Despite losing more than half of his team's starting lineup to graduation last season, Worthington Kilbourne High School softball coach John Warinner thinks his team can replicate its 2011 success.

Despite losing more than half of his team's starting lineup to graduation last season, Worthington Kilbourne High School softball coach John Warinner thinks his team can replicate its 2011 success.

The Wolves open Tuesday, March 27, at home against Franklin Heights and begin OCC-Central Division play April 2 at home against Hilliard Darby.

"We have a lot of kids who are flexible and can play multiple positions, we have four top-notch players returning and I think we have the talent to fill in all those holes that last year's senior class left," said Warinner, who is in his third season with the Wolves. "We just need to gain the experience, find the right combinations and get these girls in the right positions to make plays."

Last season, Kilbourne finished 19-6 overall, losing to eighth-seeded Delaware 4-2 in a Division I district semifinal.

The Wolves went 10-4 in the OCC-Central to place third, behind Central Crossing (13-0) and Thomas Worthington (10-3) and ahead of Hilliard Davidson (7-7), Darby (5-8), Dublin Coffman (4-10), Upper Arlington (3-11) and Westland (2-11).

Second-round league games between Thomas and Central Crossing and Darby and Westland were not played.

Seeded fifth in the district tournament, Kilbourne had a first-round and defeated Westerville South 8-5 in the second round before losing to Delaware.

Junior pitcher Sarah Adams is one of the reasons for high expectations, as last season she went 14-4 with a 1.57 ERA and 187 strikeouts in the circle and batted .440 with a team-best 34 RBI.

Sophomore left-hander Manda Cash will give Warinner a pitching option. Cash, who batted .371 with 25 RBI last year, also plays first base.

Adams was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district last year and Cash was special mention all-league.

"I'm expecting some real big things from Sarah and Manda because they're our top pitchers and among our top returning hitters," Warinner said. "They'll hit in the middle of the lineup and produce the bulk of our RBI by driving in our top two hitters - seniors Lizzi Cherry and Steph Keller."

Both Cherry and Keller are returning starters. Cherry, who hit .426 and was honorable mention all-league last year, is back in center field and Keller, who batted .391 a year ago, will play infield and outfield.

"Lizzi led us in runs and on-base percentage and this will be her fourth letter and third year starting in center," Warinner said. "Keller is extremely fast and is a tough out. She scored 21 runs last year."

Seniors Emily Row (3B) and Dani Mahaffey (OF) also are returning letterwinners.

However, the Wolves lost a lot of experience, especially on the infield. Lauren Rossi (SS) was a four-year starter who made honorable mention all-state last year. Alexis Williams (C) and Sarah Bear (2B) were both three-year starters.

"We will have first-year varsity starters at catcher, second base, shortstop and third base," Warinner said. "But I really feel we have the personnel to step into those positions. We've just got to put all the pieces together. We probably won't score as many runs, so we have to make things right defensively behind our pitchers. We've got to be fundamentally sound and not give away runs. We need to raise our softball IQ."

Junior Marisa Guyton is expected to step in at catcher.

Others vying for starting spots are juniors Carissa Van Dyke (2B/OF) and Cierra Van Dyke (SS), sophomores Miranda Adams (1B/OF), Emily Rodriguez (SS/OF) and Kristen Rossi (2B/OF) and freshman Grayson Brown (SS/2B/OF).

Thomas returns several starters from last season, when it finished 19-6 overall, placed second in the OCC-Central and reached a Division I district semifinal before losing to ninth-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley 1-0.

Seeded sixth in the district, the Cardinals had a first-round bye and defeated Mount Vernon 3-1 in the second round before falling to Tri-Valley.

First-year Thomas coach pleased with seniors

Thomas opens Tuesday, March 27, at home against Groveport and begins league play March 29 at Davidson.

The experienced infield for first-year coach Lindsey Shepherd includes seniors Kenzi Hannum (1B/3B), Kim Hoerauf (SS) and Emily Hofacre (2B) and junior Abby Zofchak (C/3B).

Junior Rachel Garris returns in center field.

"I'm very excited to be here because of the great group of girls and great leadership we'll have," said Shepherd, who spent two years as an assistant at Dublin Jerome and has coached the Columbus-based Phoenix 18-U travel team the past three years. "We've got three very solid pitchers and we're just anxious to get going."

Zofchak batted .485 with 24 RBI and a program-record seven home runs last season and was second-team all-state. Hoerauf (.482, 15 RBI), Hofacre (.365) and Garris (.315, 13 RBI) also had strong seasons.

An experienced defense should help the team's three pitchers in senior Zoe Myers, junior Megan McLaughlin and sophomore Anna Marie Boue.

"I think our pitching can be dominant," Shepherd said. "Megan was on a national championship travel team (Ohio Heat) last summer and she and Anna Marie have a number of junk pitches they can throw as starters. Zoe missed most of last year (broken finger), but she can really bring it and will be our closer."

Myers, who also will play the infield corners, has signed to play at Ashland University. She was leading the team in hitting last year before her injury.

Also vying for playing time are juniors Tori Chirdon (C/utility player), Katie Holman (OF) and Clare Janowski (OF), sophomore Fatima Said (OF/SS) and freshman Carson Baymiller (3B/OF).

"I don't know much about our league, nor do I really care that much," Shepherd said. "We want to go out and play our game and we'll make some adjustments, but the key is to have nine or 10 players playing well come tournament time.

"We have the pitching and an infield that has played together for years to lead us. We're strong at least through No. 6 in the order. But it's way too early for goals. I'd rather set goals game by game and improve and tweak the things we need to work on. There's no need to look too far down the road."