Blaine Burgess, a designated hitter and pitcher for the Pickerington High School Central baseball team, is excited for the opportunity to build off the Tigers' accomplishments. According to Burgess, this season already has the same feel as last season.

Blaine Burgess, a designated hitter and pitcher for the Pickerington High School Central baseball team, is excited for the opportunity to build off the Tigers' accomplishments. According to Burgess, this season already has the same feel as last season.

"I know this year we're capable of doing the exact same thing," Burgess said.

Central finished 16-10 for its first winning season since 2005, tied Worthington Kilbourne for first in the OCC-Cardinal Division at 7-3 and reached a Division I district final before losing to Gahanna 18-13.

"That experience carried into the offseason," said coach Chick Campbell, whose team opens Monday at Westerville Central. "We've got six lettermen back and they know what it takes to get back (to a district final) again."

Burgess, who batted .343 with five home runs, leads the group of six letterwinners and is joined by seniors Nick Raymond (CF), Bryan Rudolph (OF/P) and Dan Walter (3B/P) and juniors Isac Franklin (2B) and Josh Kristoff (SS).

"All have great leadership qualities," Campbell said. "Five out of those six played on the football team the last three years. They know what it takes, the hard work, the team work and the camaraderie you need to stay together as a team and accomplish goals."

Central lost seven graduates, led by including Ryan Albers (OF/P), Alex Hughes (3B/1B/P) and Kevin Steele (OF/P). Zach Boren (1B/P), a junior last year, is enrolled at Ohio State, where he will play football.

Albers and Steele were first-team all-OCC-Cardinal. Albers was first-team all-district as he led the Tigers with a .419 batting average and 23 RBI. On the mound, Steele was 3-0 in league games. Hughes led the Tigers with 51 2/3 innings pitched as he struck out 29, walked 16 and had a 3.79 ERA.

Boren was a co-Player of the Year in the OCC-Cardinal and first-team all-district as he hit .416 with 29 RBI. Although a lot of offensive output is gone with Albers and Boren, Burgess is confident in the Tigers' current lineup

"Our offense is a lot better this year," he said. "We were good last year, but we've got a lot back. Kristoff, myself and Rudolph and a lot of the underclassmen are going to be very good."

The pitching staff will be made up of Burgess, Rudolph, juniors Patrick Beaver and Nick Rush and sophomore Isaac Beller.

"Right now, team speed and defense are going to be our strengths," Campbell said. "We have some pitchers that will definitely play a big part in our success this year. With pitching, though, you're not able to tell until you get into a season especially with the league we're in this year. Everybody's loaded."

Central is in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Grove City, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg.

"With Gahanna being in our league, they're going to be loaded as well as everybody else," Campbell said. "It does give us a little better chance to get back at them."

At a glance

•Coach: Chick Campbell, 12th season

•Key returnees: Blaine Burgess, Nick Raymond, Bryan Rudolph and Dan Walter

•Opener: Monday at Westerville Central