Being a part of a building process isn't unfamiliar to new Lakewood High School football coach Craig Conley.
Hired April 10, Conley takes over a team that has gone 11-89 over the past 10 years and made its only playoff appearance in 2001 when it went 7-4 and lost in a first-round game.
Conley played for Hilliard Darby during its inaugural 1997 season and was a part of the program for its first three seasons before graduating in 2000.
Darby, which had no seniors and went 1-9 in 1997, finished 0-10 in 1998 before improving to 3-7 in Conley's senior year.
"My experience there set me up for life," he said. "We got beat up a lot, but we were able to find some success by my senior year."
Conley's father, Bill Conley, is a former Ohio State assistant who heads Ohio Dominican's program.
Craig Conley was unanimously approved by the school board about two months after the first recommendation for the position, Dave Daubenmire, was rejected by a 3-2 vote.
Conley was an offensive lineman for Darby and Wilmington College but didn't get involved in coaching until he became an assistant at Marysville in 2009 under former coach Jeff Gafford.
The Monarchs went a combined 14-16 in Gafford's final three seasons and were 3-7 in coach Morgan Cotter's first year in 2012 before going 7-4 and making the Division I, Region 1 playoffs last fall.
"Out of the gates this is an exciting thing for me," Conley said. "It's my first opportunity as a head coach and I'm really excited about Lakewood. There's unbelievable potential there. They've got a stadium project going so there's community support for the program.
"I showed interest in the second round of interviews. My wife and I had our first child in November. It was one of the jobs that intrigued me, but I didn't get the chance the first time."
Conley believes the success he helped create at Marysville will translate in the long run at Lakewood.
"Finally last year with the new system and new head coach in place (at Marysville) we had some success out there," Conley said. "I had my first team meeting (at Lakewood) and it was a really good turnout."
Pitching key for area baseball teams
The team that wins the LCL baseball championship might do so because it has the deepest set of arms.
The number of postponements through the season's first two weeks only enhanced that idea.
"We knew the league was going to be balanced due to the amount of games we'll play in the league, which is 18," Newark Catholic coach John Cannizzaro said.
"You schedule three league games every week, so everybody is going to have to depend on a bigger staff. We're hoping our defense is playing well behind all of these different pitchers.
"Everybody's in the same boat, so to speak. Whoever wins the league is probably going to have a few losses. I think it actually makes it exciting and rewarding."
The Green Wave won the Division IV state championship a year ago, giving the program seven titles overall, including five under Cannizzaro.
He has led Newark Catholic since 2004 and also was its coach from 1985-92.
Newark Catholic beat Watkins Memorial 6-5 on April 24 to improve to 7-3 overall and in the LCL.
Seniors Conor Keck (1B), Mike Lohr (2B) and Hunter Nance (CF) and sophomore Mitch Lohr (C) are returning starters. Senior Sean Thomas (P), juniors Rob Engle (SS/P), Zach Kent (OF) and Gabe Morris (3B/P) and sophomore Jack Wollenburg (OF) are other key players.
Granville was a Division II district runner-up in 2012 and a Division II regional runner-up a year ago.
The Blue Aces were 6-7 overall and 3-7 in the LCL before playing Northridge on April 25. They played Reynoldsburg in a doubleheader April 28.
The top returnee is senior Brad Burkholder (CF/P). Other key players include seniors Jimmy Ballenger (SS/P), Dom Bellofatto (P/C) and Caleb McVey (OF), juniors Cody Carson (P/OF) and David Cox (P) and sophomore Payton Ley (3B/P).
"We lost almost everybody from the regional runner-up team," coach Vince Ghiloni said. "It's going to come down to pitching."
Softball squads expect tough league
Among teams in the LCL, Licking Valley is coming off a Division II state championship, Granville was a Division II state semifinalist and Newark Catholic was a regional runner-up in Division IV a year ago.
In addition, Lakewood was a district semifinalist in Division II and Heath made a district semifinal in Division III.
Licking Valley's approach, according to coach Mark Paxton, has been about being focused on the moment.
The Panthers beat Heath 11-0 on April 24 and were 13-3 overall before playing April 26 against Pickerington Central and Duncan Falls Philo. They are 9-1 in the LCL.
"Last year I started seven sophomores and one junior, so we've got quite a few kids back," said Paxton, who is in his eighth season and entered this spring with 306 career victories. "The kids are business-like."
Junior pitcher Shelby McCombs, who has committed to Louisville, has missed time with a sore knee and junior Kori Locke has filled in. Locke started last year at first base and is among a group of returnees that includes senior Shelby Robinson (CF) and juniors Kori Caughenbaugh (C), Krissy Hughes (2B), Sierra McConnell (3B), Carly Skeese (SS) and McCombs.
"It's been pretty exciting with all of the stuff we've been able to accomplish," Robinson said. "We've always been pretty close."
Newark Catholic returns four starters in seniors Kaycie Brown (1B/P), Anna Luecke (3B), Emily O'Neill (INF/OF) and Maddie Wirth (1B/OF).
The Green Wave is 3-9 overall and 1-8 in the LCL.
Granville beat Northridge 4-3 on April 24 to improve to 9-3 overall and 7-2 in the LCL.
The Blue Aces return several key players after making their first state tournament appearance, including seniors Grace Imhoff (INF), Sarah Imhoff (CF), Malia Peterson (1B) and Danielle Wolgamot (P). Sierra Parkinson (SS) has verbally committed to North Carolina despite being a freshman.
"The league is strong as it relates to pitching and hitting and has some of the state's best head coaches," said Green Wave coach Scott Harris, who is in his sixth season.
"There is no clear-cut winner in league play as three to four teams have a legitimate shot at the league title."