First-year coach Ryan Alexander is no newcomer to the Grove City High School baseball team, having spent the last five seasons as a member of the coaching staff.

First-year coach Ryan Alexander is no newcomer to the Grove City High School baseball team, having spent the last five seasons as a member of the coaching staff.

He worked his way up from junior varsity coach to varsity assistant and is now leading the program.

Former coach Jim Habermehl retired last season after 29 years, the last 22 as head coach. The Greyhounds finished 13-13 overall a year ago after a 3-0 loss to eighth-seeded Teays Valley 3-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament. In the OCC-Buckeye Division, Grove City finished third at 5-5 behind Dublin Coffman (7-3) and Hilliard Davidson (7-3) and ahead of Reynoldsburg (4-6), Westerville North (4-6) and Upper Arlington (3-7).

Alexander made sure he learned as much as he could from Habermehl.

"His knowledge of the game is insane," said Alexander, whose team will open Monday at home against Upper Arlington. "(Habermehl) knows every situation and why a team would do something. He always had a counteraction in his head."

Alexander played baseball at Muskingum College before graduating 2003 and has been at Grove City since.

"He'll do a great job," Habermehl said. "He's very energetic, personable and with his enthusiasm he gets along with the kids. He's also knowledgeable, loves baseball and has a hardworking personality."

Alexander has experienced a smooth transition, even as he plans to make a few adjustments.

"I'm trying to make things more upbeat and get us moving on the base paths," Alexander said.

"The team morale is great right now. With this group, we have a chance at winning a lot of baseball games."

Leading the group of returnees are seniors Jared Hill (1B/P), Patrick Jackson (CF/P), David Kennett (SS) and Jonnie Owen (P) and juniors Korey Ayers (2B/3B), Joe Ford (DH/SS) and Mike Mayers (P).

Kennett was first-team all-OCC as he batted .345, Owen and Ayers were second-team all-OCC and Mayers received honorable mention. Jackson batted .355.

Owen was tied for the team lead in wins as he was 4-3 with a 2.83 ERA and Mayers was 3-4 with a 2.90 ERA. Hill missed last season after undergoing elbow reconstruction surgery, commonly referred to as Tommy John surgery.

"By the end of last year, Mayers was our No. 1 and Owen was our No. 2," Alexander said. "Jared will still be limited on pitches and he's more likely to be our closer.

"With our pitching I've been preaching that we have to get it done with the sticks. We've got to score runs."

Grove City lost 10 graduates, led by John Kratz and Todd Spadaro, who were leaders offensively and on the mound. Kratz hit .333 and was 4-2 with a 3.94 ERA and Spadaro hit .325 and was 1-3 with a 1.96 ERA.

Among those also expected to see playing time this season are seniors Jeremy Britton (INF/P), Trent Corwell (P), Justin Poole (C) and Brian Snesac (P) and juniors Brandon Dountz (INF/OF), Zach Maynard (OF/P), Ryan Mullins (OF/C), Tyler Raymond (1B/OF/P) and Vinnie Williamson (OF/DH).

"We've got a spring trip planed and we're headed to Fort Mill, S.C., on April 4," Alexander said. "We'll play three games and we also will look at it as a time the kids can bond and become a team."

At a glance

•Coach: Ryan Alexander, first season

•Opener: Monday vs. Upper Arlington

•Key players: Jared Hill, Patrick Jackson, David Kennett, Mike Mayers and Jonnie Owen