With three starting pitchers back from last year's 20-8 squad, the Bexley High School baseball team doesn't expect to have trouble attaining fifth-year coach Tom Marker's goal of improving from game to game.
Junior left-hander Josh Shapiro, the ace of the staff, was 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 55 innings last season. Shapiro, who was first-team all-MSL-Ohio Division and all-district in Division II, has recovered from the arm injury that forced him to leave a 12-6 district semifinal loss to Jonathan Alder a year ago, according to Marker.
Junior Drew Elliott (5-1, 4.96 ERA) and senior Marshall Drewry (3-3, 3.20 ERA) round out the starting staff. Senior Tate Hughes, who was 2-0 in 16 innings last season, is the closer in addition to being the starting shortstop.
"Our pitching staff is going to be deep. We have three starters that we can go to at any time," Marker said. "I am confident in all of them getting the job done, and with Josh on the mound we're going to be able to play with anybody."
Joining Hughes as starters in the infield are senior catcher Will Davis, senior first baseman Teddy Brunning, sophomore second baseman Eric Callahan and Drewry at third base. Freshman Alex Shapiro is expected to see time at second and third base.
The outfield features senior Alex Eikenberry in center, junior Ethan Bredemeier in left and junior Chase Roddy in right.
Josh Shapiro led last year's team with a .319 batting average, 26 RBI and 30 runs. Drewry (21), Davis (20) and Hughes (20) each drove in at least 20 runs, while Hughes (.306) and Davis (.305) also hit above .300.
Marker, whose team lost three players from a year ago to graduation, believes in a simple formula for success.
"We want to throw three pitches -- fastball, curveball and change-up -- for strikes, make the routine plays defensively and then have quality at-bats," he said. "If we do those things, we are going to win a lot of ballgames."
Bexley opened March 31 with a 6-4 win over Sparta Highland then lost to Groveport 9-2 on April 2 and dropped its MSL-Ohio opener to West Jefferson 2-0 on April 4. The Lions swept a doubleheader from Westland on April 5, winning 11-0 and 10-0.
"Our guys buy in to what we ask them to do and they do what they need to do to get better," Marker said. "This is the best group of kids that I have had overall anywhere I have been."
New pitcher expected to boost softball team
It was quite an offseason for the softball program.
Last summer, coach Rick Wemlinger told his players that this season, his fifth at Bexley and 23rd overall, would be his last.
Then in November, Wemlinger received word about a new player in pitcher Katy Watson, a senior who played two years at Xavier College Prep in Phoenix before moving to central Ohio during her junior year.
Watson plays travel softball for the Ohio Nightmare and attends Columbus Academy, which does not have softball. According to Wemlinger, a rule that went into effect last September allows a student who attends a non-public high school and plays a sport not offered by that school to play for the high school in the district in which that student lives.
The Watson family lives in Bexley.
"Her father called our school in November and he knew of the rule and the school knew of the rule," Wemlinger said. "She is a really good kid and she is definitely an upgrade for us.
"Since I have been at Bexley, she is the best pitcher we have had."
The right-hander won her first two games for Bexley while striking out 22 in 12 innings. The Lions, who were 13-14 last season, defeated Eastmoor Academy 15-0 on April 1 and Fairfield Christian 7-2 the next day. They then beat Reynoldsburg (8-1) and Amanda-Clearcreek (6-0) on April 5.
With the addition of Watson, Wemlinger's expectations have been raised for his final season.
"Even if Katy wasn't here we'd feel we could win about 15 games. With Katy, we feel we can win many more," Wemlinger said. "I most definitely feel that we can contend for the (MSL-Ohio) title."
The starting infield features senior catcher Elizabeth Williams, senior first baseman Kayley Barno, senior second baseman Jordan Nagle, junior shortstop Abby Barno and senior third baseman Abbey Lowenstein.
Sophomore Ashley Barno will be in left field, with senior Sidney Woodford in center. Senior Katy Butler is expected to see time in right field along with freshman Lauren Woodford, who also is the team's No. 2 pitcher.
"Team-wise, we did drop down to Division III. I think there are some very good teams in Division III, but not as many as there are in Division II," Wemlinger said. "We're shooting for a top-five seed (in the postseason) and we'd like to get into the district finals, if we can."
Liefeld begins second stint as tennis coach
Although the boys tennis team has undergone a coaching change, the transition should be seamless.
The Lions once again are under the direction of Mark Liefeld, who was coach from 2001-05 and junior varsity coach the past six seasons.
Liefeld replaced G.J. Seckel, who resigned after last season. Liefeld and Seckel played tennis together at Bexley and Capital University.
"I'm glad to have this opportunity again and I enjoyed working with coach Seckel," Liefeld said. "It is fun. I have done it for a long time. I retired from teaching last year, but I wasn't ready to give it all up. I still like being involved with the kids at the school."
His second stint started with a 5-0 win April 2 at DeSales. Seniors Max Knox-Kelly and Ethan Goodstein won at first and third singles, respectively, as did sophomore Shia Saar at second singles.
Knox-Kelly and Goodstein each played doubles last year and advanced to the Division II district tournament.
"I think, if you look at our lineup, our top three players playing singles, we are counting on them to lead the way," Liefeld said. "They are a pretty solid one, two, three."
Sophomores T.J. Phelps and Cody Rawlings played first doubles and the junior tandem of Gauthier Knox-Kelly and Andy Ingwerson were at second doubles in the opener.
Liefeld also expects senior Logan Wilhelm to play doubles this spring. Wilhelm is recovering from a ruptured spleen suffered during an indoor soccer game last month ago, according to Liefeld.
"We are a little less experienced at the doubles positions," Liefeld said. "But I also think we're going to be competitive on the doubles courts."
Bexley lost six players from last year's team, which went 9-7 overall and 5-1 in league play.
"I think we're going to be pretty good this year," Liefeld said. "As a tennis coach at Bexley, I have the luxury of having a lot of kids who play tennis in the offseason and work on their games."