Even though five of its players participated in last weekend's state basketball tournament, the Newark Catholic High School baseball team will open the season on schedule.

Even though five of its players participated in last weekend's state basketball tournament, the Newark Catholic High School baseball team will open the season on schedule.

"We've already talked to the guys. They'll be ready," said coach John Cannizzaro, whose Green Wave finished 20-11 overall last spring following a 5-3 loss to New Middletown Springfield in a Division IV state semifinal.

"They'll be on an emotional roller coaster, of course, and we'll have to deal with that."

The basketball players include senior returning starters Kevin Cox (first baseman), Nate Adams (third baseman) and Derek Adam (center fielder).

The others are sophomore Garrett Vernau and freshman Mitch Cox.

Adams made second-team all-district a year ago, as did senior catcher Xavier Cook.

Senior Jake Nelson was the designated hitter, but he's moving to replace graduated honorable-mention all-district second baseman Andy Vernau.

The other senior is first baseman Tony Guinta.

Also departing were all-state players Matt Lewis (first-team, shortstop), Chris Leibold (first-team, outfielder) and Miles Richardson (second-team, pitcher). So did second-team all-district pitcher Garrett Clark, who posted a 5-4 record last year and won 11 games over the past two.

Richardson went 8-1 with a 2.26 ERA, and Lewis batted .419 with 20 RBI and 19 stolen bases. Richardson, who hit in the leadoff spot and was followed by Lewis and Leibold, is playing at Bluffton University and Clark at Urbana University.

Sophomore Jimmy Lough now steps in as the pitching staff's ace. He fashioned a 4-2 record last spring in 33 innings.

Several others will follow him, Kevin Cox and junior Michael Lewis included.

"We've got a challenging schedule that's going to create some pitching innings. We'll throw by committee in some games," said Cannizzaro, whose team also plays Wednesday at Dublin Scioto. "As long as we throw strikes we'll be OK."

Freshman Judah Wollenburg, the son of late Licking County Athletics' coach Jay Wollenburg, is one of the newcomers to watch and might be the starting shortstop.

Others to look for include juniors Nate Taylor, Cory Murphy, Eli Marietta, Matt Short and Mitch Lebold, and sophomore Tanner Potts.

The Green Wave went 11-3 to win the MSL-Ohio Division title as Granville and Licking Valley (9-5) shared second place. Lakewood (8-6) was fourth and Heath and Columbus Academy (7-7) shared fifth.

A similar scenario is expected to play out this spring with multiple teams challenging. The division's current alignment has produced a combined seven state titles over the past eight seasons, including the Green Wave's four (2002-04, '06).

"We were the most consistent last year," said Cannizzaro, who has a 321-112 career record entering his 15th season. "That's what it takes."