Watterson High School baseball coach Tony Cleveland said his team struggled to a 14-12-1 record a year ago because of poor chemistry rather than a lack of talent.

Watterson High School baseball coach Tony Cleveland said his team struggled to a 14-12-1 record a year ago because of poor chemistry rather than a lack of talent.

Entering his second season, Cleveland believes the Eagles shouldn't have similar problems.

Watterson, which lost to DeSales 7-6 in a Division II district final last year, will open Monday at home against Westerville North, Tuesday at Olentangy Liberty and Wednesday at home against New Albany.

"Our team chemistry is much, much better this year, and I think that good chemistry always outweighs talent because talented kids don't always play together and sometimes they're in it for themselves," said Cleveland, whose team was third at 5-5 in the CCL a year ago behind DeSales (10-0) and Hartley (7-3) and ahead of St. Charles (3-7), Worthington Christian (3-7) and Ready (2-8). "We've got some talented kids coming back and some good ones moving up to varsity, but the more important thing is they're playing together and we've got good leadership. None of us are satisfied with last season and we're hungry to prove that it was a fluke."

Three starters are back in seniors Jordan Gelhaus (LF), Kevin Obarski (C) and Seth Willoughby (SS).

Willoughby, a Xavier recruit, hit .373 with 18 RBI and 24 runs last year and was first-team all-CCL. Gelhaus batted .348 with 13 RBI, 12 stolen bases and 24 runs and was second-team all-CCL.

Moving into starting roles are seniors Lucas Crawford (3B), Chris Byorth (CF) and Jim Smolik (RF) and juniors Brian Brue-ning (1B), Connor Cattabiani (2B) and Greg Hock (DH).

The four starting pitchers are Hock and seniors Matt Krajcovic, Paul Robinson and Willoughby.

Senior Marck Paliotto, an Ohio University recruit who was second-team all-CCL last season, has transferred to Worthington Kilbourne, where he will play for his father, Mario.

Also on the roster are seniors Nick Briski, Jim Dalin, Adam Grear and Dan Kernan and juniors Joey Boerner, Kenton Fowler, Aaron Hannigan and Eric Robinson.

"Defense is going to be our strength and we should be a good-hitting ball club," Cleveland said. "We don't have any returning starters on the mound, so our pitching is unproven, but I think we have quality pitchers who are going to be successful."

Watterson, which had won the CCL four years in a row before last season, was seeded eighth for the district tournament and opened the postseason with a 9-1 win over Big Walnut and a 3-1 win over fourth-seeded New Albany in a district semifinal.

The Eagles went 0-6 in one-run games.

"DeSales went through the CCL like a hot knife on butter and they're going to be very talented again this year," Cleveland said. "But we feel like we've got the talent and the chemistry to get back on top. We want to show everybody that Watterson baseball is still Watterson baseball."

•The softball team, which finished 18-8 last year after losing to Dublin Coffman 2-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament, will open Tuesday at Hilliard Davidson and Wednesday at home against Central Crossing.

Six starters have returned in seniors Megan Costello (C) and Liz Hrach (RF), juniors Caitlin Prange (2B), Rachel Stydnicki (1B) and Emily Vhalakis (LF) and sophomore Maggie Zych (CF).

Starting at third base is sophomore Maggie Maloney and starting at shortstop is freshman Madeline Simmonds. Junior Shelby Pheanis and sophomore Annie Truelove will split starts at pitcher. Junior Nora Anderson will play in the outfield and freshman Ashley Andracki will see action in the infield.

Last season, Hrach batted .342 with 15 RBI.

"Our pitching is untested, but we have a little more experience than we've had the past few years and more speed than we've ever had," coach Mike Huff said. "This may be the most athletic team we've ever had. In the past, we've been stuck with maybe one base-stealer. This year, everyone on our team can move. That should help us both offensively and defensively."

The Eagles, who never have won a district title, last year earned a share of their first CCL title since 2004. Watterson went 7-1 to tie Ready, ahead of DeSales (3-5), Hartley (3-5) and Worthington Christian (0-8).

"I wouldn't want to have to call a winner in the CCL with a gun to my head because there's no clear favorite, but that's part of what makes competing in this league so much fun," Huff said. "DeSales and Ready return experienced pitching, so you almost have to make them a slight favorite, but we've got a lot of experience back, too, and Hartley could be a spoiler."

•The boys tennis team opened last Wednesday against Pickerington Central and will play Wednesday at Columbus Academy.

•The boys volleyball team will open at the St. Charles Cardinal Classic on Friday and Saturday at Pickerington North and will play Wednesday at St. Charles.