It's too early for coach Don Carter to predict how his Johnstown-Monroe High School baseball team will fare in his ninth season.

It's too early for coach Don Carter to predict how his Johnstown-Monroe High School baseball team will fare in his ninth season.

The Johnnies have seven returning starters, but a talented group of underclassmen may have to mature quickly for the team to improve on last season.

"We have seven returning players, but I still think we're young because we're starting a lot of underclassmen," said Carter, whose team finished 5-22 overall last season after losing to Elgin 11-1 in the opening round of the Division III district tournament. "And some of the players we have back are in different positions."

An example of that is junior Andrew Pizzuro, who moves from second base to shortstop.

The six other returnees include seniors Justin Deal (LHP/OF), Andrew Gray (RHP), Andrew Pinson (3B) and Richie Shults (CF) and juniors are Brandon Mallett (RHP) and Chris McLain (RF).

Last season, the Johnnies hit below .300 as a team. Shults scored 23 runs and McLain had 13.

The rest of the roster includes two first-year, senior right-handed pitchers in Mike Maricevich and Matt Walker. The Johnnies also have four sophomores in Taylor Baughman (LHP/OF), Hunter Cecil (2B), Harley O'Flaherty (1B) and Matt Smith (C).

"I think the strength right now has been their attitudes and camaraderie. They have been working well together," said Carter, whose team opens with non-league games Tuesday at Thornville Sheridan and Wednesday at home against Granville. "I think our pitching can be pretty good, but we'll have to see when we get on the field. I also think that our hitting will be better than last year when our best hitter was at .311."

The Johnnies finished 4-10 in the MBC last season, behind champion Utica at 14-0.

"Fredericktown and Utica will be tough to beat, and Northridge always puts a good, tough competitive team out there," said Carter, whose team plays non-league games at home Friday against Lakewood and a doubleheader Saturday at Heath before opening MBC play April 5 at Danville.

•The softball team has a new coach in Meagan Sheasby, who graduated from Danville in 2002 and Kenyon College in 2006. She was a girls basketball assistant last year at Danville and an assistant softball coach at Warsaw River View.

Sheasby takes over a program that reached its first district final last year, losing to eventual Division III state champion Lakewood 2-1 to finish 19-8 overall. The Johnnies have reached a district semifinal in each of their past four seasons, but only return one player with significant playing time in Courtney Dingess, a starting catcher who might move to the outfield.

"We'll be young because last year they had a strong core of seniors," Sheasby said. "We have a lot of girls ready to step into new positions and get their chance on varsity. With a little experience, this team will start to shine."

Joining Dingess in the senior class are Kendra Wood (OF/C) and Abbey Gorsuch, an outfielder/catcher who has not played since her freshman year.

The juniors include Hannah Farley (OF), Brooke Ison (INF), Megan Karnes (OF).

Sarah Scovell (1B) and Kassie Walker (OF). Kelci Spang (1B/3B) and Megan Yanczura (OF/2B) are sophomores along with right-handed pitcher Carly Pickard. Freshman right-handed pitcher Kimberly Meyers will split time between j.v. and varsity.

"I think their strength is enthusiasm for the sport and the fact that you never have to get on them to work," said Sheasby, whose team opens Saturday with a non-league doubleheader at Granville before beginning league play April 5 at Danville. "They have been ready to listen and have been willing to make changes to get better."

Johnstown was 9-3 in the MBC last season. It finished second behind Loudonville at 12-0. The league schedule only had 12 games because Centerburg did not field a team.

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedules for the Johnstown-Monroe boys lacrosse team:

Last Monday -- Lost to Olentangy Liberty 19-0 in opener

*Last Wednesday -- Lost to DeSales 19-3 in Division 2, Central Region opener

*April 7 -- At Bexley

*Division 2, Central Region game

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 30 at Thornville Sheridan

March 31 vs. Granville

April 2 vs. Lakewood

April 3 at Heath (DH)

*April 5 at Danville

*April 6 vs. Utica

*April 9 at East Knox

April 10 at Caledonia River Valley (DH)

*April 12 vs. Northridge

*April 13 vs. Loudonville

*April 16 at Fredericktown

April 17 at Highland (DH)

*April 19 vs. Centerburg

*April 20 vs. Danville

*April 23 at Utica

*April 26 vs. East Knox

*April 27 at Northridge

*April 29 at Loudonville

May 1 at Berne Union (DH)

*May 3 vs. Fredericktown

*May 4 at Centerburg

May 8 at Bloom-Carroll (DH)

*MBC game

SOFTBALL

April 3 at Granville (DH)

*April 5 at Danville

*April 6 vs. Utica

April 8 vs. London

*April 9 at East Knox

*April 12 vs. Northridge

*April 13 vs. Loudonville

*April 16 at Fredericktown

April 17 at Big Walnut

*April 19 vs. Centerburg

*April 20 vs. Danville

April 22 at Cardington

*April 23 at Utica

*April 26 vs. East Knox

*April 27 at Northridge

*April 29 at Loudonville

May 1 at Bloom-Carroll vs. Bloom-Carroll and Westfall

*May 3 vs. Fredericktown

*May 4 at Centerburg

May 7 vs. Pleasant

May 8 at Newark

*MBC game