Coming off a tough season in terms of wins and losses, the Grove City American Legion Post 164A baseball team was supposed to be loaded with returning talent from last year's unusually young team.

Coming off a tough season in terms of wins and losses, the Grove City American Legion Post 164A baseball team was supposed to be loaded with returning talent from last year's unusually young team.

When several key players opted not to play, however, 10th-year coach John Mott thought those high expectations might need to change. But three weeks and 13 games into the season, Post 164A had yet to lose a game, and Mott was starting to think these circumstances weren't so bad after all.

"We actually have a great group of players," he said. "They get along extremely well, they're very interested in listening and learning and taking the coaching. So what I thought might have been a disappointment has turned out to be quite enjoyable so far."

Grove City had its worst District 12 finish of Mott's tenure last season. Grove City tied Hilliard (Davidson) Post 614A for fifth at 11-4 behind Southway (Central Crossing) Post 144A (12-3), Columbus (Watterson) Post 82 (12-3) and Worthington Post 239 (14-2). In the District 12 tournament, Grove City went 2-2 and was eliminated by Dublin (Coffman) Post 800C 8-4 in a losers bracket semifinal.

Still, Grove City posted an overall record of 28-14, and there's reason to believe it could improve on that mark this season.

Before last Monday, Grove City was 16-3. In District 12, Grove City was 8-1.

According to Mott, Grove City has a balanced team with perhaps its biggest strength being its pitching staff.

"Fans seem to think that our strength is our hitting because we've ended a lot of games in five innings," Mott said. "We've already had five run-rules. But I think our pitching and our defense have been doing really well. I'm an old-school guy, and pitching and defense is what you build a team around."

Four pitchers have carried most of the load as starters, but Mott said he has four or five others who will log plenty of innings. Eric Livingston, a 2007 Delaware Hayes High School graduate, has been the ace of the staff thus far. Livingston was 2-2 with a 7.04 ERA in 30 2/3 innings at Ohio Wesleyan last spring.

John Kratz, Tim Knezovich and John Owen also are in the primary rotation. Kratz, a 2008 Grove City graduate, was 4-2 with a 3.94 ERA, and Owen, a senior at Grove City, was 4-3 with a 2.83 ERA. Knezovich was the top pitcher on a Briggs team that went 18-6 last spring.

Neither Knezovich nor Livingston played for Post 164A last season, but Knezovich, who will play at Ohio Wesleyan next season, said fitting into the lineup of mostly Grove City players has been easy.

"They've greeted me pretty well, with open arms pretty much," Knezovich said. "I knew one kid, we played summer ball before, and we went in together. But actually we're all jelling together, we're playing great ball. We all get along, no attitudes or anything."

Filling out the rest of the infield have been Grove City junior Joe Ford at shortstop, Franklin Heights senior Jeremy Britton at second base, Knezovich at third and Grove City Christian junior Zach Snider at first. Snider hit nearly .600 with four home runs last spring.

Three players -- Central Crossing junior Chris Siders, 2008 Grove City graduate Dusty Wymer and Grove City junior Ryan Mullins -- have shared the catching duties, and Mullins also has seen some action as a designated hitter.

In the outfield, 2008 Grove City graduate Kirby Ayers is the starter in center for the second year in a row. Kratz and Livingston have shared time in right field, Grove City senior Derrick Terry and Grove City junior Zach Maynard have shared time in left. Kratz hit .333 last spring and was first-team all-OCC-Buckeye Division, and Ayers was second-team all-OCC-Buckeye.

Central Crossing junior Francesco Perez and Grove City senior Brian Senesac round out the roster.

After the hot start to the season, Mott and his players have confidence that they'll be back near the top of the District 12 standings by the end of the summer.

"We'll compete for the district title," Mott said. "We think we have the pitching and the hitting to play with anyone we've seen so far."

"I definitely think from what I've seen so far, we definitely should get out of district and hopefully give state a run," Knezovich said. "We're in a little bit of a slump right now, but if we get the bats woken up, no one can really beat us."