The Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team is not backing down from its latest challenge.
Coming off a season in which they made it to the Division I state tournament for the first time, the Lions will try to build on that finish with one of central Ohio's top seniors and a large junior class.
Making the task more complicated is that Gahanna lost 10 players to graduation, including six starters, from the team that lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 7-5 in a state semifinal and finished 22-10.
"It was just a rewarding accomplishment for our program last year, and now we've got to try and go out and do it again," said coach Mike Shade, who has won more than 350 games in 22 seasons and was elected to the Central District Hall of Fame last November. "We obviously have a lot of new faces this year."
The top returnee is senior Evan White, a first-team all-state first baseman who hit .378 with 24 RBI last year and has signed with the University of Kentucky.
Junior Mason Daniels was the winning pitcher when Gahanna beat Olentangy Orange 15-8 to win its fourth district title in six seasons. He went 5-3 with a 2.05 ERA last season and has verbally committed to Elon University.
Junior Bradley Hull, who has verbally committed to Oakland University, has moved from second base to shortstop.
Senior Kain Lager-Lowe and sophomore Doland Martin are back at catcher after splitting time at the position last spring.
Senior Zach Baumann, who batted leadoff much of last season, is expected to start in right field.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Blake Baker (OF), Gino Buccilla (2B), Brayden Callihan (SS), Cole Carey (3B), Tim Eidens (3B), Loie Greenwood (2B), Jake Hendricks (OF), Santiago Martinez (OF) and Collin Wrona (OF).
Senior Boomer Lowe and junior Cole Gibson, who also has verbally committed to Oakland, should be other key pitchers. Eidens and his sophomore brother, Tom Eidens, as well as Baker also should see time on the mound.
Junior Taylor Acquista is another who could contribute at pitcher.
The Lions lost to New Albany 12-8 in their opener March 31 at home and play their OCC-Ohio Division opener Monday, April 7, at Groveport.
Last season, the Lions tied Lancaster for fourth (8-6) in the league behind champion Pickerington North (12-2).
"Hopefully we'll get the same type of pitching that we've had the last few years," Shade said. "Offensively it will be a big transition for a lot of these guys. Our returning guys have worked a lot."
Softball team sets sights on big season
After winning its fourth district championship in six seasons, the softball team is expecting to be a contender for titles at several levels again this spring.
The Lions went 25-7 overall last season. They return their two best hitters in senior catcher Becca Gavin and junior third baseman Brittany Oldaker, a pitcher who tossed two no-hitters last season in senior Alex Jander and several other key contributors.
"We should be very, very good," 14th-year coach Jim Campolo said. "We've got a lot of good kids coming up. Obviously our goals are the same: Win the league and do well in the tournament. A lot of that is going to depend on us staying healthy."
Oldaker set program marks for home runs in a season (16) and career (23) and also drove in a program-best 62 runs last season. Gavin tied the program mark for runs in a season with 46.
Jander is the No. 1 pitcher after splitting time a year ago with 2013 graduate Emmalee Harding. Senior Hannah Smith also should see time in the circle.
Seniors Sarah Greulich (2B) and Rachel Zink (LF) and junior Alyson Shaw (SS) are other returning starters. Shaw set a program record for at-bats in a season last year with 112 and also has been impressive defensively, according to Campolo.
Sophomore Torey Katzmeyer (1B) and freshman Lauren Woodward (CF) are others who should start.
Junior Jessica Darst and sophomore Alexis McDaniel each could see time as designated players.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Rachel Murdock (INF) and Taylor Turley (OF) and sophomores Amber Jones (P/3B) and Emma Spinney (1B/C).
Gahanna opens Thursday, April 3, at Marysville. Its league opener is Monday, April 7, at Groveport.
Last season, the Lions placed second (11-3) in the OCC-Ohio behind Grove City (13-1).
"The league is going to be a bear," Campolo said. "Grove City has basically everybody back, Pickerington Central I think is going to be really good and Groveport has a very good team."