After setting the program record for wins in a season, the Central Crossing High School baseball team has its sights set on loftier goals this spring.
While the Comets would like to better last season's mark of 18-10, they also want to improve in the OCC-Central Division and advance further in the Division I district tournament.
The previous record for wins was set in 2009, when the Comets finished 17-9 for their first winning season.
With nine seniors and eight returning players, 12th-year coach Scott Todd believes his team has a chance to achieve its goals.
"We have the ability to be as good or better than we were last year, but that's going to depend on if the players that were on varsity last year and some of the new players that we're adding can play up to the potential that we see them playing at," Todd said.
The Comets opened March 31 by defeating Madison Plains 11-1 in five innings.
Central Crossing lost to Hilliard Davidson 9-8 in the second round of the district tournament last season and went 5-9 in the OCC-Central to place seventh behind champion Thomas Worthington (11-3).
"Our goal is to try to win a league championship and with the players that we have coming back, we feel that we do have the potential to at least be somewhere near the top of the OCC, and then we'll have to have some things fall our way if we want to get to the top," Todd said.
Senior Marc Russell (SS/P), who will play at Cedarville University, and senior Connor Coup (1B) should lead Central Crossing.
Last season, Coup hit .412 with a team-high 28 RBI and 20 runs and was first-team all-league. Russell hit .373 with a team-high 27 runs and was second-team all-league.
"Last year, we set the school record for wins and all kinds of stat records individually and team records," Russell said. "We're definitely looking to make the next step and move up in the league and win a few tournament games. The key this year will be our pitching."
Junior Doug Smith (P/3B/SS), whom Todd expects to be the ace of the pitching staff, hit .350 last season.
Also back are seniors Austin Albert (OF), Caleb Jones (C) and Drake Sidner (3B/P) and juniors Casey McManaway (OF/P) and Ethan Swank (INF/OF).
Other players are seniors Michael Chamblin (OF), Joey Dunham (C), Jacob Watercutter (1B/P) and Michael Traversa (OF/P), junior Jared Wilson (INF/P) and sophomore Antonio Quintana (INF).
"I like the growth and the progress that our kids are making," Todd said. "They're making big strides from last year."
Central Crossing lost five players to graduation, including Will Bohne (2B/P), who hit .358, and Shaun Seigneur (P/1B/OF), who hit .350 with 22 RBI and was honorable mention all-league.
'Hounds seek league, postseason titles
Grove City entered the season with its usual goals, expecting to contend for an OCC-Ohio title along with district and regional championships.
Last season, the Greyhounds reached a district final before losing to Thomas 8-2 to finish 20-10 overall.
Grove City went 9-5 in the OCC-Ohio to finish third behind Pickerington North (12-2) and Pickerington Central (10-4).
The Greyhounds had played in a state semifinal each of the previous two seasons.
"Our goals never change as a program," sixth-year coach Ryan Alexander said. "Our first goal is going to be that district championship and then everything we do after that shows how much work those kids have put in over the years."
Grove City opened March 29 by splitting two games at Kernersville (N.C.) East Forsyth.
The Greyhounds defeated High Point (N.C.) Southwest Guilford 7-4 behind winning pitcher Ben Myers and lost to East Forsyth 11-7 when the hosts scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to erase a 7-6 deficit.
The Greyhounds lost to Davidson 5-2 on March 31 in the Chillicothe Paints First Pitch Classic.
After losing 13 players to graduation, Grove City's top returnee is Myers (P/CF), a senior who last season hit .465 and scored a team-high 29 runs. He was first-team all-league and all-district and second-team all-state.
Alexander expects Myers and senior Josh Schaffer (P/OF) to be the team's top pitchers.
Last season, Myers was 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA in 38 innings and Schaffer (second-team all-league) was 5-3 with a 1.84 ERA in 38 innings. Junior Chase Antle also will pitch.
"We have a lot of talent this year and good leadership," said senior shortstop Dominic Cooper, who hit .387 last spring and was special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district. "We've had a little trouble finishing during scrimmages. Once we get a better two-strike approach, we'll be great."
Junior Peyton Bowyer (OF) hit .370 last season. Also back are seniors Tyler Cowles (OF), Jake Faught (1B/DH) and Jake Norbut (1B/DH).
Junior Robbie Jobe (C/OF), a transfer from St. Charles, and junior Zach Sarver (C/OF) have been competing to start at catcher.
Other players are seniors Tyler Dunn (INF), Tyler Engard (INF/OF) and Wyatt Riley (1B/DH), juniors Dakota Hawkins (2B), Gage Kavy (INF), Kyle Kimball (INF) and Evan Skinner (P/OF) and sophomores Ethan Cormany (P), Blake Griffith (INF/DH), Jake Harding (C), Kalvin Koethke (OF/DH) and Mark Rader (P/OF/INF).
"Right now we have three veteran pitchers (Myers, Schaffer and Antle) who looked really good in the scrimmages and we're starting to piece our young guys together and they're starting to understand what it's going to take to be successful against some of these quality teams that we're going to play against," Alexander said.
Key losses to graduation were Drew Artrip (1B), who hit .393 with 23 RBI last season and was first-team all-league and all-district, and Brandon Marczika (3B), who hit .360 and was honorable mention all-league.