The young New Albany High School baseball team has plenty of growing to do, but it already seems to have learned how to play its best when the stakes are raised.

The young New Albany High School baseball team has plenty of growing to do, but it already seems to have learned how to play its best when the stakes are raised.

The Eagles, who continue to work the kinks out of an inexperienced lineup, were in the thick of the OCC-Capital Division race at 3-1 before last Monday. Coach Bob Talpas said that has a lot to do with the fact that his team has been able to stay in almost every game.

"Every game, even the ones we lost, in the fifth inning we're in the ballgame," Talpas said. "With an inexperienced team early in the year, you're going to get (some losses), but I think our kids have the right attitude. I think they have fun playing the game."

The Eagles, looking to defend their league title from a year ago, have shown they can beat an elite pitcher, even one that shut them down last season. Coming off a6-1 loss to Dublin Scioto onApril 14, the Eagles got just enough offense against Justin Warrington to beat Watkins Memorial 4-3 on April 16. Warrington, a Ball State-signee, was on the mound last season as Watkins Memorial handed New Albany its worst league loss (8-2).

"That was a big win because that will get us recognition in the district," Mike Kaufman said. "And then in the OCC, that's a big win because even though we lost to Scioto, it should be us three at the top for OCC champs. It gave us a lot of confidence."

Last Monday, Scioto and Watkins Memorial were tied at 1 after 10 innings and the game will be resumed when the teams play again May 7 in Dublin. Scioto entered the game at 3-0 and Watkins was 2-1.

New Albany also earned a critical non-league win last Saturday, beating DeSales 2-1 behind a strong pitching performance from Mitch Myers. DeSales had one loss entering that contest.

To this point, New Albany has hit the ball well, but it continues to struggle with depth in the pitching staff. Myers has been dominant as the No. 1 with a 3-1 record, a 1.02 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 27 innings. But the projected No. 2, Tristan Moore, hasn't seen much action on the mound since a wrist injury almost three weeks ago, though he began working back into the rotation recently.

Jake Sullivan, who started and threw into the fifth inning against Watkins Memorial, has been "a pleasant surprise" pitching at No. 2 with Moore out, and Mark Parent has been fairly solid in several relief appearances. Beyond that, the Eagles haven't found much consistency, though Kaufman threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his first appearance of the year against Hartley (13-9 loss April 17).

Early in the season, Talpas said he was impressed with his team's ability to put the ball in play. Before facing Warrington, the Eagles had struck out just 22 times in nine games. That has been a big reason that even in most of the losses, they haven't had too much trouble scoring runs, averaging 4.5 a game through 12 games.

Evan Sabo was leading the team in average at .440, followed by Moore (.414), who also had 11 stolen bases and had nine RBI. Junior Matt Pantano was third at .387, followed by senior Jordan Chiero at .360.

Maybe the best news, at least as far as Talpas is concerned, is the way the group has come together. He had some concerns about the way a large group of players from last season's junior varsity would mesh with the four returning letterwinners, but most of those fears have been put to rest.

"I think our cohesiveness has improved. They have gotten together and they really work well together," Talpas said. "I think they like each other, which is half the battle. That's what I like."

At a glance

Below are the recent results and coming schedule for the New Albany baseball team:

*April 16 -- Defeated Watkins Memorial 4-3. Mark Parent pitched the final three innings and earned the win.

April 17 -- Lost to Hartley 13-9. Evan Sabo hit a solo home run.

Last Saturday -- Def. DeSales 2-1. Mitch Myers pitched six innings and got the win. Tristan Moore pitched a scoreless seventh to get the save.

*Last Monday -- Def. Big Walnut 5-0

*Last Wednesday -- Played Olentangy Liberty

Today -- At Highland

Saturday -- Home vs. Watterson

*Monday -- Home vs. Franklin Heights

Tuesday -- At Newark

*Wednesday -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto

Of note: The Eagles were 8-5 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital before last Wednesday.

*OCC-Capital game