Columbus Academy baseball coach Jim Collis believes his pitching staff will lead his team to success this spring.
The Vikings return three pitchers who helped the team finish 17-11 last season in juniors Garrett Levine (P/1B), Charlie Watters (P/3B) and Spencer York (P/SS).
"We're pretty deep (with our) pitching," said Collis, whose team opens at home against Danville on Monday, April 1, and begins MSL-Ohio Division play April 5 at home against Newark Catholic. "I have five kids that can pitch that I feel pretty good about. Our strength is our kids on the mound."
Watters was second-team all-league a year ago after going 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 21 walks in 37 innings. He also hit .320.
"A few things that we have this year that are keys for success is finally having a lot of pitching depth," Watters said. "This is something we have been missing, but now that we have it, it is going to be great."
Also back is junior Lee Solomon, who has moved from second base to catcher in place of 2012 graduate James Frye, a second-team all-league and all-district selection who hit .426 last spring.
Solomon was honorable mention all-league last season after hitting .355.
Also back are senior outfielder Brandon Dickes, who hit 395 last season, and sophomore Scott Mackenzie (P/OF/3B).
Collis also expects freshman Grey Harmon (P/CF) to contribute.
Others looking to contribute are senior Eli Kroos (2B), juniors Turner Montgomery (2B) and Rahul Ramaswamy (3B) and sophomores Brett Trimbur (OF) and Mitchell York (OF).
"I'm optimistic," said Collis, who is in his sixth season. "We have a pretty good nucleus of kids. A lot of it is going to depend on how we jell as a team chemistry-wise. There are some questions in terms of leadership and who's going to step up and really take the bull by the horns. Team chemistry is huge. I'm anxious to see how this team is going to develop with character and chemistry."
Last season, Academy lost to Fredericktown 6-5 in a Division III district semifinal. The Vikings had a first-round bye and defeated Hartley 10-9 in the second round.
Academy finished fourth in the MSL-Ohio at 6-8, behind Granville (13-1), Newark Catholic (12-2) and Licking Valley (9-5) and ahead of Lakewood (5-9), Bexley (5-9), Heath (4-10) and Whitehall (2-12).
"As it usually is, it's going to be a really competitive league," Collis said. "In this league, baseball is probably the most competitive sport, so it's always a challenge."
Academy also must replace a pair of 2012 graduates who went on to compete collegiately in R.J. Watters, who is playing at Northwestern, and Zach Ratcliff, who is playing at Ohio State.
R.J. Watters was first-team all-league and all-district a year ago, and Ratcliff was first-team all-district and second-team all-league.
Another 2012 graduate, Stephen Casey, was honorable mention all-league after going 6-3 with a 3.44 ERA in 36 2/3 innings.
Boys lacrosse team to begin 2nd season
The boys lacrosse team begins its second season looking to improve on last year's 5-8 finish.
"I believe we will improve," coach J.B. Jones said. "Our expectations are higher. However, I scheduled some tougher games to see where we stack up against better competition."
The Vikings open at home against Marysville on Tuesday, April 2.
The top returnee is senior attacker Hart Wise, who led the team in scoring last season with 48 goals and 17 assists and was honorable mention all-region.
Junior attacker Grayson Wise had 10 goals and three assists last season.
Also back are sophomore midfielder and faceoff specialist Carter Kistler (16 goals, 5 assists last season), sophomore midfielder Drake Williams (11, 11) and junior midfielder Connor Nelson (5, 5).
Jones said freshman Matt Schmidt has emerged as the starting goalkeeper.
"Matt works his butt off," Jones said. "Matt has stepped up and taken the bull by the horns and really has taken over the defense."
Other returning players are juniors Cameron Byers (midfielder) and Tyler Krumlauf (midfielder) and sophomores Max Bechtel (attacker/midfielder), Reed Clark (defender), Josh Collins (defender), Dan Jones (defender), Taylor Smallridge (midfielder) and Sam Wittman (midfielder).
Jones also expects junior Michael Gurwin (midfielder), sophomore Nick Dubey (attacker) and freshmen Jamie Barren (defender), Ryan Cullen (attacker/midfielder), Otis Klingbeil (attacker), Sean Reagan (attacker) and Calvin Wuorinen (midfielder) to contribute.
"Obviously, I want to win every single game," Jones said. "I'm going to do everything I can to coach these kids up so that we have that opportunity in every single game to play our best in every situation."
Last season, the Vikings lost to Akron Hoban 18-7 in a play-in game of the Division II Central Region tournament.
Academy is looking to replace midfielders and 2012 graduates Ben Bechtel and Isaac Mallory. Bechtel was honorable mention all-region last season with 18 goals and 13 assists.