Ryan Alexander entered his 10th season as Grove City High School baseball coach with the same expectations that he had when he first took over the program.
The Greyhounds are looking for their first trip to the Division I state tournament since making back-to-back appearances in 2011 and 2012.
Grove City, which lost to Big Walnut 6-1 in a district final last season to finish 22-6 overall, also is looking to defend its OCC-Ohio Division title after going 14-0 in the league a year ago.
The Greyhounds opened this week with four games in Tennessee and begin league play Monday, April 2, at Lancaster.
"With our guys, we're pushing all the time -- 20 wins, league title, district championship," Alexander said. "Those are the goals every year. Our guys, when they don't get those three things, they feel a little bit let down."
The Greyhounds lost several key players to graduation, but Alexander said they still have the potential to contend for league and district titles.
Leading the way should be senior Nick Erwin, who has committed to Ohio State. He should anchor the pitching staff and also the infield at shortstop when he's not on the mound.
Last season, Erwin batted .371 and was named first-team all-district and all-league and honorable mention all-state.
"We're really young, but at the same time, we have a lot of good talent," Erwin said. "It's going to be a different looking team this year, but I think we're going to have a really successful season. The goals are the same every year."
Also back is senior Tristin Siemer (OF/P), who batted .396 last season and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Other returnees are seniors Travis Burson (P), Travis Engard (P/INF), Branden Hopper (3B), Jackson Koethke (OF), Brian Lee (C), Braydon McCloskey (P), Brennan Meisler (3B), Kyle Sigman (INF) and Jared Warner (C/1B).
Other players are senior Nick Ankrum (OF), juniors Luke Barnhart (OF), Jacob Boyd (P), Tyler Ebert (P/INF), Connor Goss (INF/P), Aaron Marshall (P), D.J. Neff (INF) and Reece Wolfinger (OF) and sophomores Jacob Burris (OF), Colby Gulick (C), Brayden Skibinski (P) and Gavin Wolf (P).
Grove City lost four key pitchers to graduation in Colton Bauer, A.J. Peter, Dan Rutan and Conner Walls, but Alexander is hoping Burson, Engard, Erwin and Siemer can fill the void.
"We think we're going to be able to put together a real solid lineup that can battle pitchers a lot of different ways," Alexander said. "Our defense has been very solid throughout the scrimmages, so the question mark is going to be pitching depth and throwing strikes on a consistent basis."
Softball team eyes another strong year
The softball team entered the season looking to build on last year's success while also making a deeper run in the Division I district tournament.
The Greyhounds opened on a positive note, defeating Kannapolis (North Carolina) A.L. Brown 12-4 on March 24. They played one game in North Carolina and then traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to compete in the Grand Strand Softball Classic.
Grove City opens OCC-Ohio play April 11 at home against Lancaster.
Last season, the Greyhounds finished 19-10 overall with a 5-3 loss to Groveport in a district semifinal.
"We have a lot of young kids and they're pretty hungry," said coach Ted Williams, who is in his 18th season. "We move the ball pretty well. We need to do a little better job running the bases from what we've seen in the first couple of scrimmages. Defensively, we're going to be OK."
The top returnee is junior pitcher Mylie Torres, who led Grove City in batting average (.484) and RBI (35) last season and shared the team lead in home runs (5) with 2017 graduate Bri Tucker. In the circle, Torres was 3-2 with a 2.73 ERA, 12 strikeouts and three walks in 25 2/3 innings. She was named first-team all-OCC-Ohio and second-team all-district.
Senior shortstop Lauren Griffith batted .479 and was second-team all-district.
Senior pitcher Sierra Reid was honorable mention all-league. She batted .389 and was 4-3 with a 6.01 ERA, 31 strikeouts and 16 walks in 42 2/3 innings.
Junior Abby Tschiggfrie (OF) batted .391 and sophomore Katelyn DeWeese (1B) hit .390.
Also back are senior Brooke Arledge (OF), juniors Grace Freeman (P/1B) and Lauren Walls (2B) and sophomores Anna Papas (OF) and Olivia Williams (2B/3B).
Other players are sophomores Emma Sigman (OF) and Faith Yoder (C) and freshmen Avery Ciborek (C), Chloe Clark (2B/OF), Sydney Sharron (3B), Kendal Weber (designated player) and Maddie Wilcox (OF).
Williams said Yoder and Ciborek will split time behind the plate.
Sophomore pitcher Anna Feil has transferred to Pickerington Central, according to Williams. Last season, she batted .315 and was 12-5 with a 2.72 ERA, 111 strikeouts and 31 walks in 103 innings.
Grove City went 4-6 in the OCC-Ohio last spring to finish fourth behind champion Central (10-0), and Williams hopes his team can improve on that standing.
"Lancaster lost the least (to graduation)," Williams said. "Gahanna lost quite a bit. Pick Central lost a bunch."
March 27 -- at Knoxville (Tenn.) Catholic and at Knoxville Christian
March 29 -- at Farragut (Tenn.) and at Karns (Tenn.)
*April 2 -- vs. Lancaster
*April 4 -- at Lancaster
April 5 -- at Upper Arlington
*April 6 -- at Reynoldsburg
April 7 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
*April 9 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*April 11 -- at Gahanna
*April 13 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 16 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*April 18 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 20 -- at Pickerington North
April 21 -- at Olentangy Liberty with Cleveland St. Ignatius
*April 23 -- vs. Pickerington North
*April 25 -- vs. Lancaster
*April 27 -- at Reynoldsburg
*April 30 -- at Gahanna
*May 2 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*May 4 -- at Pickerington North
May 5 -- vs. Watkins Memorial and Wheeling (W.Va.) Linsly
March 24 -- at Kannapolis (N.C.) A.L. Brown
March 26 -- vs. Elizabethton (Tenn.) in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 27 -- vs. West Springfield (Va.) in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach
March 28 -vs. Hamilton Township and Westerville Central in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach
March 29 -- vs. Gray (Tenn.) Daniel Boone in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach
March 30 -- vs. McLean (Va.) in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach
April 4 -- vs. Olentangy
April 6 -- at Hilliard Bradley
*April 11 -- vs. Lancaster
*April 12 -- at Reynoldsburg
April 14 -- at Worthington Kilbourne with Big Walnut
*April 16 -- at Gahanna
*April 18 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*April 19 -- at Pickerington North
April 21 -- vs. Fairfield Union and Mayfield
*April 23 -- at Lancaster
*April 25 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
*April 26 -- vs. Gahanna
April 27 -- at Hilliard Darby
April 28 -- vs. Olentangy Orange and Dresden Tri-Valley
*April 30 -- at Pickerington Central
*May 2 -- vs. Pickerington North
May 3 -- at Marysville
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 3 -- At Newark
April 4 -- Home vs. Columbus West
TRACK & FIELD
April 3 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester and Central Crossing