Chris Herring expects the players on the Grandview Heights High School baseball team to take a huge step in his second season as coach.
The Bobcats finished 7-21 overall a year ago, losing to top-seeded Bloom-Carroll 9-1 in the second round of the Division III district tournament after a first-round bye. They went 4-10 in the MSL-Cardinal Division to finish behind champion Licking Heights (13-1).
But a seven-member senior class could make the difference this spring for the Bobcats.
"We have a lot of senior leadership, which is great from a coach's standpoint," said Herring, whose team opens Wednesday, April 3, at Columbus Academy and begins league play two days later at home against Fisher Catholic. "Things that we had to do as coaches last season will be done by the seniors.
"With that many seniors, we also expect bigger things. We look at winning at least 50 percent of our games as being successful. The schedule will be helpful for us this year by playing teams more our size."
The senior returnees are Alex Cochran (3B/C), Nick Durham (utility/P), C.J. Flowers (3B; honorable mention all-league), Andy McCauley (1B/P), Nick Peck (P/1B; honorable mention all-league) and Nick Perez (2B/SS/P). Senior Zach Clemens, a left-handed pitcher and outfielder, will play for Grandview for the first time since middle school.
Josh Keller, a two-year starter at catcher, is the lone junior. The Bobcats have seven sophomores in returnees Jon Faris (OF/2B/P), Ethan Graham (P/1B) and Joe Pinney (SS) as well as newcomers Ben Kinder (C), Tristen Rose (OF), Jake Walters (1B/3B) and Hank Wilson (INF/OF).
Sophomore Leo Readey (OF/P) was first-team all-league a year ago, but likely will not return because of a knee injury suffered during basketball season.
"We have a lot of good leaders who know what we expect after playing last season," Herring said. "That should help us a lot."
Jeff Arndt (INF), Jake Bush (LHP/OF), Grant Crabill (P/OF), Tom Damschroder (P/2B/SS), Colin Elliott (3B), Andre Readey (P/OF) and Thomas Stanley (P/C/3B) are freshmen.
"We have some gaps with skill players and we still don't have a natural first baseman, but we're getting better," Herring said. "We have a good group of freshmen who are all athletic."
Cameron to lead softball program
First-year coach Ron Cameron takes over a softball team that finished 12-12 overall last season after losing to eighth-seeded Heath 10-0 in five innings in the opening round of the Division III district tournament.
"The strength of the team is attitude," said Cameron, who replaced four-year coach Jim Amato. "They work hard in practice and are working to be a competitive Division III team."
The Bobcats finished 6-8 in the MSL-Cardinal last year behind champion Liberty Union (14-0).
Junior third baseman Natalie Webb (second-team all-district, first-team all-league) batted .534 and senior infielder Aileen Evans (honorable mention all-league) hit .412. Senior outfielder Mia Bell batted .300.
Also returning are juniors Sierra Dobbs-Brown (INF/OF), Brooke Berning (INF/OF), Morgan Ramey (P) and Grace VanFossen (INF) and sophomores Emma Bulla (OF), Mary Guida (C), Morgan Taylor (OF/1B) and Allison Voelker (OF/1B).
"I have been coaching for the past 35 years at various sports," said Cameron, whose team opens Tuesday, April 2, at home against Ready and begins league play April 5 against visiting Fisher Catholic. "I have a passion for working with young adults -- I was on the Grandview school board for eight years -- and I have hired good coaches around me."
One of the coaches is Joe Abbruzzese, a longtime AAU softball coach whose daughter, Andi Abbruzzese, joins Mary Emma McLeod as one of two freshman pitchers for the program.
"We only have a couple of girls play softball during the summer, and because of that, we lack some of the basic skills," Cameron said. "Those are some of the things we need to work on at the lower levels. We need to develop players from grades 7-12, which is what we aim to do."