With more than 300 career victories and now in his 25th season, Northland High School baseball coach Dean Washington has learned what it takes to compete against the City League-North Division's perennial contenders.

With more than 300 career victories and now in his 25th season, Northland High School baseball coach Dean Washington has learned what it takes to compete against the City League-North Division's perennial contenders.

Other than when the Vikings battled for the league title throughout the 2008 season, they usually find themselves among a pack of teams that includes Beechcroft and Brookhaven in a battle for third place behind Centennial and Whetstone.

Northland opened March 28 against Beechcroft and plays April 1 at home against Linden-McKinley, April 2 at Ready, April 4 at Columbus East and April 6 at home against Whetstone.

"Whetstone and Centennial are always up there, Beechcroft is a rival and I think Brookhaven will be improved," Washington said. "We hope we can contend with Whetstone and Centennial."

Seniors Joe Iacobucci (P), Corey Johnson (1B/P) and Ron Johnson (LF/P/INF), juniors Manthoni Brown (P/3B) and Justin Fischer (OF) and sophomores Wade Beightler (SS/P/C) and Xavier Conner (P/utility) all are returnees.

Also on the team are seniors Nich Miller (OF), Alex Rivers (OF) and Akil Smith (OF), junior Keylin Freeman (OF) and freshmen Justin Hill, Octavius Luke and Clay Siens.

Last season, Centennial won the City-North at 14-0, with Whetstone (12-2), Northland (10-4), Beechcroft (8-6) and Brookhaven (6-8) rounding out the top five.

The Vikings finished 10-10 overall, losing to Westerville Central 13-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Beechcroft went 8-12 overall, losing to Watterson 18-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.

Junior Ricky Crum (P/2B/SS) is the leading returnee after hitting .375 last season with 17 stolen bases and 23 RBI and going 3-4 with 38 strikeouts in 35 innings on the mound. Junior Brandon Woods also should be a key pitcher in addition to playing first base.

Other returning juniors are Charmonta' Bennett (P/3B), Tyquan Wakefield (OF) and Dustin Poindexter (P/OF/1B). Wakefield hit .353 last year with 13 stolen bases.

Senior Anthony Barnes (2B/SS) is back after being ineligible last year. He hit .360 with 13 stolen bases and 15 RBI in 2009.

Also on the team are senior R.J. Daniels (P/OF) and sophomores Davarius Galloway (OF) and Khalil Tucker (P/OF).

The Cougars opened March 30 against East, play host to Centennial on April 1 and plays April 4 at Mifflin, April 5 at Madison Christian and April 6 at Brookhaven.

"We'll just work with the 15 or 16 guys we have and basically everybody will play at some point," Cougars coach Matt Bell said. "Hopefully baseball will be a fun game for them."

Brookhaven went 6-16 overall last season under first-year coach Joe Krabill, losing to Dublin Coffman 11-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Junior Grant Parker is back at pitcher and first base. Senior Saviyon Cunningham (OF) and juniors Jesse Curry (C) and Devin Williams (P/SS) also return.

Sophomores Hunter Woods and Jalen Bonner should split time at third base. Others looking to contribute include juniors Tyler Frazier (C), Lerico Freeman (P/OF) and John Braswell (P/1B) and freshmen Dantae Powell (OF/C), Ricky Ramos (2B) and Ricky Shover (utility).

Brookhaven opened March 28 at Mifflin and plays March 31 at home against Centerburg, April 1 at home against Whetstone, April 2 at Groveport and April 4 at Linden.

"I think we're going to be improved, no question about that," Krabill said. "From top to bottom, we have more players in the program with more talent and a higher baseball IQ."

•The Beechcroft, Brookhaven and Northland softball teams also are attempting to break into the title race with perennial City-North powers Centennial and Whetstone.

Last season, Whetstone won the league title at 14-0, finishing ahead of Centennial (12-2), Northland (10-4), Beechcroft (8-6), Brookhaven (5-9), Mifflin (4-10), Linden (3-11) and East (0-14).

Northland has a new coach in Dave Carter, who has coached baseball at Independence, Mifflin and Walnut Ridge and softball at Independence and Mifflin. He was the assistant with the Vikings' baseball team last spring.

Northland opened March 28 against Beechcroft and played Brookhaven on March 30. It returns to league play April 1, at home against Linden and plays a doubleheader April 2 against host Bexley and Wellington, April 4 at East and April 6 at home against Whetstone.

The Vikings finished 13-12 overall last season, losing to Lancaster 11-3 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

"We still have some work to do on fundamentals," Carter said.

Seniors Shayla Mayes (2B), Grace Saydee (OF/SS), Chloe Siens (C) and Kyra Stevens (3B), juniors Raven Dickens (CF), Demaris Inman (SS/OF) and Briyona Smith (OF/SS) and sophomore Janelle Tyler (1B) all are expected to be regulars. Junior Ederra Jenkins and sophomore Halle Saxon will be pitching.

Also on the team are senior Donna Nguyen and juniors Alia Dickerson, Savannah Dingess, Kaleigh Jacobs, Lovena Koroma and Hannah Sesay.

Beechcroft opened March 30 at East and plays April 1 at home against Centennial, April 4 at Mifflin and April 6 at Brookhaven.

The Cougars finished 10-7 overall last season, losing to Centennial 4-2 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.

Beechcroft returns seniors Yvette Martin (C), Domonique Hillmon (2B), Natalee Banks (SS) and Brittany Bohanan (3B) to its infield. Senior Tyler Hairston, a transfer from Westerville Central, should be at first base. Junior Tiara Woodfork (RF) and freshman Starlah Germany (CF) should start in the outfield.

Freshman Mary Stewart was expected to be the No. 1 pitcher entering the season.

"Our entire infield returns, except for our pitcher," Cougars coach Bruce Ward said. "Our infield will hopefully help (Stewart) out. I'm definitely happy with the work ethic."

Brookhaven opened March 28 at Mifflin and plays April 1 at home against Whetstone and April 4 at home against Linden.

The Bearcats had just three seniors a year ago when they went 8-13 overall, losing to Watterson 17-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

Junior Rachel Montgomery is new to the team and will be at pitcher. Ashley Brockman, the only senior, also should see some action in the circle as well as at first base.

Also expected to be key players are juniors Unique Dixon (INF), Celina Fontes (OF), Achana Jaycocks (2B), Chelsea Matthews (3B) and Marissa Montgomery (2B) and sophomores Sidni Brice (OF), Katlin Crawford (OF), Sidney Ervin (OF), Kylie Matthews (CF), Katie Stoots (C) and Kristina Tweedy (SS).

"The strength is that all of the girls have played varsity before," Bearcats coach Chuck Andrick said. "That's a rarity, and hopefully that'll lead to some sort of success."