In 2004, the Lakewood High School baseball team managed to win all 14 games in MSL-Ohio Division play, and so far that's one of only two perfect runs made through the leagues.

In 2004, the Lakewood High School baseball team managed to win all 14 games in MSL-Ohio Division play, and so far that's one of only two perfect runs made through the leagues.

The Lancers reached a Division II regional final that season and then repeated as league champions as they won a third state title the next year. Leaner times followed, but most coaches in the league are saying now that the Lancers might be a contender to watch again.

"They've got everyone back," said Licking Valley coach Rick Houston, whose team went 14-0 in the MSL-Ohio in 2007. "All those young guys they've been playing are grown up."

Still, both Newark Catholic in Division IV and defending league-champion Heath in Division III are talented enough to challenge for another state championship, and the same holds true for Licking Valley even if Division II historically has proven to be a battleground in central Ohio.

Columbus Academy, which graduated only one player and returns seven seniors, might be another dark horse worth considering in the MSL-Ohio, and Bexley is boosted by the return of six starters. Whitehall has brought back former coach Dave Hutchison.

"All I know is Lakewood played us and some of the other teams pretty tough in the second half last year," Newark Catholic coach John Cannizzaro said.

The Lancers, who finished 11-16 , are expected to be led by seniors Ryan Davis and Michael Ghiloni and juniors Bryan Large and Justin White. Don Thorp, the state's all-time winningest coach with 801 victories, might be re-energized after leaving behind the day-to-day duties of athletics director, too.

"It's a meatgrinder every year and this year it's as tough as ever," Cannizzaro said. "There's a lot of parity. We're getting off to a late start (after the basketball team reached a regional final) and I'm just hoping it's not too late by the time we get everything together."

NOTEWORTHY -- Cannizzaro is one win shy of his 300th career victory. His record is 299-101 entering his 14th season. Thorp, Cannizzaro and Klontz (553 wins) have combined for 1,603 career victories.