The way last season ended is still on the minds of the players on the Thomas Worthington High School baseball team.

The way last season ended is still on the minds of the players on the Thomas Worthington High School baseball team.

The Cardinals were seeking a third consecutive OCC title when last season started, but couldn't find a way to beat either Delaware or Pickerington North in the league. As their league title chances frittered away, so did the season.

The Cardinals finished 15-12 overall and 6-4 in the OCC-Central. They lost to Dublin Jerome in the second round of the Division I district tournament after a first-round bye. After the tournament loss, Thomas lost a non-league game to Canal Winchester 10-8 to end the season on a three-game losing streak.

"We lost some games we shouldn't have," said senior pitcher Dominic Porretta, whose team opens Wednesday at home against Franklin Heights. "And we couldn't close some out. We kind of let (the season) slip away. We have some experience and we're trying to win some of those games this year."

While the defensive positions will be filled with newcomers, four of the team's top five pitchers from last year are back. The staff also includes senior Jordan Peters and juniors Eric Petry and Sam Bohon.

The Cardinals had a team ERA of 4.22. Coach Stephen Gussler is looking at the continuity on the staff to be the team's strong point.

"We're pretty excited about it," Gussler said. "We return about 75 percent of our pitching.

"With 14 league games -- I know our league's extremely tough -- but I like our chances. I like our experience even through we lost some offense."

Seniors Eric Erb (OF) and Frankie Aledia (C) are the lone returning full-time position players. Bohon and junior Alex Miller also return after receiving part-time duty in the field last year.

Also returning are senior Matt Zofchak and juniors Sam Adams, Seth Bullock, Taylor Cooper, Dillon Crecelius, and Jordan Novotny.

Seniors Dustin Armstrong and Jeremy Kuhn, juniors Chad Carpenter, Taylor Cooper and Srivaths Venkatachari and sophomore Jacob Semerar are also on the roster.

Even with the experience returning on the pitching staff, it was the offense that caught Porretta's eye last week during an intra-squad scrimmage.

"Our pitching staff is strong," Porretta said. "That is kind of our anchor heading into the season.

"That puts us at ease knowing that we're going to throw strikes and help our defense. But when we had our intra-squad scrimmage, we were hitting the ball. We had 21 runs combined against our pitching."

Thomas finished third in the OCC-Central last year behind North (9-1) and Delaware (7-3) and ahead of Westerville Central (5-5), Marysville (2-8) and Central Crossing (1-9).

Central Crossing returns to the OCC-Central with Thomas, but Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Davidson, Hilliard Darby, Upper Arlington, Worthington Kilbourne and Westland are newcomers to the division.