Returning the program's single-season record-holders for home runs and hits probably was enough to make New Albany High School softball coach Patrick Finn optimistic entering this season.
But Finn was just as excited about the Eagles' overall acumen, saying his players were ahead of last year "in terms of skill and knowledge" before the opener March 31 at Canal Winchester.
"I can't think of one practice I've left and said to myself: 'That was a bad practice,' " said Finn, whose team went 9-17 overall and 6-8 in the OCC-Capital Division last season. "Their work ethic has been impressive. And with us returning so much experience, we might be able to move girls around some when needed. I'm excited to see what this team can do."
Senior third baseman Kaitlyn Gliha, a Miami University signee, had a program-record 12 home runs last year while batting .513 with 47 RBI. Jamie Sevenish, a junior shortstop, had a season-record 50 hits and batted .500.
The pitching staff received a boost with the move-in of sophomore Sydney Warinner. She played last year for Worthington Kilbourne, where her father, John, was coach for four seasons before resigning after last year. The Wolves went 24-3 overall and 13-1 in the OCC-Cardinal last year, setting a school-record for wins.
New Albany's other pitchers are senior Allie Reed and junior Olivia Shull.
"Sydney locates the ball well and throws hard, and her ball movement is excellent," Finn said. "In terms of a staff, we're in a pretty good situation. I am confident with any of those three throwing."
Because New Albany and Kilbourne were in different OCC divisions last year, the teams did not meet. But Kilbourne now is in the OCC-Capital, and the Eagles and Wolves play April 21 at New Albany and May 7 at Kilbourne.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Danielle DeMicco (1B), Jackie Drago (2B), Madi Fairchild (OF), Madison Fixari (C/OF), Abbie Skowron (OF) and Caitlyn Wyant (OF), juniors Amber Mullen (C) and Ashton Shearer (INF) and sophomore Cassie Bednarek (1B/OF).
Because of construction at the high school, New Albany was scheduled to play eight of its first 11 games on the road. Its home opener is Friday, April 4, against Hilliard Bradley, and the Eagles begin OCC-Capital play Monday, April 7, at home against Olentangy Orange.
According to Finn, home games will be played at Bevelhymer Park if they can't be played at high school.
Baseball coach expects 'seamless transition'
First-year baseball coach Justin Grieger hopes the only changes in store this season for the Eagles are his job title and that the team improves on its 12-16 record of a year ago.
Otherwise, Grieger anticipates a smooth transition as he takes over for Bob Talpas, who won 326 games at New Albany from 1979-91 and again from 2001-13. Grieger was an assistant to Talpas the past nine seasons and took over additional duties last year in anticipation of his promotion, including scheduling games and practices and coaching third base, a spot traditionally reserved for the head coach.
Talpas will be one of Grieger's assistants this year. He also continued last fall as an assistant football coach.
"It's been a pretty seamless transition," said Grieger, whose team opened March 31 at Groveport. "It helps having eight seniors. We do have high expectations for ourselves this year. We started getting things together in the second half of the season last year, and we think that can carry over."
Top returnees include senior pitcher/outfielder Ross Henze -- who had a team-best .324 batting average and 17 RBI last season and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district -- and senior Tommy Parsons, who Grieger said will be the top pitcher. The rotation also will feature seniors Robert Chaddock, Devin DeSilvestri and Austin Franz. DeSilvestri was 5-2 with a 2.55 ERA last year.
Chaddock, also a first baseman, batted .317 with 12 RBI and scored 22 runs in 2013.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Brad Blaha (OF), Michael Colgan (OF) and Adam Krey (SS/OF/P), juniors David Daly (2B), Rush Deeter (P/SS/2B), Jack Flaherty (SS/2B), James Tennenbaum (P/C/3B), Hunter Tome (C) and Matt Trybus (P/1B/3B) and freshman Brandon DeHass (C/3B).
New Albany is scheduled to begin OCC-Capital play Monday, April 7, at home against Orange, but Grieger said that game might be played on the road because of ongoing construction at the high school. The Eagles are scheduled to play nine of their first 10 games on the road, with April 7 currently the exception.
"There's a lot of great baseball in this division and we want to be right there (for the league title)," Grieger said. "We know we can compete. Now we have to do it on the field."