The few teams that had success last season against the Gahanna Lincoln High School softball team usually did so by surviving the top of the Lions' batting order.

The few teams that had success last season against the Gahanna Lincoln High School softball team usually did so by surviving the top of the Lions' batting order.

While one of Gahanna's biggest focuses in the offseason involved protecting perhaps the district's top returning hitter in senior catcher Kayla Ledbetter, the offseason also was filled with a new training regimen.

The Lions hope to stay fresh throughout a schedule ninth-year coach Jim Campolo considers as challenging as any he has put together. They spent November and December lifting weights, and other forms of conditioning began in January.

Gahanna plays its opener at 2 p.m. Friday at Greenville and also plays Centerville at 4:30 p.m. Friday. It follows with away games Saturday against Lebanon and Middletown and Monday against Newark before playing its home opener Wednesday against Lancaster.

"This year we're actually maintaining our ability to run," Campolo said. "This is probably the best (shape) we've been at this time of year that I can remember. We'll be sound defensively, but the key is, can we hit?"

Ledbetter, who signed with Miami University last November, hit better than .600 but regularly was walked intentionally while batting third in the lineup.

While Campolo said no decision has been made regarding where Ledbetter will bat in the lineup this season, he spent significant time during the preseason considering options that would hinder teams from walking her as often.

Junior Tiyona Marshall started at shortstop as a freshman but excelled in center field last season while batting leadoff. She should start in center again, with sophomore Montana Fishel likely starting in left field.

Senior Kim Lennox and junior Brandis Fishel are the top two pitchers and also should split time in right field. Lennox won 17 games as a sophomore and 16 last season.

Seniors Cathlene Beck (1B) and Kelli Lennox (2B) are other returning starters.

One of the biggest holes to fill on the infield is at shortstop, where 2009 graduate Jendy Weppler started and batted second. Sophomore Sarah Seidel is expected to take over the position.

Senior Jade Overstreet was expected to start at third base but elected not to return this season. Senior Alyssa Clancy, junior Cassady Minor and sophomores Kaitlyn Hann and Emily Vinsel battled during the preseason for the starting job at that position.

Others looking to contribute include seniors Meredith Brim (OF) and Kate Jacobs (P), junior Megan Murray (IF) and sophomores Tanya Busby (OF) and Morgan Sheets (utility).

"Right now we're working a lot on getting stronger and getting our endurance up," Ledbetter said. "It's been going really well. We've got really high hopes for this year."

Last season, Gahanna won its first 15 games including four on a spring break trip to Sarasota (Fla.). The Lions lost their only regular-season games to OCC-Ohio Division opponents as they finished second at 11-3 behind champion Grove City (13-1).

Gahanna defeated Worthington Kilbourne (4-0) and Groveport (4-2) in the district tournament to set up a third meeting against Pickerington Central.

The Lions, who beat Central 4-1 and 3-2 (15 innings) during league play, lost to the Tigers 5-4 in a district final.

Others players lost to graduation were starting outfielder Paula Lindsay and backups Chelsea Coleman, Carrie Hoover and Sharonda Jackson.

"Our coaches expect a lot out of us, and things are going well," Beck said. "(Losing in a district final last year) has motivated us a lot because we want to go further. It's actually pushed us to work harder."

At a glance

•Coach: Jim Campolo, ninth season

•Opener: Friday at Greenville vs. Centerville and host Green Wave

•Key players: Cathlene Beck, Brandis Fishel, Montana Fishel, Kayla Ledbetter, Kelli Lennox, Kim Lennox and Tiyona Marshall

SCHEDULE

April 2 at Greenville, Centerville

April 3 at Lebanon, Middletown

*April 5 at Newark

*April 7 vs. Lancaster

*April 9 vs. Pickerington Central

April 10 at Upper Arlington, Marysville

*April 12 at Pickerington North

*April 14 vs. Grove City

*April 15 at Reynoldsburg

April 16 vs. Gahanna Showcase

April 17 vs. Gahanna Showcase

*April 19 vs. Groveport

*April 21 vs. Newark

*April 22 at Lancaster

April 24 at Mogadore Field, Stow-Munroe Falls

*April 26 at Pickerington Central

*April 28 vs. Pickerington North

*April 30 at Grove City

*May 3 vs. Reynoldsburg

*May 5 at Groveport

May 7 vs. Watterson

May 8 vs. Willow Wood Symmes Valley, Liberty Township Lakota East

*OCC-Ohio game