Much of the uncertainty that the Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team battled at times last season has disappeared.
The Lions have 11 seniors, including pitcher Alec Tuohy and catcher Dakota Cararo, after earning a Division I district runner-up finish.
It's a much different scenario from a season ago when Gahanna began with three key returnees and a slew of inexperienced but potentially talented players.
The Lions, who went 22-7 last season, opened March 30 by sweeping a doubleheader against Perry, 10-2 and 7-4, and defeated Marysville 12-2 on April 1.
"They have confidence in their abilities and they're experienced, so that's always a good thing," 22nd-year coach Mike Shade said. "I think we should be pretty sound defensively and I'm fairly confident in our pitching staff."
Tuohy, who has signed with Buffalo, went 5-4 with a 2.54 ERA in a team-best 57 2/3 innings last season. He was second-team all-OCC-Ohio Division and all-district.
Also back is junior Evan White, who was 3-1 with a 1.61 ERA in 26 innings. White will play first base when he's not pitching after hitting .480 with team-best totals of 31 runs, 49 hits, 102 at bats and 12 doubles. He was first-team all-league and all-district last year and has committed to Kent State.
Cararo hit .421 with 24 RBI last year. He was first-team all-league and second-team all-district and has committed to Adrian College (Mich.).
Seniors Trent Champlin (CF), Christian Chiero (3B/P) and Shawn Martin (2B) also were key players last season.
The other seniors are Nick Cronk (C), Alex Delp (RF), Brock Frentzel (1B/P), Luke Liston (OF), Elliot Meizlich (OF) and Peyton Ross (LF).
Also on the team are juniors Floyd Lowe (OF/P) and Kain Lowe (C), who are not related, junior Zach Baumann (OF/P) and sophomores Cole Carey (3B), Mason Daniels (P/OF), Cole Gibson (P) and Bradley Hull (SS).
Gahanna placed second in the OCC-Ohio last season at 10-4, behind Grove City (11-0) and ahead of Pickerington Central (9-4), Pickerington North (9-4), Reynoldsburg (5-9), Lancaster (4-8), Newark (4-9) and Groveport (0-14).
The third-seeded Lions beat Canal Winchester 4-2 in the second round of the district tournament and 10th-seeded Dublin Jerome 5-1 in a district semifinal before falling to Olentangy 5-3 in a district final.
Gahanna lost six players to graduation, including two who are playing collegiately in Cole Griesinger (Ball State) and Chris Secore (West Liberty State). Secore was 7-1 with a 1.25 ERA in 55 2/3 innings and was first-team all-district and second-team all-league. Griesinger hit .285 with 19 RBI.
Frankie White, who was 6-0 with a 3.33 ERA in 35 2/3 innings, also was a senior last year.
Pitchers, catcher back for softball squad
The softball team will field a less experienced squad after going 20-9 and reaching a Division I district semifinal a year ago.
The potential is there for another solid season, according to 13th-year coach Jim Campolo, because of the Lions' athleticism and returning battery.
Senior Emmalee Harding and junior Alex Jander are back at pitcher after splitting time last season and junior Becca Gavin returns for her third season at catcher.
That trio, along with sophomore power-hitting third-baseman Brittany Oldaker, will attempt to help Gahanna overcome the loss of a five-member 2012 senior class that included three players who are competing in college.
The Lions opened April 3 against Westerville North.
"We're going to be quite a bit younger because we lost five seniors," Campolo said. "We've got our pitchers back and our catcher back, and to me those are the two most important things."
Also expected to see time in the circle are senior Sara Nelson and junior Hannah Smith.
Nelson also will play first base and could see time at designated player.
Oldaker, who hit nearly .500 and tied the program record for home runs with seven a year ago, likely will bat cleanup.
Also seeing time at first base could be sophomore Destiney Darst.
During the preseason, juniors Rachel Zink and Sarah Gruelich saw time at second base and senior T'awnna Morris and sophomore Alyson Shaw were competing at shortstop.
Senior Olivia Schumacher is recovering from an injury that occurred while playing softball during the winter but should be in right field when she is healthy.
Zink likely will start the season in left field, with junior Shelby Lowe in center field.
Senior Kaitlyn Huddleston (designated player) and sophomore Jessica Darst (2B/OF) are others looking to contribute.
Last season, Gahanna went 9-5 to place third in the OCC-Ohio behind Grove City (13-1) and Pickerington Central (11-2) and ahead of Lancaster (7-7), Groveport (6-8), Pickerington North (6-8), Newark (3-11) and Reynoldsburg (0-13).
In the postseason, the Lions beat Columbus West 13-0 and Westerville Central 4-1 before falling to Pickerington Central 8-5 in a district semifinal.
Tanya Busby (2B, Cedar-ville), Montana Fishel (CF, Ohio Dominican) and Sarah Seidel (SS, Muskingum) were seniors last year who are playing collegiately.
"We'll maybe be a little more athletic than we have been in the past and defensively I think we can be sound," Campolo said. "Hopefully our pitching can carry us a little early on."