Canal Winchester High School baseball coach Tyler Kuhn doesn't remember exactly how many different lineups he used last season, but he's certain he'll exceed that total early this year.
The Indians return only one starter in senior shortstop Kavian McMillan as they attempt to win a second consecutive OCC-Capital Division championship, and although the team has 11 seniors, Kuhn expects to move pieces around both in the field and the lineup as he learns more about the team and the players get accustomed to their new roles.
"There's definitely a lot of uncertainty with this group," said Kuhn, whose second season began March 26 at home against Circleville. "Position-wise, guys know there is competition. Practices have been good. You can tell it means a lot to them when they get on the field. They're fighting to get into the lineup.
"We're a little bit more of an open book trying to figure out roles and who we'll run out there. Our group knows that, and they know everybody's jobs are always on the line. I want guys to be competitive about playing time. They're flexible and they can move around the field."
McMillan batted .345 with 29 hits last year as Canal Winchester went 19-8 overall and 13-2 in the OCC-Capital Division, two games ahead of runners-up Big Walnut and New Albany, before losing to Olentangy Orange 5-3 in a Division I district semifinal.
The league championship was the Indians' first since winning the MSL-Buckeye in 2009.
Canal Winchester lost its top two hitters to graduation in Austin Trace (.402, 27 RBI, 3 home runs) and Nick Tiell (.362, 34 hits, 20 RBI, 1 home run) as well as its top two pitchers in Ryan Glauner (3-2, 0.75 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 14 walks in 56 innings) and Luke Williamson (4-2, 1.17 ERA, 17 walks and 60 strikeouts in 36 innings).
"I think I've improved at being more of a team guy with this team, helping everybody," McMillan said. "Last year, everybody already had a ton of talent. This year, we have to work more as a team. Being a four-year varsity guy, I can show them the way, but I can trust these guys to do it on their own. I just try to give tips every once in a while."
Senior Justin Cox, who was 6-2 with 18 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36 2/3 innings last season, acknowledged the expectations that come with being the team's projected ace but said he tried not to think about them entering the season.
"That (role) is what I was aiming for coming into this season. I didn't tell myself that because I didn't want to have that pressure on myself. I didn't tell myself I was 'the big dog,'" said Cox, who also will play third base. "I am trying to get these younger guys some in-game pointers, things to think about like switching up looks to certain bases. They will need to help us a lot this year."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Drake Burris (P/INF/OF), Eli Harris (OF), Haden Hiser (1B/OF), Carter Ilich (1B/OF), Collin McKibben (OF), Chase Riley (OF), Cullen Shields (1B), Cam Taylor (P/2B) and Kyle Vanhorn (C), juniors Josh Browning (P), Trevor Mays (utility), Chase Moeller (P/2B/3B) and Bryce Palmer (P/1B/3B) and sophomores Reece Klamorick (P/2B/SS), Ben Stevens (C) and Ryan Tackett (OF).
"There is no doubt that we can be as successful (as last season) or maybe even more so, but it might take some time to get that right mix," said Kuhn, whose team's home and league opener is Monday, April 2, against Big Walnut. "It depends on who plays themselves into the lineup."
Young softball team greets new coach
With two returnees from last year and six underclassmen on his roster, first-year softball coach Casey Whitlatch acknowledges the Indians could be in for a rebuilding season.
Seniors Kaylee Dunkle (3B) and Allie Saulnier (C) are among the leaders on whom Whitlatch will rely as he takes over for Randy Hinton, who resigned after 17 seasons. Last season, the Indians went 7-19 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Capital, tying New Albany for fourth behind champion Groveport (10-0).
Saulnier batted .391 with 27 hits and 19 RBI a year ago, while Dunkle had a .279 average with 22 hits and 15 RBI.
The Indians opened March 27 at home against Westland after their originally scheduled opener March 24 at Bloom-Carroll was postponed because of bad weather. They begin league play April 11 at home against Big Walnut.
"Our core values, our goals, the stuff that we talk about involves winning every inning," Whitlatch said. "We don't want to talk about last year, but we know who won the league. We have to get better every day. The biggest thing for these girls is they want to make the program better and achieve some special things."
Canal Winchester hopes to build on a batting average that Hinton said last year was the team's third-best since he began keeping records in 1995. The Indians scored 11 or more runs six times.
"We're very focused," senior outfielder Jessica Diskins said. "It's a big adjustment for the freshmen coming from eighth grade to varsity and the pitching is a lot faster here. But even from the first few scrimmages, they were able to adjust and better themselves between games and between at-bats. Once they get that timing down, they will be even better hitters."
Whitlatch expects freshman Sam Peters to be among his top pitchers and added she could hit high in the order as well as catch when Saulnier does not.
Rounding out the roster are sophomores Kylie Harmon (SS/3B/OF), Lexi Hinkle (INF/OF) and Shannon Seymour (OF) and freshmen Brooklyn Best (P/1B), Olivia Kolikohn (2B/SS/OF), Dani Skinner (CF) and Samantha Zungri (2B/OF).
"This is pretty much a whole new team," Saulnier said. "(Whitlatch's) coaching style is completely different, too. How we do practices is different. We do a lot more drills and we practice more. Coach is focused on the mentality of the game. We are going to make mistakes. That's going to happen, but how we pick ourselves up from those mistakes is what he's really focused on."
Reher announces college decision
Senior Alaina Reher signed March 15 to play women's soccer at Otterbein.
Reher split time with Delaney Hippler at goalkeeper last season for the girls soccer team, which went 13-5-1 overall and 4-0-1 in the OCC-Capital, winning its first championship since joining the conference before the 2013-14 school year, and advanced to its first district final, where it lost to Pickerington North 2-1.
March 26 -- vs. Circleville
March 27 -- at Bloom-Carroll
March 29 -- at Upper Arlington
*April 2 -- vs. Big Walnut
*April 4 -- at Big Walnut
April 5 -- vs. Hartley
*April 6 -- at Groveport
April 7 -- vs. Wadsworth (DH)
*April 9 -- vs. Groveport
*April 11 -- at Franklin Heights
April 12 -- at Bexley
*April 13 -- vs. Franklin Heights
April 14 -- vs. Youngstown Ursuline (DH)
*April 16 -- vs. New Albany
*April 18 -- at New Albany
*April 19 -- at Newark
*April 23 -- vs. Newark
April 24 -- vs. Teays Valley
*April 25 -- vs. Big Walnut
*April 27 -- at Groveport
April 28 -- vs. Pickerington North (DH)
*April 30 -- at Franklin Heights
*May 2 -- vs. New Albany
*May 4 -- at Newark
March 24 -- at Bloom-Carroll
March 27 -- vs. Westland
March 28 -- at Thomas Worthington
March 29 -- at Licking Heights
April 3 -- at Grandview Heights
April 4 -- vs. Westerville South
April 5 -- vs. Pickerington North
April 6 -- vs. Dublin Coffman
April 10 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
*April 11 -- vs. Big Walnut
*April 12 -- at Groveport
April 14 -- at Licking Valley (DH)
*April 16 -- at Franklin Heights
April 17 -- vs. Fisher Catholic
*April 18 -- vs. New Albany
*April 19 -- at Newark
*April 23 -- at Big Walnut
*April 25 -- vs. Groveport
*April 26 -- at Franklin Heights
April 28 -- at Bexley with Chillicothe Southeastern
*April 30 -- at New Albany
May 1 -- vs. London
*May 2 -- vs. Newark
May 3 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
May 4 -- at Fisher Catholic
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 3 -- At Lancaster
April 4 -- At Hamilton Township
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 3 -- At Grove City with Central Crossing