Heath High School baseball coach Dave Klontz will be looking to see who his offensive catalysts are during the early stages of the season.

Heath High School baseball coach Dave Klontz will be looking to see who his offensive catalysts are during the early stages of the season.

The Bulldogs, who graduated the top five hitters from the batting order used during a 4-3 loss to eventual state-finalist Hamilton Badin in a Division III regional final last season, might not need a of runs. All but two pitching victories are back with the return of seniors Alex Van Dine (9-1, 1.83 ERA, 73 strikeouts), Steven Kidwell (5-3, 45 strikeouts) and Trey Matthews (6-0, 2.35 ERA) and sophomore Cole Benner (4-1).

"We're in real good shape pitching-wise," said Klontz, whose team will open Tuesday at Dresden Tri-Valley. "We'll have to find our offense in a hurry, though. That's the question we need to answer."

Benner, who is moving from left field to catcher, and seniors Cameron Ross and LaVelle Spivey are among those being considered to hit leadoff to replace graduate Nick Jones, a center fielder who was second-team all-state. The Bulldogs, who finished 26-5 and won their first MSL-Ohio Division title at 11-3, also have to replace shortstop Jordan Maier and first baseman Chuck LaRue, both of whom hit behind Jones and made honorable mention all-state.

A nine-member senior class also includes Josh Sayre, Ethan Bode, Fred James and Ryan Binning, a second baseman and the only returning infield starter. Tim Patterson, Dylan Wethey, Andrew Redman, David Hunt, Jacob England and Zac McPherson are juniors.

Klontz is pleased with the development of freshmen such as Adam Jenkins (LHP) and Derek Yahn (SS). The sophomores include Nate Hunt and Jordan Crabill.

"People have been talking about our sophomore class for a couple of years now," said Klontz, whose career record is 553-383 entering his 38th season, with the 2002 and 2007 teams capturing state championships. Last year's top-seeded team defeated Hartley 5-3 for a fourth district title this decade. "This freshman class is a good one, too. A couple of those guys are going to make a real push for playing time."

Marion Pleasant won the other Division III district championship last season, and Canton Central Catholic was the state champion.