The Watterson High School softball team is hoping to pick up from where it left off last season when it captured the CCL championship and improved by four victories from the previous year.
Although Tracey Cultice stepped down as coach after last season, there has been a sense of continuity with former assistant Emily Manahan now serving as head coach.
Also helping with the coaching transition is the return of seven players who played key roles a year ago when the Eagles finished 14-10 overall, went 5-1 in the CCL and reached a Division I district semifinal.
"The team is coming together very nicely," junior right fielder Gracie Bressoud said. "We've already seen much improvement and plan to see even more. We lost five strong players last year so some people are learning new positions and potentially are out of their comfort zone in order to fill those spots."
Manahan, who played at Bluffton University and is the daughter of longtime Watterson baseball coach Scott Manahan, was an assistant the past three seasons.
The Eagles opened March 27 at Delaware and begin CCL play April 9 at Ready.
"I like the look of the kids," Manahan said. "We've got a lot of returning players and it's been kind of fun because we've got more competition than we've had. We've got a little more depth, which is creating some pressure on them and it's helping us make sure we've got the best nine or 10 kids playing."
Bressoud is a left-handed slap-hitter who is in her third season as a starter and hit .407 a year ago. Other key returnees are seniors Kristin Becker (CF), Bekah Forshey (LF) and Gretchen Glanzman (3B/SS) and juniors Tori Demko (C), Nicole Funge (P) and Maddie McCleary (2B).
Funge was 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA last season as the No. 2 pitcher behind Erin Vonderwell, a 2017 graduate who went 8-3 with a 3.39 ERA and 62 strikeouts and is now playing for Otterbein.
Junior Moira O'Reilly is another pitcher who should log innings in the circle.
Sophomore Sydney Blake takes over at shortstop in place of 2017 graduate Katrina Wierzbicki, who hit .447 last season and also is at Otterbein.
Senior Kenzie Yates is at first base, while freshman Rachel Reuter also should see time at catcher and senior Samantha Goad should provide depth in the outfield.
Sophomore Amy Emsweiler is recovering from a knee injury and could be available to hit at some point this season.
"Our team has been coming together very nicely so far," Funge said. "My hope for this season is that we win the CCL again and have a good run in the tournament."
Baseball team brings back strong nucleus
The return of seven letterwinners has the baseball team feeling optimistic about the season.
Last season, the Eagles finished 17-8 overall, went 6-2 in the CCL to share the league championship with St. Charles and reached a Division II district final before losing to Jonathan Alder 7-6.
"We've got a lot of unprovens, but that's the joy and it's the curse," said 22nd-year coach Scott Manahan, whose team opened March 26 at Lakewood and begins league play April 11 at home against DeSales. "We're not allowed to play poorly and these kids put a lot of pressure on themselves. One of the biggest issues we deal with is our own failures and in baseball, you fail a lot. We're going to have to have some kids come through. We're a senior-dominated team because we had some juniors on the (junior varsity last season), so hopefully they'll be able to help us as seniors."
The top returnees are senior Nate Meyer (SS/P), a third-year starter who has committed to Cincinnati; senior Josh Brobst (OF/P), a Lake Erie College commit; and senior Cole Andrews (C), a Miami University commit.
The other returning letterwinners are seniors Nick Hurley (P/3B) and Carson Peck (3B/1B/P) and juniors Adam Fallon (INF/OF) and Drake McAninch (P/1B).
McAninch went 3-1 as the team's No. 2 starting pitcher last season and figures to take over the No. 1 role this season for 2017 graduate Matt Dockman, who now plays for Duke after going 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 74 strikeouts.
Hurley went 2-1 with a 0.29 ERA in 24 relief innings last season.
Meyer batted .410 with 26 runs scored, Andrews hit .333 with 16 RBI and Fallon batted .318.
Peck, who has committed to play for Cuyahoga Community College, will join McAninch, Hurley, senior Eric Entler and junior Ryan Roark as corner infielders.
Senior Jacob Zerkle and junior Grant Horvath are other catchers, and sophomore Noah Truax could see time at several positions, including pitcher and outfielder.
Brobst missed time last season with injuries but should be the starting center fielder.
Senior Thomas Zerkle and junior Sam Greiner are other outfielders on the roster.
Seniors Michael Moore (INF), Ryan Powers (OF) and Jacob Wakefield (P) and junior Stephen Garrett (P/OF) are others looking to contribute.
"With the pitch-count rules, we're lucky to have nine or 10 guys I'd call pitchers," Manahan said. "We've got 11 seniors. We had a good class of seniors last year and I think we've got a really good class again."
March 26 -- at Lakewood
March 28 -- at Jonathan Alder
April 2 -- Franklin (Ky.) Franklin-Simpson at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 3 -- Louisville (Ky.) Male at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 4 -- Medford (N.J.) Lenape at Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.
April 5 -- Elizabeth (N.J.) at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 6 -- Shephersville (Ky.) North Bullitt at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 10 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 11 -- vs. DeSales
April 13 -- vs. Youngstown Ursuline
April 14 -- at Columbus Academy
*April 16 -- at Ready
April 17 -- at Johnstown
*April 18 -- at St. Charles
April 19 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 20 -- vs. Hartley
April 21 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 23 -- at DeSales
April 26 -- vs. Bexley
*April 27 -- vs. Ready
April 28 -- Upper Arlington at Ohio State
*April 30 -- vs. St. Charles
May 1 -- vs. Worthington Christian
*May 2 -- at Hartley
May 3 -- vs. Hilliard Darby
May 4 -- vs. London
May 5 -- vs. Centennial
March 27 -- at Delaware
March 28 -- vs. Lancaster
April 2 -- Louisa (Ky.) Lawrence County at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
April 3 -- Louisville (Ky.) Valley at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 5 -- Staten Island (N.Y.) St. Joseph Hill and Audubon (N.J.) at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
April 6 -- Grayson (Ky.) East Carter at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach
*April 9 -- at Ready
*April 11 -- at Hartley
April 13 -- vs. Groveport
April 14 -- at Dublin Coffman (DH)
*April 16 -- vs. DeSales
April 17 -- vs. Olentangy
April 19 -- vs. Teays Valley
April 21 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*April 23 -- vs. Ready
*April 25 -- vs. Hartley
April 28 -- at Reynoldsburg with Westerville South
*April 30 -- at DeSales
May 1 -- vs. Grandview
May 3 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
May 4 -- at Pickerington North
Below is the coming schedule for the Watterson boys volleyball team:
March 29 -- At Briggs
April 3 -- At Northland
April 4 -- At Upper Arlington