A typically has, hitting likely will be inconsistent throughout the year. What could make or break plenty of games this year is defense, which is critical behind a solid pitching staff.

"For us to be successful, obviously, defensively we've got to be pretty tight," coach Daley said. "I know we've been putting up a lot of runs lately, but the question is whether we can win 2-1, 2-0, 4-3. Those are the type of games where there's not a lot of margin for error."

About half of this year's team played on the varsity last spring, with the other half playing on the junior varsity. Three players -- Jeff Daley, Momeyer and Heinmiller -- started on the varsity last spring. In addition to pitching, Jeff Daley will start in left field and Momeyer will start at third base. Heinmiller is the starting catcher just as he was for Hartley in the spring. All three bat near the top of the lineup.

Also seeing action in the infield will be Schmitz (SS), Williams (1B/3B), Quinn (2B/SS), senior Morgan Cornwell (1B/3B), junior Ben Currie (2B/C), junior Jacob Gilmore (3B/1B), junior Jordan Lafferty (3B/1B), Chris Rose (2B/3B) and Ryan Wagenbrenner (2B).

Currie has been the team's biggest run-producer to this point, driving in 14 runs in the team's first seven games.

Along with Daley in the outfield, senior Tim Eichhorn has been starting and typically has been hitting second. Junior Jacob Swartz, a varsity starter for Hartley, is also expected to contribute in the outfield along with Wagenbrenner and senior Tucker Reeb. Reeb and Eichhorn are also expected to log some innings on the mound.

Heinmiller said it's been obvious even in the losses that Post 430A has a much stronger team than it had last summer.

"We started off with (a doubleheader against) Grove City, and they're traditionally one of the best Legion teams around here. We lost both games, but we played them real close, and I think that showed us that we can be a lot more competitive than we were last year."