The Johnstown-Monroe High School baseball team has a new coach and a new hitting philosophy.

The Johnstown-Monroe High School baseball team has a new coach and a new hitting philosophy.

Coach Justin Richards begins his first season leading the team, which finished 10-18 a year ago after losing a second-round Division III district tournament game to second-seeded Marion Pleasant 9-0.

Johnstown tied for fourth in the MBC with Loudonville at 7-7, behind Fredericktown (13-1), Utica (11-3) and Centerburg (8-6) and ahead of East Knox (5-9), Northridge (3-11) and Danville (1-13).

"We have a lot of speed and we have been playing a lot of good defense," Richard said. "In our first three scrimmages, we had only two errors in 33 innings and that's a big plus for us."

The Johnnies have three seniors in Brandon Mallett, center fielder Chris McLain and shortstop Andrew Pizzurro. Mallett plays first base and is a right-handed pitcher who led the team with 40 strikeouts last year. Pizzurro hit .301 and scored 23 runs.

Junior catcher Matt Smith was the team's leading hitter last year with a .465 batting average, 46 hits, 33 runs, five doubles, two home runs and 24 RBI.

Junior outfielder Tyler Baughman, also a left-handed pitcher, batted .385 with 20 RBI.

The other juniors on the team are Justin Campbell (utility), Hunter Cecil (3B/RHP), Derek Hastings (2B), Harley O'Flaherty (1B/RHP), Connor Rehl (OF) and Nicky Richardson (OF).

The Johnnies have two freshmen in Harrison Johnson (C/DH) and Josh Kirkpatrick (LHP).

"We're young in some spots, but we can rely on our senior and junior leadership to prepare us for the teams we play," said Richards, whose team opens Tuesday, March 29, at home against Mount Gilead. "We'll work on our hitting. We'll rely on pitching and defense early because the hitting will come around.

"We're trying a different approach to hitting. We're working on getting on top of the ball. We're using our speed with bunt placement and playing a lot of small ball."

Mallett will be the No. 1 pitcher with Cecil and O'Flaherty also anchoring the staff.

"Our pitching has been good and we have been hitting our spots," Richards said. "We want to control games instead of the (opposing) batter controlling the games. We have been throwing a lot of guys - seniors through freshmen - and we like what we have been seeing."

•The softball team returns seven starters from last season, when the Johnnies finished 5-21 after losing a first-round Division III district tournament game to West Jefferson 2-0.

Johnstown finished seventh in the MBC at 4-10, behind Northridge (12-2), Danville (11-3), Loudonville (10-4), Utica (8-6), East Knox (6-8) and Fredericktown (5-9) and ahead of Centerburg (0-14).

The returning starters are seniors Hannah Farley (OF) and Brooke Ison (IF), juniors Taylor Branstool (C/OF), Carly Pickard (P), Kelcey Spang (IF) and Meagan Yanczura (IF/OF/C) and sophomore Keymell Cartwright (OF/IF).

The other returning letterwinners are seniors Megan Karnes (OF) and Sarah Scovell (IF) and sophomore Kim Meyers (P/OF).

Pickard will handle most of the pitching duties, with Meyers backing up.

"Carly has worked hard year-round to improve her speed, endurance and movement," said coach Megan Sheasby, who begins her second season on Monday, March 28, at Madison Plains. "Carly plays on a competitive summer travel team and receives private pitching lessons. I have noticed an improvement in the speed and control of her pitches. She gained a ton of experience last year and will bring more confidence and leadership to her game this year."

Rounding out the roster are sophomores Lauren Baldwin (OF) and Amanda Williams (IF) and freshman Natalie Carpenter (IF).

"Defense is the strength of our team. It kept us close in games last year, and we hope to continue that this year," Sheasby said. "We need to improve on driving in our runners in scoring position. We lost many close games last season where we left multiple runners on base. Our players worked hard on their hitting in the offseason and we're excited to see the results."

Schedules

Below are the coming schedules for the Johnstown-Monroe boys lacrosse and boys and girls track and field teams:

LACROSSE

*March 23 - Opener with Watterson postponed because of bad weather. No makeup date has been set. *April 6 - At Wellington *Division II Central District contest

TRACK

March 26 - Watkins Memorial Icebreaker Meet April 7 - Dick Houston Relays at Licking Valley

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 29 - vs. Mount Gilead March 30 - at Lakewood March 31 - at Granville April 2 - vs. Heath (DH) *April 4 - at Danville *April 5 - at Utica *April 8 - vs. East Knox April 9 - at Caledonia River Valley (DH) *April 11 - at Northridge *April 12 - at Loudonville *April 15 - vs. Fredericktown April 16 - vs. Highland (DH) *April 18 - at Centerburg *April 19 - at Danville *April 21 - vs. Utica April 23 - vs. Berne Union (DH) *April 25 - at East Knox *April 26 - vs. Northridge *April 28 - vs. Loudonville *May 2 - at Fredericktown *May 3 - vs. Centerburg May 7 - vs. Bloom-Carroll (DH)

SOFTBALL

March 28 - at Madison Plains March 29 - vs. Marion Pleasant *April 4 - vs. Danville *April 5 - at Utica *April 8 - vs. East Knox April 9 - at Lakewood with Dresden Tri-Valley *April 11 - at Northridge *April 12 - at Loudonville *April 15 - vs. Fredericktown April 16 - vs. Amanda-Clearcreek and Hartley *April 18 - at Centerburg *April 19 - at Danville *April 21 - vs. Utica *April 25 - at East Knox *April 26 - vs. Northridge *April 28 - vs. Loudonville April 30 - at Berne Union *May 2 - at Fredericktown *May 3 - vs. Centerburg

*MBC game