With its slick-fielding infield back intact, the St. Charles Preparatory School baseball team will try to reach beyond a district semifinal.
The Cardinals return 13 letterwinners from a team that finished 19-11 overall a season ago after losing to Olentangy 9-3 in a Division I district semifinal. It was the program's first district semifinal since 2003.
St. Charles also defeated Newark 6-3 in the opening round and beat Westerville North 3-2 in the second round.
The Cardinals finished third (5-3) in the CCL behind DeSales (7-1) and Watterson (6-2) and ahead of Ready (2-6) and Hartley (0-8).
"I like the fact that a lot of our players were in the lineup last year and had decent seasons as sophomores and juniors," 16th-year coach Ray Benjamin said. "They were one of the hardest working groups in the weight room in the offseason and they went above and beyond what was expected."
Back are senior first baseman Lucas Glover (.314, 2 triples, 17 RBI, 8 runs), senior third baseman Chris Brake (.262, 4 doubles, 13 RBI, 15 runs), junior catcher Andrew Fenlon (.250, 5 RBI, 5 runs), junior second baseman Charlie Kolp (.371, 7 doubles 14 RBI, 18 runs) and junior shortstop Jacob Weikert (.354, 10 RBI, 11 runs).
Returning in the outfield are senior Jerad Kitzler (.380, 19 runs, 14 RBI, 3 triples), who is in his third season as a starter, as well as senior Leo Piela and junior Trey Willard, both of whom also pitch.
"We need to pitch and we need to hit because I think we stand out the most defensively right now," said Benjamin, whose team opens Monday, April 1, against Pittsford (N.Y.) Mendon and Mount Washington (Ky.) Bullitt East at ESPN-Disney spring training in Kissimmee, Fla. "We return our whole infield, but offense and pitching might be concerns right now."
Senior Jonathan Ogden leads the returning pitchers after going 5-4 last season with a 4.11 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 19 walks in 44 1/3 innings. Willard was 3-1 with a 3.17 ERA, and Glover had eight saves and a 0.54 ERA in 13 innings.
"We're hoping Jonathan and Trey can step up for us on the mound," Benjamin said.
"They both had decent seasons last year and hopefully they can slide up in the rotation and pitch well for us."
Also on the roster are seniors Louie Altomare (1B/P), Neil Joseph (P) and Patrick Quinlan (OF/P) and juniors Ryan Bailey (OF/P), Sam Gabel (INF), Eric Heiden (INF/OF/P), Alex Macias (INF/OF), Blake Olding (C/P) and Graham Plageman (OF/P).
Senior catcher Will Stechschulte had knee surgery and is out for the season.
Strong senior class to lead lacrosse team
The lacrosse team has eight starters back from a squad that finished 10-7 overall a year ago after losing to Dublin Coffman 6-4 in a first-round Division I Central Region tournament game.
The Cardinals also beat Pickerington North 13-5 in a play-in game.
"Our team this year is led by a tremendous group of seniors, in both skill on the field and work ethic in the classroom, weight room and service to others," said second-year coach Mark Berndt, whose team opened March 26 against Worthington Kilbourne.
"All of those elements are important to us as a program."
The Cardinals return seniors Tommy Drought (defender), Nic Herfel (defender), Stuart Hudelson (midfielder), Phil Kebe (defender), Joseph Montgomery (midfielder), Matt Murtha (midfielder), Sterling Parker (defender), David Shuster (midfielder) and Marcus Ward (midfielder).
The returning starters on offense are Shuster (30 goals, 10 assists), Ward (25, 27), Hudelson (23, 1), junior attacker Ryan Cleary (21, 18) and junior midfielder Mike Hamrock (2, 2, 54 face-off wins).
"Offensively we lose our leading scorer (in 2012 graduate Ryan Finneran, who had 47 goals and 28 assists), but we return almost all our depth beyond that," Berndt said.
"We have several players who are dynamic playmakers, capable of carrying the team in any given game."
The returning starters on defense are Herfel (88 groundballs), Kebe (37 groundballs) and junior Kevin Caldwell (15 groundballs).
St. Charles also returns two sophomore goalkeepers with varsity experience in Nic Carducci (73 saves) and Jack Cleary (15 saves).
"We have a very balanced and versatile team, returning a very experienced and athletic defense," Berndt said.
"We have two goalies who are capable of starting for us, which is a great situation to have."
The roster also includes juniors John Browne (attacker), Brian Doney (midfielder), Jacob Maxwell (attacker), Henry McCann (midfielder), Ian McPhaden (defender) and Mitch Wade (midfielder) and sophomores Nick Carter (attacker), Eddie Glace (midfielder), Aaron Kebe (attacker), Andy Moore (defender) and Zachary Parker (attacker).