The New Albany High School softball team returned all but three players from last year, but seventh-year coach Patrick Finn still didn't know as much as he hoped he would entering the opener April 3 at Hilliard Davidson.
"I'm not sure we'll know exactly where everybody will be position-wise," Finn said. "That's how much talent we have, and that's a good problem to have, putting your best athletes in the right positions. It creates good competition."
The Eagles have one senior, first baseman Karly Medich, and 10 juniors back from a team that finished 11-12 overall and 7-7 in the OCC-Capital Division. New Albany lost to seventh-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 2-1 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.
Leading the junior class is Kaitlyn Gliha (SS), a second-team all-league honoree last year who led the Eagles in batting average (.458), doubles (8), home runs (5), RBI (33) and slugging percentage (.889). Junior Jackie Drago (2B/SS/OF) hit .290 with 12 RBI and junior Abi Simpson (3B/2B) had 11 RBI.
Other contributors should include juniors Danielle DeMicco (1B), Abbi Fairchild (OF), Madison Fixari (OF/C), Amanda Giroux (utility), Allison Reed (P), Abby Skowron (OF) and Caitlin Wyant (utility) and sophomores Amber Mullen (C), Jaime Sevenish (OF) and Olivia Shull (P).
Reed and Shull are expected to pick up the pitching duties in place of 2012 graduate Krystal Clark, a first-team all-league honoree who won 11 games and had a 2.82 ERA in 137 1/3 innings last year.
"We're not asking them to strike out a lot of girls, just put the defense in the right position," Finn said.
The Eagles' graduation losses from last year Clark and Briyana Oberlin (C) and Brazilian exchange student Pri Nakaie. Nakaie batted .345, shared the team stolen-base lead (7) with Drago and Sevenish and was special mention all-league.
New Albany tied Big Walnut and Hilliard Bradley for fourth in the OCC-Capital last season, behind co-champions Delaware and Olentangy Orange (12-2) and Mount Vernon (9-5) and ahead of Franklin Heights (2-12) and Watkins Memorial (0-14).
As part of OCC realignment last summer, Bradley moved to the OCC-Cardinal and was replaced by Olentangy. The Braves went 8-17 overall last year and 3-10 in the league.
The Eagles lost five games by one run and nine by two or fewer runs last year.
New Albany opens OCC-Capital play Monday, April 8, at Orange. New Albany's non-league opponents include Division I regional runner-up Central Crossing, Division I district runner-up Teays Valley and DeSales, which has won Division II district titles four of the past six years.
"I think Orange is going to be right there again (for the league title) with Delaware and Big Walnut," Finn said. "I really toughened up our schedule just for the reason that we knew we had experience coming back. We'll find out a lot about ourselves."
Boys tennis team waiting for answers
New boys tennis coach Marc Thomas thought last week that his team still would have several questions to answer when it opens Thursday, April 4, at home against Dublin Coffman.
"I think we're going to have a very good team and very good senior leadership, but there's still a lot to figure out," said Thomas, New Albany's girls coach for the past two seasons who succeeds former coach Andrew Sinclair. "The best will play. I do know that. But we haven't had much of a chance to figure out exactly who that will be just because we haven't been outside much (because of bad weather in March)."
Sinclair resigned last June after six seasons.
Seniors Rathnakishore Giri and Jacob Teich lead the returnees along with junior Durga Samanthula and sophomores C.J. Cash and Alex Kobelt. Cash was a sectional runner-up last season.
Kobelt advanced to the Division I state tournament last year with 2012 graduate Oliver Sybert. After winning a sectional championship and finishing second at district, they defeated Mayfield's Shouta Fukamachi and Alex Rinaldi 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-4 in a first-round match before losing 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) in the second round to eventual champions Miguel Cepeda and Luke Tsai of Mason.
"We're going to have a lot of competition in challenge matches from underclassmen trying to get their spot on varsity," said Thomas, who did not name potential varsity players other than his returnees. "C.J. and Alex are two of the top players in the area, and they're going to be heard from."
The Eagles were 15-4 overall and 7-0 (77 points) in the OCC-Capital last year to finish ahead of Orange (45, 5-2), Big Walnut (44, 6-1), Delaware (38, 4-3), Bradley (25, 2-5), Watkins Memorial (23, 3-4), Mount Vernon (14, 1-6) and Franklin Heights (2, 0-7).
New league member Olentangy was seventh (14, 1-6) in the OCC-Cardinal last year.
New Albany's OCC-Capital opener is Tuesday, April 9, at Orange.