After winning Division I district championships and OCC titles the last two seasons, the 12 seniors who return to the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team understand what it takes to be the best.

After winning Division I district championships and OCC titles the last two seasons, the 12 seniors who return to the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team understand what it takes to be the best.

In 12 seasons, coach Chris Fugitt's teams have succeeded with strong pitching and defense. He doesn't expect any less this season.

"We talked with this group about the kind of legacy they want to leave behind," said Fugitt, whose team opens Tuesday at Watkins Memorial. "These guys have been around and have seen what it takes to win a championship. That's what they know."

The Panthers finished 25-6 overall last season and have won 46 games the last two years combined. Darby beat Zanesville 5-2 in a district final, but a late rally came up short in a 9-8 loss to Gahanna in a regional semifinal.

Darby won seven in a row at one point and finished 9-1 in the OCC-Ohio Division, ahead of Gahanna (7-3), Groveport (6-4), Newark (5-5), Lancaster (2-8) and Westland (1-9). The Panthers now are in the OCC-Central with Hilliard Davidson, Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

"The big motto his year is do the little things," senior shortstop and three-year letterwinner Justin Chumita said. "We know our conference is going to be really tough, so every game we're going to have to be focused."

Darby has a number of veterans, especially on the mound. Seniors Jon Long (5-1, 2.33 ERA) and Matt Frey (5-0, 1.53 ERA) will be the top two starters, but depth is somewhat of a concern.

Last season, Lance Kingrey, who's now at Miami, dominated opposing hitters at 7-0 with a 0.49 ERA before allowing nine runs in the tournament loss to Gahanna. He also was tops at the plate (.379, 11 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs, 27 RBI).

"We're not as deep at pitcher, so we've been focusing a lot on our offense," Long said. "There are going to be games in which we're going to need it."

Fugitt will be counting on his top two throwers.

"Those are guys who have big-game experience," he said. "They're the ones we're going to look to for good outings. With three league games a week, it's all good until it rains a couple of days and you're playing three or four games in a row."

The Panthers over the last two seasons have been masters of one-run games, but the lineup does have the ability to score runs with senior center-fielder Ty Welch (.306, 6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 18 RBI), Chumita (.322, 3 doubles, 2 triples) and senior catcher Alec Orr.

Seniors Mitch Bear (INF) and Ryan Stauffer (1B/OF) will have bigger roles this season.

"We've just got to throw the ball across the plate and make the plays defensively," Fugitt said. "These guys know that's what brings success."

At a glance

•Coach: Chris Fugitt, 12th season

•Opener: Tuesday at Watkins Memorial

•Key players: Mitch Bear, Justin Chumita, Matt Frey, Jon Long, Alec Orr, Ryan Stauffer and Ty Welch