The Upper Arlington High School baseball team scored 25 runs in its first scrimmage and 11 in its second, but fifth-year coach Matt Middleton wasn't necessarily fawning over those performances.
"This is a veteran team, and I really like the way the guys are playing the game. They're playing looser being a year older," said Middleton, whose team defeated St. Paris Graham 25-3 in a scrimmage March 22 and Teays Valley 11-1 on March 24. "You're never going to complain about scoring a lot of runs, but I want to see how well we can manufacture runs. We're going to need to move runners over and get them in. We hit .260 as a team last year. I want us to be able to play good defense and score the runs we need."
UA was scheduled to open March 29 with a doubleheader against Westerville North, but the games were postponed because of bad weather. As a result, the Golden Bears opened against Pickerington Central on March 31, winning 6-4.
The Bears, who are carrying 10 seniors and 10 juniors, return their top hitter and pitcher from a year ago in senior Will Marable.
Marable, who plays shortstop when not on the mound, had a team-best .385 batting average last year with a team-high 35 hits. On the mound, he went 6-3 with a 2.53 ERA and 44 strikeouts and 10 walks in 47 innings.
According to Middleton, Marable will hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup.
Another key returnee is senior Mitch Nini (P/3B), who batted .349 with 30 hits, including a home run, last season.
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Tyler Bergen (P/OF), Haakon Borstad (P/1B/DH), Corbin Dennis (P/1B/DH), Advait Deshmukh (P), A.J. Kapusta (OF), Mathis Newman (OF), David Storer (C) and Kevin Whitfield (P) and juniors Jacob Glaser (P/3B), Ryan Miller (P/INF), Connor Peters (C), Spencer Pinnick (2B/SS), Alec Radcliff (P/OF), Davis Robeson (CF/P), Max Takanashi (P), Cole Veri (P/OF), Mitch Weideling (C) and Brad Zelezny (P/INF).
UA finished 15-15 overall last year after going 15-14 in 2012.
"Those records are a pretty good indicator of who we were," said Middleton, whose team went 8-6 in the OCC-Central Division last year to tie Dublin Coffman for fourth behind champion Thomas Worthington (11-3).
"Except for four seniors, we have everybody back. We earned a lot of confidence getting to a district final last year, and we're bigger and stronger now. It could be a special year if we live up to our talent."
UA opens OCC-Central play Monday, April 7, at home against Thomas after returning home from competing in the Farragut (Tenn.) Invitational, which runs from Thursday, April 3, through Saturday, April 5.
"Win or lose, we're going to see where we stack up down there," Middleton said.
"When we went down there last year, there were times the guys felt like they were in over their heads. This year, we're going down there more relaxed and confident."
Softball coach likes team's athleticism
Seventh-year softball coach Todd DelBoccio didn't hold back touting his team's expected strengths for this season.
"This is probably our most athletic team since 2009 or 2010," said DelBoccio, whose team opened April 2 at home against Dublin Jerome.
"We have a lot of very athletic kids. Their confidence is up and we have a ton of speed. This could be the best outfield we've had in years. We have kids who can do many different types of things. Now, we have to see how good of softball players we have."
Key returnees include seniors Meredith Lilley and Annika Wachtman, who will start in left and center field, respectively, and senior McKinly Vazquez, who is in her fourth year as the Bears' No. 1 pitcher.
Last season, Vazquez was 9-13 with a 3.34 ERA and 90 strikeouts and 92 walks in 140 1/3 innings spanning 25 appearances.
She also batted .439 with a team-high five home runs, as the Bears finished 12-15 overall and placed fourth in the OCC-Central at 8-6, behind co-champions Marys-ville and Olentangy Liberty (both 11-3).
"She has a lot of varsity (experience) under her belt and I think she has the capability to do great things," DelBoccio said of Vazquez.
"And to boot, she's one of the better hitters we have. Luckily for us, we have a couple other pitchers who we'll be able to throw. I don't want to burn McKinly out having her pitch every game."
The other pitchers are sophomore Caroline Warner and freshman Ida Kegley. Warner also is playing in the outfield.
Wachtman, who batted .430 last year, and Vazquez, among others, are being counted on to help fill the offensive void left by 2013 graduate Laramie Abbruzzese, who led the team in batting average (.563), hits (45) and stolen bases (29) and had two home runs.
Abbruzzese is playing for Bowling Green State University.
"We had a great 1-2 punch with Laramie and Annika," DelBoccio said. "Annika's probably going to lead off for us this year. She's a very capable hitter."
The rest of the roster consists of seniors Stacy Gibson (1B), Alex Keller (3B) and Elena Medich (SS), juniors Carolyn Botti (designated player/utility), Avery Brick (2B), Sam Good (C) and Becca Shera (2B) and sophomore Elli Wachtman (OF).
The Bears open league play Monday, April 7, at Thomas.