Pitching depth and versatility are what the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team likely will lean on this spring after losing 11 players to graduation.
The Raiders also wouldn't mind having a little more luck than they did a year ago when they lost four games by two or fewer runs.
One of those losses came in the second round of the Division I district tournament, falling to OCC-Ohio Division rival Pickerington Central 2-1 to finish 9-16 overall.
Reynoldsburg opens Saturday, March 31, at home with a doubleheader against Whitehall and begins league play Monday, April 2, at Gahanna.
"I think we'll be better (than last season)," third-year coach Bob Benjamin said. "We lost a lot of one-run games last year, (but) I think we'll be deeper in pitching. Having 11 seniors (last season), it sounds good, but when we started off struggling, everybody was trying to have a great senior year with every at bat and they put way too much pressure on themselves. So much was expected of last year's team and it just didn't happen."
Junior Michael Tooker, who is among several corner infielders on the roster, is expected to be the No. 1 pitcher after the Raiders lost Chandler McCroskey and Darius Montero to graduation. Montero was the winning pitcher as 34th-seeded Reynoldsburg upset 21st-seeded Olentangy Liberty 5-2 in a first-round district tournament game, and McCroskey was the tough-luck loser in the tournament loss to sixth-seeded Central.
Others who could see time on the mound include seniors Luke Duncan, Cam McCloud and T.J. McVay, juniors Ryan Grant, Brock Mason and Bradley Thompson and sophomores Reece Crabtree, Kaleb Holland and Nate Russell.
McCloud started in center field much of last season but also can play first base.
"Last year, we really only had two pitchers that we used consistently," McCloud said. "This year, we've got a lot more depth. Every practice, we're getting better and better. We're going to set our goals pretty high this year."
Grant was the team's catcher last season but is among the best athletes in the program and could see time in center field and shortstop.
Senior Justin Witherspoon is another option at catcher and also plays third base.
Junior Drew Hall and Thompson could split time at third base, with Hall also seeing action at shortstop with Crabtree.
Senior Justin Lyons joins Thompson as an option at second base, and McCloud, Mason and Tooker all could see action at first base.
"We're really corner heavy, which we need to be because we only have 13 guys," Benjamin said. "When somebody's pitching, everybody's got to rotate."
Grant and McCloud are among a group of players who could see time in the outfield along with Duncan, Holland, McVay and Russell.
Among the others lost to graduation were Chase Collins (OF), who is playing for Otterbein, and Max Benjamin (P/1B), the coach's son who has been assisting at Reynoldsburg.
"Even though we're deep in pitching, (we need it) with the pitch limits," coach Benjamin said.
Softball team plans to take next step
The return of every key player, including one who has committed to play collegiately, has the softball team feeling optimistic that it can take another step forward after winning three more games in 2017 than it did in 2016.
The Raiders, who snapped a 101-game OCC-Ohio losing streak in 2016 and finished 9-13 overall and 1-9 in the league last spring, opened March 26 against Northridge.
They begin league play April 11 at Gahanna.
"We're returning all of our starters, and I've added three (players)," coach Tony Rettke said. "We've now got quite a few players who play year-round or travel ball, so it's not a typical year for Reynoldsburg."
Senior Mackenzie Huey (P/3B), who will play for Mount Vernon Nazarene, hit a program-record 12 home runs last season.
She batted .609 and was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
She and junior Olivia Rettke again should see most of the innings in the circle. Rettke was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district last spring, and senior Fury Caldwell (SS) and junior Zoe Kirk (C/OF) were honorable mention all-league.
The other seniors are Erin Costello (C), Kylee Dunham (2B), Claire McCloud (OF/1B) and Faith Terry (OF).
Juniors Alexis Langwasser (OF), Amanda McIntyre (OF) and Alejandro Zamora (3B/C) and sophomore Nicole Pearce (OF/C) are other returnees.
Junior Mary Kate Watkins (OF) last played in junior high.
"This is my third year as the varsity coach so they know the routine and they seem to be getting along really well," coach Rettke said. "Every girl knows what to expect. Our hitting last year improved from years past with Mackenzie Huey hitting .609 and Olivia up to about .400. Zoe's got a powerful bat, too.
"I think we're way better than we've been. We played Gahanna pretty tight last year and we beat Grove City. I'm looking forward to this season. We want to win a few more OCC games and go close to .500 and see what we can do."
March 31 -- vs. Whitehall (DH)
*April 2 -- at Gahanna
*April 4 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 6 -- vs. Grove City
April 7 -- vs. Granville (DH)
*April 9 -- at Grove City
*April 11 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 13 -- vs. Pickerington Central
April 14 -- vs. Central Crossing (DH)
*April 16 -- vs. Pickerington North
*April 18 -- at Pickerington North
*April 20 -- at Lancaster
April 21 -- vs. Ready (DH)
*April 23 -- vs. Lancaster
*April 25 -- at Gahanna
*April 27 -- vs. Grove City
April 28 -- at Newark (DH)
*April 30 -- at Pickerington Central
*May 2 -- vs. Pickerington North
*May 4 -- at Lancaster
March 26 -- vs. Northridge
March 28 -- vs. Licking Heights
March 29 -- vs. Whitehall
March 30 -- at Utica
April 5 -- at Thomas Worthington
April 7 -- at Newark with Heath
*April 11 -- at Gahanna
*April 12 -- vs. Grove City
April 13 -- vs. Olentangy
April 14 -- at Watkins Memorial with Grandview
*April 16 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 18 -- vs. Pickerington North
*April 19 -- at Lancaster
April 21 -- vs. Hamilton Township and Centennial
*April 23 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 25 -- at Grove City
*April 26 -- vs. Pickerington Central
April 27 -- at Westerville North
April 28 -- vs. Westerville South and Watterson
*April 30 -- at Pickerington North
*May 2 -- vs. Lancaster
May 4 -- at New Albany
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
April 2 -- Home vs. Teays Valley
April 3 -- At New Albany
April 4 -- Home vs. Newark
TRACK & FIELD
March 31 -- Newark Invitational
April 3 -- At Westland
April 3 -- At Hilliard Davidson