Worthington Kilbourne High School softball coach Bob Lee knew his task in the offseason would be preparing a team that would have to replace its top offensive producers from a year ago.

Worthington Kilbourne High School softball coach Bob Lee knew his task in the offseason would be preparing a team that would have to replace its top offensive producers from a year ago.

"Offensively, we started out slow last year and we lost some pretty good run production so we've got some gaps to fill," he said. "We didn't hit the ball all that well over the winter and we don't have the speed we had last year."

That wasn't the case a year ago for the Wolves, whose bats got hot in the postseason and propelled them to a Division I district final where they fell to 13th-seeded Gahanna 4-2 to finish at 14-13.

In a district semifinal, Kilbourne shocked second-seeded Marysville 7-2.

"We're a hopeful team after making it into the district final last year," senior second baseman Jordan Brown said. "Nobody expected to get that far and that's doing wonders for our confidence. I think we know we can do it again."

The lineup will look somewhat familiar with the return of a number of starters.

A year ago, Lee regularly played as many as four freshmen, which made for a slow start. At one point, the Wolves were 2-7 as coaches tried to find the right mix.

Lee is more sure this season about who should be in the field.

"We have a nice nucleus back, even though we've lost three key players up the middle," he said. "We lost a senior who pitched for us for four years and that's tough to replace. As the year went on, they improved and got a lot of experience in the tournament and played in some big games and that's got to help."

Sophomore Jill Brandenburg returns as the top pitcher, but she continues to recover from a stress fracture in her back. Her pitch count will be limited early.

Brandenburg (4-5, 4.10 ERA, 71 strikeouts) and sophomore shortstop Lauren Rossi (.306, 5 RBI), who was second-team all-OCC-Cardinal Division, made significant contributions a year ago.

As Brandenburg recovers, Lee will look to junior Calasta Santacroche and freshman Heather Boortz to handle pitching duties.

"We're going to have to pitch by committee for a while," Lee said. "But this year we play three league games and we're going to need those arms. Some of the No. 1's in our league might be able to pitch all those, but not us, at least not early."

The Wolves now are in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Dublin Coffman, Hilliard Darby, Hilliard Davidson, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington and Westland. Last year in the OCC-Cardinal they went 5-5 to tie Mount Vernon for third behind Westerville South (9-1) and Pickerington Central (7-3) and ahead of Dublin Jerome (2-8) and Olentangy (2-8).

As Lee puts his lineup together, Brown (.271) and senior center-fielder Taylor Lincicome return as honorable mention all-league performers. Brown was 9-for-12 in the tournament.

Sophomore catcher Alexis Williams possesses some power at the plate.

Other returnees include junior Kelsey Koke and Sarah Norman and sophomores Sara Bear and Molly Jeck. All will fill spots in the infield.

Juniors Lauren Scantland, who missed last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Becca Amato and Mary Kate Blackman will see playing time in the outfield.

"I think one of our strong points has been communication," Brown said. "We're really a team that knows how to talk to one another which will help us defensively."

At a glance

•Coach: Bob Lee, 13th season

•Opener: Monday vs. Groveport

•Key players: Jill Brandenburg, Jordan Brown, Kelsey Koke, Taylor Lincicome, Lauren Rossi and Alexis Williams