Veteran infielders could hold the key to the St. Charles Preparatory School baseball team defending its CCL title.
The Cardinals return four seniors who were first-team all-CCL a year ago in catcher Andrew Fenlon (.342, .495 on-base percentage, 18 RBI, 17 runs), third baseman Erik Heiden (.385, 19 RBI, 16 runs), second baseman Charlie Kolp (.396, .477 OBP, 24 RBI, 23 runs) and shortstop Jacob Weikert (.307, .505 OBP, 24 runs, 14 RBI).
They helped the Cardinals go 20-7 overall and 7-1 in the CCL. St. Charles won the league for the first time since 2004.
"We return pretty much our whole infield, but we're still searching for some key spots," said coach Ray Benjamin, whose 17th season begins Saturday, March 29, at home against Whitehall. "Andrew, Charlie and Jacob are three-year starters and Erik is back at third.
"It's just like any other year. Even though we have a veteran squad, we still have to get the ball over the plate and hit the ball to win games."
Those expected to see time on the mound are seniors Graham Plageman (3-1, 24 innings, 3.79 ERA) and Trey Willard (2-2, 37 1/3 innings, 3.19 ERA, 33 strikeouts, 18 walks), along with Heiden, senior Jacob Myers (1B) and juniors Nick Pappa (1B) and Tom Ryan (3B).
Senior Ryan Bailey returns in the outfield and senior Sam Gabel has moved to first base after playing in the middle infield. Junior Jimmy Holtz will play first base and in the outfield.
"Even with the (artificial) turf, we haven't been (outside) much, so we're still trying to figure out who fills some of the open spots," Benjamin said. "We have a nice mix of juniors and seniors, but the veterans have to show up and do what they do.
"The kids have been through a lot and won a lot of games. They are a fun group and they get the work done."
St. Charles opens CCL play April 7 against visiting Watterson.
Lacrosse coach sees balance as strength
The lacrosse team returns key members of its attack, midfield and defense as it looks to improve on last season's 10-9 overall record.
"Our depth and balance are going to be key for us," said second-year coach Mark Berndt, whose team opened March 26 at Olentangy Liberty. "We have focused a lot on playing as a complete team and playing within our schemes at both ends of the field. We don't see ourselves as being overly reliant on any one or two players, so our success will rely on a shared approach and contributions from several players."
Senior midfielder Brian Doney was second-team all-region last season after having a .630 face-off percentage. Senior attackers John Browne (19 goals) and Ryan Cleary (17 goals, 15 assists) are the top returning scorers, while senior Kevin Caldwell, senior Ian McPhaden and junior Andy Moore are back as defenders.
Junior goalkeeper Nicolas Carducci had 156 saves and .560 save percentage last season.
"We need to continue to improve our fundamentals, which are the building blocks of everything we do," Berndt said.
"We also need to sustain our intensity throughout the game. We have great senior leaders, but much of our depth is relatively young, so we will have to mature and learn as a team."
Rounding out the attack are junior Zachary Parker, sophomore Lukas Johnson and freshman Mitch Spaulding. Also in the midfield will be senior Michael Hamrock, juniors Nick Carter, Matthew Drought, Eddie Glace, Aaron Kebe, Ryan Panzera, Liam Sullivan and Spencer Ward and freshman Alex Shuster.
Senior Jacob Maxwell and junior Will Buster will share duties at long-stick midfielder. Juniors Andrew DiNapoli and Brandon King are defenders and junior Jack Cleary is a goalie.
Tennis team has lineup options
Tennis coach Linda Myers has several court options as she enters her sixth season.
Seniors David Kellogg, Conner Mentel and Will Niermeyer return along with junior Connor Yakubov and sophomores Alex Dabek and Sam Sullivan.
Freshmen Vinh Thai and Evan Yakubov also will have prominent roles.
"Connor Yakubov is coming back in good tennis shape and he always gets better as the season goes on," said Myers, whose team was 10-7 overall last season and won its second CCL title in three seasons by going 4-0. "Sam Sullivan is taller and stronger, and his game is better because he has added more dimensions to it.
"Evan Yakubov is a 'phenom' and he's ready to step in at No. 1 (singles) as a freshman and Vinh Thai is another freshman who is right up there. Then we have Will Niermeyer, who is a great No. 5. We have eight great guys who can play on any (singles or doubles) court."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Michael Doyle and Tyler Mitchell, juniors Konrad Kappel and Stephen Susa, sophomores Ian George, Firas Houssein, Colin O'Connor, Aiden Robinson, Connor Timmons and Ryan Zesch and freshmen Windsor Niermeyer, Michael Rocca and David Suh.
"We have a lot of talented players who have played in a lot of (offseason) tournaments, but that sometimes doesn't translate in high school matches," said Myers, whose team opens Tuesday, April 1, at home against Ready in a CCL match. "The kids are working well together and working hard to get better every day. I'm really excited to see how we play."
Last season, the doubles team of 2013 graduates Jack Groeber and Trey Stranges reached the Division I district tournament, but lost to New Albany's Nick Blair and Alex Kobelt 6-1, 6-1 in the first round.