Heath High School baseball coach Dave Klontz is ready to hand the ball over to a new No. 1 pitcher in sophomore Adam Jenkins.

Heath High School baseball coach Dave Klontz is ready to hand the ball over to a new No. 1 pitcher in sophomore Adam Jenkins.

Graduate Alex Van Dine, now a freshman at Muskingum University, held that role the past two seasons and won 14 games, posting a 5-3 record a year ago while earning first-team all-MSL-Ohio Division honors.

The Bulldogs finished 18-9 overall following a 10-4 loss to top-seeded Marion Pleasant in a Division III district final. They advanced to a regional final and won their only MSL-Ohio title in 2008 when Van Dine finished 9-1.

Jenkins, who is 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, posted a 2.74 ERA last spring while striking out eight in eight innings with no decisions. He'll also play first base after batting .296 with five RBI, driving in the tying run in the top of the seventh inning as Heath defeated Columbus Academy 3-2 in a second-round tournament game.

Jenkins is expected to hit second in the order behind junior Cole Benner, a second-team all-district catcher who batted .440 with 24 runs scored, three homers and 18 RBI.

"It's no secret. Adam's a guy we'll depend on a lot and he'll pitch a lot of the big games," said Klontz, who begins his 39th season with a 571-392 career record entering Tuesday's opener against Dresden Tri-Valley. "He's got a live arm and can throw several pitches pretty well. He's kind of a student of the game, too, much like Alex was."

Other pitchers include senior Tim Patterson (3-0, 3.42 ERA), the cleanup hitter who is moving from left to right field, and Benner (3-0, 1.65 ERA). Junior left-hander Ethan Fleming might have a key role, too, as will senior David Hunt once he returns from a shoulder injury in a few weeks. Patterson hit .406 with five doubles and nine RBI for the Bulldogs, who went 7-7 in the MSL-Ohio to share fifth place with Academy behind champion Newark Catholic (11-3).

Solid starting pitching has been the key to Heath's recent success. That includes a state championship in 2007 behind pitchers Greg Strausz and Dusty Elk, who was named ThisWeek's Player of the Year that season.

Other returnees include sophomore Derek Yahn (shortstop), who won his only pitching decision and batted .353 with 24 RBI to earn honorable-mention all-district honors, and junior Nate Hunt (third baseman). Junior Jordan Crabill and senior Zac McPherson look to be the new second baseman and left fielder, respectively. Others to look for include seniors Andrew Redman and Jake England, junior Mason Robinson and sophomores Matt Sayre, Kyle Willey and Trey Brenneman.

"We'll go as far as our pitching takes us," said Klontz, whose team also plays a doubleheader Saturday against Johnstown. "(Pitching) coach (Mike) Saalfield is the best. I just turn the guys over to him."