Doug Stinson, the pitching coach for the Pickerington High School Central baseball team, is ready to begin his offseason conditioning program.

Doug Stinson, the pitching coach for the Pickerington High School Central baseball team, is ready to begin his offseason conditioning program.

After the 11th-seeded Tigers lost to second-seeded Gahanna 8-0 in a Division I district final May 20 to finish 19-9 overall, he already was thinking about the potential of next season's pitching staff.

"We're a really young team," Stinson said. "We have two freshmen pitchers who both pitched really well that we're excited with. Next season, our top three pitchers will be a junior and two sophomores."

Central will lose four seniors in Blaine Burgess, Nick Raymond, Bryan Rudolph and Dan Walter. Rudolph, who was first-team all-OCC-Ohio Division and all-district, led the Tigers in batting average (.439), RBI (26), home runs (6), triples (4) and hits (36). Walter, who was first-team all-OCC, finished 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA.

Sophomore Isaac Beller leads the group of expected returning pitchers along with junior Nic Rush and freshmen Zach Beaver and Evan Jensen. Beller, who was second-team all-OCC and honorable mention all-district, finished 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 46 innings.

"With those four we have four really good starting pitchers," Stinson said. "That's going to take us deep.

"Our offseason conditioning program will start in the beginning of November. This is a good group who works hard. Their offseason work is starting to show. They have good control of their pitches, they change speeds well and they don't walk a lot of batters. They're composed and mature and all throw hard."

Central, which had with a team ERA of 2.97, finished third in the OCC-Ohio at 9-4 behind Pickerington North (13-1) and Gahanna (11-3). The Tigers opened OCC play with three victories followed by losses to Pickerington North (13-3 on April 24 and 6-2 on April 28) and Gahanna (4-1 on April 27).

Central responded by winning nine of its last 11 games.

"The kids stayed together through thick and thin," coach Chick Campbell said. "We started the season 0-2, won eight in a row, lost five of six in mid-April then end up in a district championship. That's huge."

Central lost in a district final to Gahanna last season 18-13.

"These kids now know what it takes to compete for a league championship," Campbell said. "They also now see they need to take care of the little things in order to win a district championship."

Also among those expected to return are juniors Patrick Beaver (OF), Isac Franklin (2B), Chaz Hager (C), Josh Kristoff (SS) and Ethan Way (C) and sophomores Tyler Hammond (OF) and Kyle Smith (3B).

Smith hit .333 with 13 RBI and was second on the team in runs (23) behind Kristoff (27).

"We've got a lot of kids coming back with a lot of experience," Campbell said. "But we still have kids who will compete for positions. That makes it nice."

At a glance

•Record: 19-9 overall, 9-4 (third) in OCC-Ohio

•Seniors lost: Blaine Burgess, Nick Raymond, Bryan Rudolph and Dan Walter

•Key returnees: Isaac Beller, Isac Franklin, Josh Kristoff, Nic Rush and Kyle Smith