The arms race has begun for the Delaware Hayes High School baseball team.

The arms race has begun for the Delaware Hayes High School baseball team.

With third-year pitchers Scott Sheets and Frank Eastman among the seven seniors on the roster, coach Mike Yinger knows the Pacers will need to fill those voids first next season.

"Frank and Scott did so much of our pitching the past three years and were the ones to get the ball in all of our big games," said Yinger, whose team lost to Gahanna 10-9 in a Division I district semifinal May 19 to finish 21-7. "We won a district championship last season and competed to the final games the past two years trying to win OCC championships and they pitched all the big games."

Delaware also will lose left-fielder Cody Dalga, second baseman Seth Frentsos, catcher Hobie Jurden, first baseman Zack Nowland and center-fielder Evan Shaw. Nowland (Ohio State), Shaw (Ohio Dominican) and Sheets (Rio Grande) will play baseball in college.

"Hobie was our coach on the field and was the glue to our team," Yinger said. "He was our catcher since midway through his sophomore year. He filled that leadership role. He didn't get the press that some of his teammates did, but he was so quietly solid and important for us. We'll have to address the catching situation immediately."

Nowland and Shaw were first-team all-district and first-team all-OCC-Central Division and were named to the Mizuno All-Ohio team. They will play in the Mizuno All-Ohio Series on June 13-14 in Bill Davis Stadium at Ohio State and represent Team Ohio in the national tournament June 15-22 in Oklahoma City, Okla. Yinger will coach Team Ohio.

Sheets was second-team all-district and Jurden was honorable mention. Eastman was second-team all-league and Jurden was honorable mention.

"All of those seniors did everything we asked them to do whenever we asked them and never second-guessed us," Yinger said. "They created a tradition and taught the younger guys how things are done. They were 43-14 the past two seasons.

"I think the biggest compliment they received came from their teammates during our last team meeting. I let them go and kept the younger guys behind to talk about working during the summer. The younger told the seniors that they won't let them down, won't drop the ball. They plan to carry the tradition on."

The Pacers were seeded sixth for the district tournament and had a first-round bye before beating Reynoldsburg 8-1 on May 15 as Sheets threw a three-hitter. After scoring two in the top of the seventh to beat the Pacers in the district semifinal, Gahanna beat Pickerington Central 18-14 on May 21 in a district final. The Lions played in a regional semifinal last Thursday.

In the regular season, Nowland, who also was the OCC-Central Scholar-Athlete, batted .438 with 30 runs, 30 RBI, two home runs, eight doubles, three triples, 22 walks and a .688 slugging average.

Nowland was followed by Shaw (.383, 40 runs, 20 RBI, 36 stolen bases), Eastman (.369, 26 runs, 14 RBI), Jurden (.333, 27 runs, 20 RBI, 12 walks), Dalga (.333, 16 runs, 12 RBI, 9 stolen bases) and Frentsos (.328, 15 runs, 12 RBI).

Sheets was 6-2 with one save and a 3.50 ERA in 50 innings. Eastman went 5-2 with a save. He had a 2.12 ERA in 43 innings.

Expected to comprise the bulk of the innings on the mound next season are juniors Kees Burns (5-2, 1 save, 1.21 ERA in 29 innings) and Jake Shaw (1-0, 4.67 ERA in 9 innings) and sophomore Billy Harkenrider (3-0, 2.47 ERA in 34 innings).

"Because of the seniors, we were able to work those guys in and get the some experience without throwing them in the fire," Yinger said. "Our seniors, from Frank and Scott and Zack and Evan, they've dealt with that pressure for three years because we had to throw them into the fire right away. That shows that our program is heading in the right direction.

"Burns throws a lot of strikes, but we need to help him develop a third pitch. Harkenrider is a lefty who is only going to continue to get better and better."

Junior shortstop Caleb Wilburn, a Division I college prospect, will lead returnees. He led the team in hitting (.453), RBI (35), home runs (6), doubles (11) and slugging (.791) during the regular season and was second behind Evan Shaw in runs (37). Wilburn was first-team all-district and second-team all-league.

The Pacers will need to find Wilburn some protection in the order. Harkenrider (.317, 22 runs, 25 RBI) will help. Burns batted .321, followed by Jake Shaw (.286), Steele (.275) and Stuntz (.176).

Delaware finished second at 7-3 in the OCC-Central behind Pickerington North (9-1) and ahead of Thomas Worthington (6-4), Westerville Central (5-5), Marysville (2-8) and Central Crossing (1-9).

The Pacers will move into the OCC-Capital next season with Big Walnut, Franklin Heights, Mount Vernon, New Albany, Olentangy Orange and Watkins Memorial. Hilliard Bradley will join when it opens in 2009.

At a glance

•Record: 21-7 overall, 7-3 (second) in OCC-Central

•Seniors lost: Cody Dalga, Frank Eastman, Seth Frentsos, Hobie Jurden, Zack Nowland, Evan Shaw and Scott Sheets

•Key returnees: Kees Burns, Billy Harkenrider, Jake Shaw, Ben Steele, Nate Stuntz and Caleb Wilburn