The Olentangy High School baseball team is looking to rebound from its first losing season under eighth-year coach Steve Little.

The Olentangy High School baseball team is looking to rebound from its first losing season under eighth-year coach Steve Little.

The Braves, who will open Tuesday at home against Whetstone and travel to St. Charles on Wednesday, finished 7-13 overall last season, marking the first time they have had fewer than 12 victories since Little took over in 2002. Olentangy lost to Westerville South 5-4 in the first round of the Division I district tournament and went 4-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to tie Westerville South for fourth behind Pickerington Central (7-3), Worthington Kilbourne (7-3) and Mount Vernon (5-5) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (3-7).

The Braves return 11 seniors in Zach Baker (2B), Paul Boals (C), Joey Carlson (OF), Chad Hess (OF), Justin Johnson (SS), David Johnston (OF/DH), Jordan Kuhn (3B/P), Scott Minard (3B/P), Alex Moore (1B), Matt Pollock (3B/P) and Patrick Westerlund (1B/P).

Also vying for playing time are juniors John Arnold (OF), Justin Gingery (OF), Chris Jansen (2B), Justin Kelly (OF), Alex Schogoleff (P/3B/1B) and Travis Wojta (OF), sophomores Kenny McCambridge (IF) and Mitch Porter (P) and freshman Woody Wallace (C).

"We have a lot of seniors who got playing time," Little said. "I think we're a little more experienced.

"The big thing is we've got to do a better job with our approach to the game. We let way too many teams jump out on us. It seemed like we were in the hole just about every game. If we don't have a better approach, we're going to have the same kind of season we had last year. I don't think we were mentally tough last year."

Last season, the Braves lost four games by one run and six by three runs or fewer.

"When it gets down to crunch time, we need to grit our teeth and make a big play (defensively) or make a big pitch," Little said. "We didn't pick each other up last year. I think that's where leadership comes in. Do we have the leadership to help us in situations like that? That's the question. I don't know right now."

"We lost a lot of close games last year," Johnson said. "If we turn around those games, we'll have a much better season. I think we will be prepared to play, not just in games but in practice. That will help us be mentally tougher."

Little also has concerns about his pitching staff. In his mind, the Braves have only three proven pitchers in Kuhn, Minard and Westerlund.

"We just don't have a lot of depth," he said. "We're three deep. Beyond that, there's a question mark about who can do what."

Kilbourne, Pickerington Central and Mount Vernon were moved out of the OCC-Cardinal and Olentangy Liberty, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Westerville Central and Westerville North were moved in.

The Braves open league play April 3 at home against Scioto.

"It's a tough division from top to bottom," Little said. "The team that wins the league will probably lose three or four games. It's pretty balanced."

At a glance

•Coach: Steve Little, eighth season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Whetstone

•Key players: Zach Baker, Paul Boals, Justin Johnson, Jordan Kuhn, Scott Minard and Patrick Westerlund