When Matt Kelly took over as coach of the Northridge High School baseball team at the beginning of this year, he suggested that anything other than winning the MBC title would be a failure.

When Matt Kelly took over as coach of the Northridge High School baseball team at the beginning of this year, he suggested that anything other than winning the MBC title would be a failure.

But despite the fact that the Vikings finished 8-14 overall after losing to Heath 9-0 on May 15 in the second round of the Division III district tournament and went 6-7 in the MBC to place fifth, numerous positives emerged in his first season.

"I think that the players played their hearts out and they gave it they best shot. Once we figured things out, they really gave it their all," Kelly said. "It was just a lack of depth that hurt us near the end of the year, but that will happen with a younger team."

The Vikings struggled early, losing six of their first seven games, including 14-5 at home to Johnstown. The turning point came as Northridge earned three consecutive league wins near the end of April, sparking a streak that lifted the Vikings to close the regular season winning six of their last 10 games. They beat Elgin 11-1 on May 13 in the opening round of the district tournament before losing to Heath.

The youth that characterized the Vikings makes for a bright outlook for next season. Just three seniors -- two of whom started -- were on the roster. John Wilson saw more action on the mound than any other player, starting six games and posting a 6.25 ERA with 37 strikeouts. Wilson also was a dangerous offensive weapon, leading the team with 18 RBI and eight doubles en route to a .491 batting average.

Matthew Boudinot will be missed both at and behind the plate. The senior catcher had 10 RBI with a .357 on-base percentage. Senior middle-infielder Cory Mullins batted .304.

Northridge batted .307 as a team with seven underclassmen in the lineup. After hitting .458 this year, junior Sean Haines will return. He's joined by classmates Alan Witte (.351) and Ryan King (.250), who bring power to the lineup.

Depth in the pitching rotation should be a boon to the Vikings next year, with four potential starters expected back. Haines, Witte, King and sophomore Zak Harrod all logged significant innings this year. Defensively, the infield will look to fine-tune fundamentals. Of the 150 runs allowed this year, only 99 were earned.

The Vikings should benefit from a strong sophomore class. This season marked the arrival of Harrod, who led the team in runs scored (17) and posted a .361 batting average. Harrod provided good defense at third base and had a team-best 4.17 ERA in more than 30 innings pitched.

"He's a very hard worker who takes a lot of pride in what's he doing," said Kelly. "That really showed when we struggled against Heath -- he really took it hard. That passion is what's going to take him far, I have no doubt that he'll be a strong player in the years to come."

Sophomores Bryant Callan, Alex Scott consistently were in the starting lineup. Kelly also is optimistic that Harrod's classmates Cody King, Matt Herbst and Torey Eckhardt should make a similar transition next season.

At a glance

•Record: 8-14 overall, 6-7 (fifth) in MBC

•Seniors lost: Matthew Boudinot, Cory Mullins and John Wilson

•Key returnees: Bryant Callan, Sean Haines, Zak Harrod, Ryan King, Keith Remley, Alex Scott and Alan Witte