The New Albany High School baseball team captured its third OCC-Capital Division title in five seasons a year ago because it was more effective on the pitching mound than much of the competition.

The New Albany High School baseball team captured its third OCC-Capital Division title in five seasons a year ago because it was more effective on the pitching mound than much of the competition.

That might make the Eagles the preseason favorite once again as three pitchers who combined to post 11 of the 19 victories return. The staff is anchored by seniors Wynston McMartin, who had a 5-3 record with a 1.32 ERA and 53 strikeouts in as many innings, and Shane Kriss, who went 4-0 with a 2.99 ERA. McMartin has signed to play at Youngstown State. Classmate Austin Morlan also is back after posting a 2-0 record.

"We should have some of the better pitching in the league," said coach Bob Talpas, who is entering his 25th season overall and 12th in his second stint with the team. "We were able to win a lot of close games last year because of our pitching, and we should be right there again."

The Eagles finished 19-7 overall and went 11-3 to win the OCC-Capital ahead of Olentangy Orange (9-5), Mount Vernon (8-5), Watkins Memorial (8-5), Delaware (6-7), Big Walnut (6-8), Hilliard Bradley (6-8) and Franklin Heights (0-13). Four of the teams did not complete their league schedules because of persistent bad weather, a fact that was not lost on third-seeded New Albany as it lost 3-0 to Reynoldsburg in a Division I district semifinal postponed twice because of rain.

McMartin made first-team all-league and center fielder Sam Krebs, a 2011 graduate, was named the OCC-Capital's Player of the Year. Both made first-team all-district. Also departing were pitchers Demaree Parsons (3-1), Ray VanBoven (4-3) and Austin Winterbaurer (1-0).

Replacing Krebs, who hit leadoff, and catcher Bryant Bednarek, who made honorable mention all-league, appear to be the team's biggest concerns entering the opener Tuesday, March 27, at Teays Valley. The first league game is April 2 at Bradley. Krebs batted .425 with six doubles, two home runs, 16 RBI and 21 stolen bases last season.

"We've got 12 seniors, and catching is really the only position we're struggling with right now," said Talpas, who is planning to retire after the 2013 season. "We've got to make sure we're capable back there. We've got a couple of guys in mind."

They include senior Dan Brittan, who played right field last year. Another possibility is McMartin on days when he's not pitching, as long as his arm can handle the daily wear and tear.

Elsewhere in the infield, Kriss will play first base while the Eagles also return seniors Zach Sevenish (2B) and Nick Stahlman (SS). Morlan, senior David Probst and classmate Brent Rosen are being considered for third base.

Senior Zach Tomi, who was the quarterback for the football team, will anchor the outfield in center. The other seniors are Nick Weisend (LF), Jacob Williams (2B/OF) and Evan Schneider (OF).

Stahlman (.359 batting average, 21 RBI) is one of the top returning hitters. Tomi (.429, six stolen bases) and Brittan (.266, seven stolen bases) also should be among the catalysts as the Eagles compete in a league that produced five district semifinalists a year ago, including Orange and Watkins Memorial. The others were Bradley and Big Walnut in Division II.

"Some of the teams were fairly young last year," Talpas said. "It usually comes down to pitching, which is one of our strengths, but it's kind of up for grabs."