The Granville High School baseball team has made a seamless adjustment to the new "toned down" bats mandated this spring by the OHSAA.

The Granville High School baseball team has made a seamless adjustment to the new "toned down" bats mandated this spring by the OHSAA.

"To be honest, I really haven't seen a lot of difference, but it did make us change the way we go about things," coach Vince Ghiloni said. "We run a lot more, and we bunt a lot more."

The Blue Aces were batting .385 as a team before defeating Heath, a Division III district champion in four of the past five seasons, 13-0 in five innings April 16. Devon Dager, a junior second baseman, hit a grand slam with two strikes to highlight a nine-run first inning. Granville then had 17 hits, which included junior first baseman Ethan Schmidt's first-inning home run, to post a 15-0 five-inning victory April 18 at Lakewood.

"We changed things up even in batting practice," Ghiloni said. "We made the kids slow down and think about every pitch, and they hated it at first. Now they're seeing the results."

The Blue Aces were 13-2 overall and leading the MSL-Ohio Division at 9-0 before playing defending-champion Newark Catholic on April 20. They won the first game 8-1 on April 4 as senior pitcher Michael Steensen, who has signed to play at the University of Akron, outdueled Ohio State pitching recruit Jimmy Lough.

Granville is attempting to become the third team in as many seasons to win the league and fourth in five years. Lakewood captured the title in 2010, the Bulldogs won it in 2008 and the Green Wave prevailed a year later.

Licking Valley was the last team to go undefeated in league play, finishing 14-0 in 2007. The Panthers also won the championship in 2006, and they are the last team in the MSL-Ohio to capture consecutive titles.

Heath won its last league title despite losing three games, and Licking Valley dropped four en route to winning the title outright in 2006.

"That's the way it is in our league. It's a long 14-game season," Ghiloni said after the Lakewood game. "That's why I'm so impressed we've made it this deep into the schedule without getting beat. Our kids have shown a fearless attitude."

The Blue Aces start only three seniors, including leadoff hitter Zach Lilly in center field and Jimmy Wolfe in left. Junior Dalton Boucher is the right fielder, and sophomore Brad Burkholder and junior Hunter Crates also play in the outfield.

Lilly and Dager are among several players who have a green light to steal when they're on base, Ghiloni said. The infield also features juniors Tate Stewart at shortstop and Clay Hartness at third base. Classmates Alex Marcum and Aaron Gilliam are the catchers.

Schmidt, who is 6-foot-6, played third base a year ago. Ghiloni has made other changes as well. He recently moved Stewart from the bottom third of the batting order to the No. 2 spot to hit behind Lilly. And Steensen, a four-year starter who played center field earlier in his career, no longer plays in the field when he isn't pitching.

Through 14 games, Lilly was leading the team in batting average (.521). Schmidt was hitting .435 with a team-high 22 RBI. Steensen improved his record to 4-0 and lowered his ERA below 1.00 while beating Heath.

"Ethan, even though he hits third for us, will still come and ask if he should lay a bunt down if we've got guys on base ahead of him," Ghiloni said. "Our guys have really bought into what we're trying to do."

•IN THE POLLS - Granville is ranked seventh in the first Division II state poll led by New Richmond, and two other central Ohio teams are in the top 10. Defending state-champion DeSales is fourth and 2010 state champion Jonathan Alder is sixth. Newark Catholic is ranked 10th in the Division IV poll led by Bascom Hopewell-Loudon.

In softball, Licking Valley is ranked fifth in the Division II state poll led by LaGrange Keystone and Granville is seventh. Newark Catholic is ranked eighth in the Division IV poll led by Strasberg-Franklin.