Westland High School baseball coach Dave Daniels went with a youth movement last season, giving several sophomores the opportunity to start on varsity.

Westland High School baseball coach Dave Daniels went with a youth movement last season, giving several sophomores the opportunity to start on varsity.

He hopes that year of experience will lead to more success this spring.

The Cougars were 3-23 overall and 0-14 in the OCC-Central Division last season, which ended with a 7-3 loss to Delaware in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

The Cougars open on Tuesday, March 29, at Whitehall.

Leading the junior class are Jake Cook (C/INF) and Brady Willis (P/INF), who tied 2010 graduate Sean Clutter with a team-high 15 RBI.

"We got a lot of experience last year as sophomores," Cook said. "The sophomores came out last year and played varsity.That's big. All of them are returning, so that's a big help. The class has been playing together all the way through - not just school ball, but travel ball, too. We're looking pretty good this year."

The other juniors with varsity experience are Lineurys Sanchez (INF), who batted .324 last season, Junior Reyes (C/P) and D.J. Taylor (P/OF).

"The whole idea was to let some of those younger guys play last year because I believed in them then and I still do," said Daniels, who is beginning his eighth season. "Hopefully this year they'll have a little more experience. They all played summer ball. We're going to find out."

Kris Carius (P/1B), Caleb Harshbarger (utility player) and Andy Runkle (P) are the lone seniors who received significant varsity playing time last season.

Senior Cody Herdman (P/1B) was expected to play varsity last spring but was lost for the season after undergoing knee surgery, Daniels said.

Other seniors are T.J. Kaiser (C), Adam Lanzer (INF), Brandon Little (P/INF) and Jon Miller (P/INF).

Junior Chase Blankenship (OF) and sophomore Steven Gonzalez (P/OF) round out the team.

Daniels expects Carius, Runkle, Taylor and Willis to lead the pitching staff.

"This is a good group of kids," Daniels said of the team. "I'm enjoying them so far. They've been working hard and they have enough ability and baseball experience to be competitive."

Cook believes the Cougars are on the right track.

"We think we can compete this year," he said. "Last year we knew we were young and we were going to have some trouble, but this year we look at the schedule and we think we're a lot better team."

Westland finished eighth in the OCC-Central last season behind Worthington Kilbourne (12-2), Upper Arlington (11-3), Hilliard Darby (8-6), Hilliard Davidson (8-6), Thomas Worthington (8-6), Dublin Coffman (7-7) and Central Crossing (2-12).

The Cougars defeated Franklin Heights 5-3 and 14-0 in five innings, and beat Fairfield Union 8-7.

Westland lost seniors Clutter, Dylan Douglas, Brian Fisher and Lucas Pencek to graduation.

Clutter, who led the team with a .362 batting average, was named second-team all-league and Pencek, who batted .342 with eight RBI, was honorable-mention all-league.