For his team to be "Whetstone decent," as Northland High School baseball coach Dean Washington calls it, he knows it will need all the help it can get on the mound this season.
The Vikings expect to at least come closer to competing against defending City League champion Whetstone because of the return of senior pitcher Wade Beightler.
Beightler was unable to play last season but is back for a team that lost just three players to graduation after going 16-8 a year ago.
"We think we'll be decent," said Washington, who is in his 27th season. "We've got almost all of our players returning from last year, but we know the creme is at Whetstone. We know where it goes through. We're hoping to be competitive."
Northland opened by sweeping Marion-Franklin 18-0 and 10-2 in a doubleheader March 30 and also swept Walnut Ridge 11-1 and 16-3 in a doubleheader April 4.
The Vikings improved to 6-0 by beating Eastmoor Academy 11-0 and Columbus South 14-2 in the Northside Classic on April 5. They opened City League-North Division play April 8 at Brookhaven.
Other pitchers include seniors Thomas Brown and Xavier Conner, junior Dante Smith and sophomores Gary Miller and A.J. Seum.
Beightler, who made second-team all-district in Division I as a sophomore, also is playing catcher and in the outfield.
Conner, who made second-team all-district last season when he led the team in hitting, also is playing center field. Miller is at first base and third base and Smith also is in the outfield.
Other contributors include seniors Anthony Alexander (OF), Abdul Conteh (OF) and Clayton Pea (OF), juniors Justin Hill (1B) and Clayton Siens (C) and freshman Calvin Herplosheimier (OF).
Last season, Whetstone went 14-0 to win the City-North, with Centennial and Northland each going 11-3 to tie for second. Beechcroft was 7-7 and Brookhaven went 6-8.
The Vikings lost to Canal Winchester 14-1 in the first round of the district tournament.
Cougars baseball team battling inexperience
The Beechcroft baseball team has about 30 athletes in its program, although not many have varsity experience.
The Cougars opened with losses to Central Crossing (21-0 on April 2) and Columbus West (11-3 on April 3) before beating South 13-3 and Eastmoor 24-13 in the Northside Classic on April 5. They began City-North play April 8 against Linden-McKinley.
"We had five four-year starters graduate last year, so we're pretty young," said Matt Bell, who is in his 14th season as coach. "We've got three kids who played a lot last year, but other than that we're young."
Seniors Dalaun Young (OF/P) and Davarius Galloway (OF/P) and junior Jordan Nalls (C) are the top returnees.
Also back are senior Brandon Sink (utility) and sophomore Paul Hicks (INF/P).
Sophomore Scott Scase, who did not play last season, is among eight pitchers.
Other key players are seniors Raymone Lane (INF/P) and Mahad Ahmed (OF), junior Nashon Owens (2B/3B) and sophomore Bryan Oxendine (P).
Last season, Beechcroft opened the Division II district tournament by beating Walnut Ridge 8-1 but lost to top-seeded DeSales 13-0 in a second-round game to finish 12-9.
"I have 28 kids, so I have a (junior varsity) for the second straight year," Bell said. "When you get these kids games, it makes a big difference."
Sophomores leading 'Cats baseball team
The Brookhaven baseball team is hoping its athleticism can help it overcome low numbers and inexperience.
After losing eight players to graduation from last year's team that went 6-16, most of the Bearcats' top returnees are sophomores.
"We don't have a j.v. and we've only got 16 in the program," said Joe Krabill, who is in his fourth season as coach. "I like our athleticism and our work ethic is developing. With all of these sophomores, in a couple years we have a shot if they stick together."
Senior Jalen Bonner, in his third season with the program, is batting third, serving as the No. 1 pitcher and playing shortstop.
Sophomores Giovanni Bonner (2B), Brian Brockman (C/P), Tim Jones (OF), Kerby Ketchens (SS/P), Trevete Knight (OF/P), Steven Pelletier (1B/3B), Charles Peppers (INF) and Fortese Smith (OF) also are key players.
Seniors Randal Clarkson (OF), Derion Ross (OF) and Jordan Turner (OF) and juniors Ne'Tronne Backus (1B/OF) and Robert Hall (1B) are others looking to contribute.
Brookhaven lost to Watterson 12-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament last season.
The Bearcats lost to Northridge 35-0 on April 3, fell to Independence 18-5 and 23-0 on April 5 and lost Groveport 12-0 and 15-0 on April 6 before opening City-North play April 8 against Northland.
Vikings softball team 'very young'
With 24 athletes in the program but no j.v. coach, Northland softball coach Dan Zedeker is planning to be creative so that all the members of a young roster get a chance to be on the field this spring.
"We're very young, so I'm looking at a rebuilding year," said Zedeker, who is in his second season. "There's nothing much I can do but rebuild. We've got a freshman starting pitcher and a freshman starting in the outfield."
The Vikings opened by losing to Independence 12-8 and 16-1 on April 3 and then fell to Franklin Heights 18-8 on April 4. Northland lost to Eastmoor 9-8 in nine innings and beat South 22-10 on April 5 in the Northside Classic before opening league play April 8 at Brookhaven.
The top returnees from the team that went 9-12 a year ago are senior Jennifer Brown (OF), juniors Madelyn Smith (C) and Jillian Deas (2B) and sophomore Johely Martin (3B).
Freshman Karissa McNamee is the No. 1 pitcher.
Also contributing are junior Bradisha Foster (1B), sophomores Asia Coles (RF), Joelle Freeman (1B) and Sasha Jones (SS) and freshman Nataysia Edmonds (OF).
The Vikings lost to Hilliard Davidson 11-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament last season. Whetstone won the City-North at 14-0, followed by Centennial (12-2), Brookhaven (9-5) and Northland (8-6).