What a difference one year makes for the Westerville South High School baseball team.

What a difference one year makes for the Westerville South High School baseball team.

The Wildcats posted their first non-losing season since 2001 a year ago behind a 10-player senior class and a batting order that hit .358 as a team. This season South has just four returnees and a roster with more sophomores (8) than seniors (3).

"I definitely hope we can pick up where we left off," said coach Tim Bates, whose team opens with road games Monday through Wednesday at Newark, Westland and Groveport.

"But what we're stressing this year and the guys have bought into is situational hitting. We don't have nine guys in the lineup who are going to hit .400. So we're focusing on bunting, sacrificing, moving the runner over, double-steals, things like that. We're going to have successfully manufacture runs when we have the opportunity. We can't depend on scoring seven or eight runs in an inning."

South finished 12-8 after losing to eventual district champion Newark 7-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.

Of the 10 graduation losses, seven were regulars in the field and another was the top pitcher. Included in the group were three players who were all-district in second baseman Dominic Palumbo, catcher Brad Prewitt and pitcher Jared White.

"Last year we had only four returning kids, but they were seniors, and we had six other seniors up from the (junior varsity)," said Bates, whose team went 4-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division a year ago to tie Dublin Jerome, Mount Vernon and Olentangy for third place behind Pickerington Central (7-3) and Worthington Kilbourne (7-3).

"They stepped in and played roles. But they also left an impression on the young guys. The guys we have now are enthusiastic, they like each other and they're putting out 110 percent."

South is in the OCC-Cardinal this year with Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty, Westerville Central and Westerville North.

Its returnees are juniors Garrett Gillette, Austin Parks and Brian Williams and sophomore Ben Williams. Gillette is going to play in the outfield and pitch. Parks will be at third base and pitch as well. Brian Williams will be the top pitcher and play shortstop. Ben Williams will see time at center field, shortstop, pitcher and catcher.

Gillette hit .395 last year with 14 RBI and Ben Williams hit .457 to rank second on the team.

Brian Williams was 3-2 with a 4.95 ERA in 29 innings. Parks was a utility player who also posted a 4.42 ERA as a relief pitcher.

"We lost a lot of people and we're young team, but we have a lot of good, young talent," Brian Williams said. "We have some good defensive players and I think we have some decent sticks, too. We have some solid hitters. I think it's going to be a decent year."

The rest of the roster features 14 players, some of whom will rotate between the varsity and junior varsity. They are seniors Eric Ciraky (2B), Tre Fisher (OF/P) and Geoff Hill (LF/1B), juniors Matt Duffey (C), Alex Lanning (P), Jake Rorabaugh (3B) and Zack Slyman (2B) and sophomores Dillan Cook (P/SS), Ben Jones (CF/P), Josh Llaneza (C), Joe Stiltner (1B/C), Nate Allen (CF/2B), Mark Hensley (OF) and Matt Stiltner (3B/2B).

"We're young and everyone is going to get a chance," Bates said. "We've told them the more you make plays the more innings you will get. We're also stressing just do what you can do. As long as they are consistent in the field and on the mound, things will take care of themselves."

At a glance

•Coach: Tim Bates, sixth season

•Opener: Monday at Newark

•Key players: Garrett Gillette, Austin Parks, Ben Williams and Brian Williams