Coming off back-to-back Division II district championship seasons, the Granville High School softball team has just two seniors, including one who wasn’t with the program when it won the state title in 2015.

That’s not to say the Blue Aces are expecting to take a big step back this season.

“(I have) very positive thoughts and outlook for this 2017 team,” coach Rae Stuart said. “For the first time in a few years, I have several people out this year, allowing me to make both a varsity and a (junior varsity) team. (We have) a young but very talented team this year with only two seniors. I expect to be competitive in this very tough LCL.”

Granville was 6-3 overall and 3-2 in the league after losing to defending state champion Lakewood 10-0 on April 10 and to Johnstown 14-8 on April 12.

After going 20-10 a year ago, the Aces have 12 returning letterwinners, including seniors Sophia Ehlers (SS) and Payton Brownlee (OF).

Brownlee joined the program last year after transferring from Licking Valley.

In Granville’s 8-3 win over Licking Valley on April 3, Ehlers and junior catcher Halle Garman both hit solo home runs.

The other juniors are Megan Gummere (1B/P), CeCe Maclae’ (OF) and Rose Sawyers (OF).

Sophomore Kaitlin Brown is the team’s new No. 1 pitcher after it lost Vega Theophilus to graduation.

The other returnees are sophomores Raegan Benshoter (3B), Hannah Durbin (OF), Ally Fisher (1B), Ally Gilliam (2B) and Erynn Tracey (OF).

Junior Courtney Brooks is a varsity newcomer who also is a key outfielder.

Rounding out the roster are freshmen Hannah Brockway (OF/INF) and Aubri Claypool (C).

“My goals for the team this season are to build on the fundamentals of the underclassmen and get them plenty of experience at the varsity level to continue to build the program,” Stuart said. “(We) plan to be recognized for our speed and power in the lineup and known as an offensive threat to any teams we play. I expect my pitching staff to be very dominant (in the circle) this year and to have the strongest outfield in the league.”

Warren era begins for
Heath baseball team

After serving as an assistant the last 19 seasons under Dave Klontz, Thomas Warren is in his first season as Heath’s baseball coach.

Warren has taken over a program that won state titles in 2002 and ’07 under Klontz, who was the Bulldogs’ coach for 45 seasons, won more than 600 games and was voted into the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003.

Heath is 7-4 overall and 3-3 in the LCL.

“Our goals are always the same,” Warren said. “(We want to be) LCL champions, Central District champions (and have) 20 wins.”

Seniors Nick Bonifant (OF/P) and Damon Yahn (1B) and juniors Tyler Karr (OF/P), Bailey McCord (INF/P) and Simon Romine (INF/P) are among the key players for the Bulldogs.

They split a doubleheader with Jonathan Alder on April 8, losing 10-1 and winning 11-6, and then fell to Johnstown 7-2 on April 10.

Other seniors in the program are Gray Ault (2B), Ryan Biller (3B), Alex Bradley (OF), Ben Isch (INF/OF/P), Adryn McCoy (OF) and Tanner Williams (INF/P).

Track teams set for
Smith Invitational

The Heath track and field program will play host to the Hank Smith Invitational on Saturday, April 15.

Last season, Canal Winchester won the 20-team girls meet with 91.5 points as Newark was sixth (45), Licking Valley took ninth (33), the host Bulldogs were 15th (13) and Lakewood was 19th (6).

In the 19-team boys meet, Canal Winchester was first (84) and Logan (67), Licking Valley (62) and Heath (59.75) rounded out the top four. Newark was 13th (16) and Lakewood was 14th (12).

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek