Given his team's recent history, Watkins Memorial High School baseball coach Don Schone is just waiting for the next group of leaders to step forward.

Given his team's recent history, Watkins Memorial High School baseball coach Don Schone is just waiting for the next group of leaders to step forward.

The Warriors won seven games in their final at-bat a year ago en route to finishing 18-7 overall after a 3-1 loss to Gahanna in a Division I district semifinal following tournament wins over Teays Valley (2-1) and St. Charles (4-0). There were eight seniors, including shortstop D.J. Collins and outfielder Joe Matalon, who made honorable-mention all-district. Collins now is playing at Georgetown (Ky.) College.

Returning senior Rob Sexton already has signed to play at Wright State. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left-hander had a 2.23 ERA a year ago, struck out 52 batters in 44 innings and was named second-team all-district. He is the third pitcher in seven years from Watkins Memorial to sign with a Division I college, joining eventual Major League Baseball first-round draft pick Eric Arnett (Indiana, 2006) and fellow lefty Justin Warrington (Ball State, 2008). Another one of Sexton's classmates, first baseman Reno Reda, will play football at Kent State.

"We've been very fortunate in that we've never really gone through a major rebuilding period," said Schone, who begins his ninth season Monday, March 26, when the Warriors open against Grove City Christian at home. "Obviously, when you lose a big senior class it can be tough coming back the next year, but we've got another good one this spring and the newer kids are ready to fill in the holes."

Senior Steve Huber also returns, although he's moving from third base to shortstop, as do juniors Jordan Miller (2B) and Tony Winters (CF). Winters made second-team all-league last season as the Warriors went 8-5 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie Mount Vernon for third behind New Albany (11-3) and Olentangy Orange (9-5) and ahead of Delaware (6-7), Big Walnut (6-8), Hilliard Bradley (6-8) and Franklin Heights (0-13). Four teams did not complete their league schedules.

Sexton made first-team all-league and Matalon was honorable mention.

The OCC-Capital produced five district semifinalists, including New Albany and Orange. The others were Big Walnut and Bradley in Division II.

"The nice thing in our league is that you have to come to play every night," said Schone, whose team plays its first OCC-Capital game April 2 against Big Walnut at home. "I really like it. It's a competitive league, one that really prepares you for the (postseason) tournament."

The other seniors include Eric Noe (3B), Luke Rice (OF) and Connor Crabtree (OF). Classmate Evan Werner will be among the pitchers, who also include Reda, Winters, Noe and juniors Danny Sexton and Charlie Schmidt. The roster also features juniors Derek Helbing (C) and Corey Derugen (utility player) and sophomore Steve Asbury (3B).

The boys tennis team returns three players from last season's final top seven, including juniors Maxwell Nader and Dylan Clear.

They teamed to place third at second doubles during the OCC-Capital tournament. They are expected to form the first-doubles pairing this spring, and the Warriors also return junior Austin Williams to play first singles.

"We have several returning players, and that gives us good competition in practice," said coach Shawn Walter, whose 11th season begins with the April 2 opener at Pickerington Central. "I'm very optimistic going in."

Andrew Stocker, a four-year letterwinner, graduated after last year's team finished 13-5 overall, a six-win improvement over 2010. He played first doubles with 2011 graduate Alex Rieser. Singles player Halle Cheplowitz, who played boys tennis because she was a volleyball player in the fall, also was among the four seniors last year.

The Warriors went 2-5 and totaled 22 points to finish sixth in the OCC-Capital behind New Albany (7-0, 76), Orange (6-1, 52), Big Walnut (5-2, 39), Delaware (3-3, 31) and Bradley (3-3, 24) and ahead of Franklin Heights (1-6, 7) and Mount Vernon (0-7, 6).

The Warriors open the league schedule April 3 at New Albany.

Senior Justin Thomas, who hasn't played since his freshman year, appears to be slotted for the second-singles spot, Walter said. The other returnees are seniors Brent Colbertson, Alex Watson, Tyler Fadorsen and Kaleb Long and junior Kameron Meeting, who are among those vying to play third singles or second doubles. Also contending to play those spots are seniors Leon Schroeder, an exchange student from Germany, and Aladdin Salman. Sophomore Ryan Cash and freshman Derek Clear could contribute as well.

"We have 23 kids out, and a lot of newcomers are trying to move up our ladder," Walter said. "I can't say it enough. That really makes for a competitive environment."

•The boys and girls track and field teams opened March 24 with the home Icebreaker Invitational. The Warriors have a home meet Tuesday, March 27, against Jonathan Alder and Teays Valley and also compete Saturday, March 31, in the Tipp City Tippecanoe Invitational.