Marysville High School graduate Don Womeldorff reported to fall practice in New Wilmington, Pa., for the Westminster College baseball team in 2005, a wide-eyed freshman in search of a new place to call home.

Marysville High School graduate Don Womeldorff reported to fall practice in New Wilmington, Pa., for the Westminster College baseball team in 2005, a wide-eyed freshman in search of a new place to call home.

The previous spring, Womeldorff was one of the top players for a Marysville team that reached a Division I district semifinal before falling to unseeded Olentangy, which eventually won a district championship.

If all he had to go by were the players he played against in Marysville, Womeldorff knew he was good. For years he was among the best players in the district. The same teammates he had in youth league were the same as those all through high school. When the lineup came out each spring, it was no surprise where Womeldorff fit. He was a starter.

But that fall, for a four-week training camp, things had changed. This was college now. Womeldorff looked around the clubhouse and there wasn't anyone he recognized. These were players from Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as other states. One was from Texas and another from Massachusetts. There were more than 40 players, and they could all play. All expected to play come spring. In fact, most, like Womeldorff, were sure of it.

"They really wanted me to go there," Womeldorff said, recalling a conversation he had had with coaches before he committed.

But then he thought about it some more.

"They were probably telling that to everyone."

Apparently for Womeldorff, however, the coaches meant what they said. He made the team and became a starting outfielder as a freshman. As a sophomore he was named second-team all-Presidents Athletic Conference, an honor he also earned last spring as a senior.

The move from high school to college baseball initially took him out of his comfort zone, but as he adjusted, he figured out what to do. In the Westminster program, forging a relationship with the older players could take you a long way, and that's what Womeldorff did.

Westminster is a Division III school, on the small end as far as college baseball programs. The number of pro prospects is less prevalent than in Division I or Division II, but there still is a major difference between competition at high school and at a Division III school, and it can take some getting used to.

College players generally were all key parts of their high school teams and are more developed. Freshmen are expected to come in and compete with veteran players, who already had an upperhand because they were used to the coaches, the hours of practice and the demands of the classroom.

"It was more than I expected it to be," said Chris Kovanda, a 2005 Worthington Kilbourne graduate, who was a first-team all-Ohio Athletic Conference selection last spring as a senior at Otterbein. "I thought it was only Division III. There wasn't going to be a whole lot of difference from high school."

Then he learned during fall practice that he was wrong -- dead wrong. Not just the top pitcher was strong, he said. He thought all five of Otterbein's projected starters would have been the ace at Kilbourne.

"I saw I really had to kick it in gear," he said.

It would get worse before it got better. In his first college appearance, Kovanda, put in as a pinch-runner, was picked off at first base after being given the sign to steal. In his first at-bat that followed, the player who batted better than .400 as a senior for Kilbourne watched the first two pitches whiz by for strikes before swinging at a ball in the dirt for a third strike.

He wasn't comfortable yet. Academically he did well in the autumn and winter, and then he had to get used to learning concepts without always going to class. Playing doubleheaders in the middle of the week was an adjustment off the field, he said.

On it, everything began to click once he got that first hit.

"Once you get a hit, it's a huge confidence-booster," Kovanda said. "I felt like I crossed that bridge."

What followed was a solid career in which Kovanda was named to the all-conference team. Last season he was second on the team in hitting with a .381 average and was first-team all-OAC.

Womeldorff had a hit in his first at-bat with Westminster -- and it endeared him to the older players, who were looking for someone to solidify the outfielder spot on a team that eventually became league champions. The veterans liked Womeldorff, and that was a good thing. Those were the players that had a say when it came to which new recruits stuck with the team.

"They made me feel like I should be starting, like I should be on the team," Womeldorff said. "I went into slumps and things like that, but I knew what I was capable of."

Some players made a smoother transition in the absence of veterans.

That is the case of Pickerington North graduate Becky Bowser, a junior at Otterbein, who plays soccer. During her prep days, Bowser had a fiery on-field personality that bordered on reckless. She used a loud voice with teammates. She threw her body in front of swinging legs. Some things she did wouldn't always be welcomed by an upperclassman, but it was what made Bowser the successful athlete she is.

That's why from her perspective, it wasn't all bad when a rash of injuries sidelined most of the projected starters before Bowser's freshman year. Instead of bottling the emotion that fueled her effort, she had more room to release it. She led the team in yellow and red cards in her first season but also was tied for second on the team in goals scored (4).

By her sophomore year, even though the injured players had returned, Bowser was a proven commodity and couldn't be left on the bench, although that's where she sat for most of the first two games. However, she eventually made second-team all-OAC as a defender.

"Heart and hard work and that will take you farther than anything at this level," Bowser said. "And playing like you care. I was out there getting kicked in the face, and I think they saw that."

It's not so easy for everyone to be that aggressive though, which Pickerington Central graduate and Capital junior Ryan Wood found out when he stepped on the court in college. By the time Wood, a 6-foot-3 guard, was a sophomore, he had the ball in his hands a lot. But he was reluctant to shoot it. Wood hardly played as a freshman until the latter half of the year. During his sophomore season, he still was trying to find where he fit in with his teammates. It turned out they needed him to score.

Wood ended up being second-team all-OAC, playing 28.1 minutes per game and averaging 13.2 points, second on the team.

"When you come in sometimes you don't know what your role is supposed to be," Wood said. "I remember having some questions. I knew I could come in and compete. Once I had that confidence to shoot and I saw we really did need another scorer, I started feeling more comfortable."