Without a deep pitching staff, the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team finished 12-15 last season and lost to New Albany 3-1 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Without a deep pitching staff, the Hilliard Darby High School baseball team finished 12-15 last season and lost to New Albany 3-1 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

It's a dilemma that 14th-year coach Chris Fugitt faces again when his team opens Tuesday, March 29, against visiting Whetstone.

"We've got a lot of guys who we can put on the mound, but we've got to get some consistency," Fugitt said. "(Senior) Sam Harmon is really the only guy with varsity experience and we feel like we're going to get a solid outing with him on the mound."

Graduates Caleb Korogianos (4-3, 2.80 ERA) and Tyler Wilson (3-3, 3.09 ERA) were the bright spots last season when Darby tied for third at 8-6 with Thomas Worthington and Hilliard Davidson in the OCC-Central Division.

Worthington Kilbourne (12-2) won the title ahead of Upper Arlington (11-3). Dublin Coffman (7-7), Central Crossing (2-12) and Westland (0-14) rounded out the standings.

"We're going to have a lot of unknowns out there (on the mound)," senior catcher Brad Taylor said. "I think we've got 14 guys who can pitch, but we need guys who can throw strikes."

The roster features 10 returning letterwinners and five returning starters in Taylor and seniors Michael Mann (1B/3B), Joey Drakulich (SS), Zack Thompson (OF) and Ryan Coverstone (OF).

Thompson, who was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last season, batted .414 with three doubles, two triples, a home run and a team-best 18 RBI in the regular season.

Mann hit .357 with two doubles and 12 RBI.

Both return to a lineup that set a school record for batting average (.323) and scored nearly seven runs per game.

"I think we can be a good offensive team," Fugitt said. "We've got some decent speed, but we've got to find out what we're going to be like with umpires and when the scoreboard comes on. We've got five or six sophomores who are pretty skilled but don't have any varsity experience."

Those sophomores include Jake Chetock (3B), Stephen Hernon (C) and Chris Ramsey (OF).

Seniors Josh Schneider and Anthony Tata also will be competing for playing time in the outfield.

"We had a pretty successful summer and some of our younger guys have stepped up," Drakulich said. "We've got a pretty solid defense and I think we've come to realize it's going to take a team effort to win a championship."

The Panthers will be looking for a better start after opening last season 3-8. They went on to win eight of the next 11 games before finishing with four consecutive losses, including an 11-1 setback to Davidson.

Darby was 4-9 in non-league play.

"I like how our guys work right now," Fugitt said. "We've got more of the little things to learn and we'll continue to do that."