The ups and downs that the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team believes it grew from last season could begin to pay dividends this spring.
That's the hope for a Raiders' squad that returns a talented sophomore class, its top pitchers and several others who gained experience during an 11-17 season a year ago.
Reynoldsburg, which opened April 1 at Worthington Kilbourne, plays its OCC-Ohio Division opener Monday, April 7, at home against Grove City.
"You can see a lot of improvement from last year," fifth-year coach Rob Gravatt said. "I think we'll have a much better hitting team and we've been fielding the ball a heck of a lot better. Last year we started three freshmen, so there was a lot for them to get used to. I'm a little bit more optimistic than last year."
The top returnee is sophomore shortstop Connor Richardson, who batted .402 last year and was honorable mention all-league.
Sophomore Nick McPommell is back at catcher. Sophomore Shayne Lyons returns at first base and pitcher but has been battling an injury.
Senior Joey Fee, who led Raiders pitchers in appearances a year ago, will be among those on the mound and also should see time at several infield positions.
Senior Davis Otani will be at second base and junior Johnny Monsour will play first base.
Another key pitcher should be senior Alex Core, who also will be a starter in the outfield.
Senior Hunter Steele will play third base and pitch and junior Eric Duncan will play the outfield and pitch. Duncan went 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA a year ago.
Others looking to contribute are seniors Hayden Bowen (OF), Zach Ruschill (P/OF) and Josh Turner (C/1B/3B), juniors Tyler Knapp (P/INF), Rick Phillips (OF) and Tanner Thomas (OF) and sophomores Parker Facemyrer (OF) and Zach Greenwald (2B).
The Raiders lost six players to graduation from a team that placed seventh (4-10) in the OCC-Ohio behind champion Pickerington North (12-2), including second-team all-league selection Nick Hedrick (C).
"The one weakness is that we don't have a lot of depth," Gravatt said. "Alex Core, Hunter Steele and Shayne Lyons were all three pretty outstanding pitchers last year, but we need to keep them healthy. When Connor didn't play shortstop last year we went 2-12, but we were 9-5 when he did. If we can stay healthy and our pitching improves, we can have a solid year."
Proceeds from the Raiders' home doubleheader April 12 against New Albany will be given to the organization Donate Life in recognition of April being National Donate Life Month.
Softball team out to break through in OCC
Among the goals for the softball team is snapping a 62-game losing skid against OCC-Ohio foes.
Reynoldsburg opened March 31 with a 3-2 loss to Zanesville -- its March 29 doubleheader against Whitehall was postponed -- and plays its league opener Monday, April 7, against Grove City.
Last season, the Raiders went 3-20 overall and 0-14 in the league.
"I'm looking at the possibility of us winning about three (league games) this year," first-year coach Mike McDaniel said. "Even though they've put a lot of work in, they've got to do it on the field."
McDaniel, who previously was Northland's coach and was the Raiders' junior varsity coach the past two seasons, took over in the offseason after Rich Hogle stepped down after two seasons.
The top returnee is senior Marissa Andrews, who will be at first base and catcher after leading the Raiders with four home runs last season.
Junior Sydney Brown saw time at pitcher along with 2013 graduate Jessie Alianiello a year ago and is expected to be the No. 1 pitcher this season. She also could see time at shortstop.
Seniors Savannah Henkle (3B/OF) and Kaitlyn Cress (1B/3B), juniors Michal O'Brien (OF) and Bailey Long (2B) and sophomore Keiri Johnson (SS) are other returnees.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Kayla Armond (C/3B) and Sarah Hanson (OF) and sophomores Cheyenne Fraley (CF) and Reanna Moline (P).
"Overall we've got a good team that can take the bat to the ball," McDaniel said.