When it split with perennial City League-North Division powers Centennial and Whetstone last season, the Northland High School baseball team had juniors and sophomores filling numerous roles.

The Vikings lost their best all-around player, Eddy Castro (P/C/INF), to graduation after he was among the area leaders in RBI with more than 40.

Still, there is significant talent returning as Northland looks to build on a 17-7 finish that included a tie for second (9-3) with Centennial behind Whetstone (11-1).

"Last year we beat everybody in the (City-North) so we think we can compete with most teams," said Dean Washington, who is in his 32nd season as coach.

Washington, who has more than 400 career victories, has a pair of experienced seniors in Keith Oliver (P/C) and Je'von Watson (P/SS) to lead the pitching staff.

Junior R.J. Dent also will see time on the mound and can play several positions, both on the infield and in the outfield.

"They always say that good pitching stops good hitting," Washington said. "We lost Eddy Castro so that was the power in the lineup, but I think we can replace that with Keith Oliver and R.J. Dent, and I know we'll get better. I think we'll be a decent hitting team and we'll have some success at bat when we attack more."

The other seniors are Jay Herpolsheimer (INF), Chad Norris (OF) and Mike White (1B/P).

Also playing key roles are juniors J.J. Branham (CF), Josh Cook (INF/C), Zeke Hannon (OF/INF), Deuce Morris (OF), Mike Nowling (INF) and Kahlil Washington (OF).

Northland opened March 26 with a 20-0 victory over Beechcroft as Watson struck out nine and was the winner.

The Cougars have a new coach in Charles Gibson, a 1984 Marion-Franklin graduate who took over both the baseball and football programs in February.

Gibson, who teaches junior ROTC at South, where he also has served as girls bowling coach, has experience coaching baseball, softball and football at the prep and collegiate levels.

His first baseball team has a trio of experienced returnees in juniors Nick Stewart (2B/P) and Liam Wolff (P/C/1B) and sophomore Alhaji Sidibe (OF).

There are no seniors in the program.

"We've got probably six or seven freshmen that have never touched a baseball," Gibson said. "I just want to see them get better."

Eastmoor softball team excited

The Eastmoor Academy softball team is looking to continue the success it enjoyed last season when it won its first City championship since 2005.

Despite having just two seniors, the Warriors went 17-5 overall and beat Centennial 13-5 in the City title game.

Eastmoor and Briggs split during the regular season and each went 13-1 in the City-South, but the Warriors defeated the Bruins 13-1 in a one-game playoff to advance to the City final.

Senior Averi Brown (P/1B), who has committed to bowl for Arkansas State, is the top returnee after batting .571 with seven home runs and 36 RBI last season. She also went 14-5 with a 3.21 ERA and 189 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings.

Junior Mallory Barnes (SS/OF) tied Brown for first in runs with 35, had 27 RBI and led in hitting at .673.

Senior Simone Brown is at second base after hitting .463, and sophomore Paige Barnes will see action at first base and pitcher after hitting .533 with 19 RBI and 34 runs.

Senior Kennadee Dixon (LF) hit .509 with 33 RBI.

Other key players include seniors JaDawn Bradley (CF), Imani Slater (2B) and Lauren White (C) and sophomore Micaela Edwards (3B).

The Warriors, who are led by 11th-year coach Travis Clodfelter, opened March 26 with a 16-0 victory over Africentric.

"We have a lot of new talent, so I think we're going to be good again this year," Brown said.

Cougars tennis team has veteran lineup

The Beechcroft boys tennis team returns its top three singles players after going 8-3 overall last season and finishing third (3-2) in the City-North behind Centennial (5-0) and Whetstone (4-1).

The Cougars lost to both the Stars and Braves by 3-2 scores.

Senior Godfred Kyei is at first singles, with juniors Henry Bright and Ali Mojtabaei at second and third singles, respectively.

In a 5-0 victory over Mifflin on March 26, juniors Andrew Zigaravich and Loiy Ghazahzwa were at first doubles and seniors Shadrack Boakye and KeShawn Polk played second doubles.

Senior Richard Kyereh, juniors Gideon Adjei and Mike Malave, sophomore Sam Kyereh and freshman Emmanual Adeyefa are others looking to contribute.

"As a Columbus City (League) coach, we're (usually) rebuilding with a mixture of new players to the game of tennis as well as returning players without varsity experience," said Daphne Hess, who is in her ninth season. "We've been fortunate to have court time with the help of a grant from the Greater Columbus Tennis Association. ... I'm also able to get on the courts over some weekends as Paul Kobelt of the New Albany Tennis Center donates to us court time in two-hour blocks. Additionally, I purchase court time at Wickertree when I can.

"Our goals are to be solid across both doubles teams as well as singles. Last year, we had strength at all three singles positions. I'd like to work on developing more solid doubles teams to support our singles when they have tough matches."

New Briggs volleyball coach optimistic

Herb Sharfenaker is hoping to bring some of the success he's enjoyed as the girls volleyball and softball coach at Briggs to another program.

After guiding the softball team to City-South titles in each of his five seasons as coach, Sharfenaker took over the second-year boys volleyball program in the offseason.

His son, 6-foot-4 junior Justin Sharfenaker, has extensive club experience and is the Bruins' top player.

Briggs, which went 6-9 last season, opened with a 25-6, 25-11, 25-20 win over Whetstone on March 23. The Bruins lost to DeSales 25-18, 25-19, 23-25, 25-15 on March 26.

"(Former coach) Nolla Harris just had a baby and she did a great job keeping the team together," coach Sharfenaker said. "I'm in the building and it just makes it easier for me (to coach boys volleyball) with Justin on the team. I don't like to miss his matches."

Sharfenaker guided the softball team to more than 90 wins and also has been the girls volleyball coach since 2009.

Justin Sharfenaker, who already has begun receiving interest from college programs, will spend most of his time at right-side hitter.

Hunter Bateman (outside hitter/right-side hitter), Devin Eastham (middle hitter/outside hitter), Brian Oliver (middle hitter) and Gilbert Quinonez (libero) comprise the senior class. Oliver is 6-3.

Juniors Brian Haag (middle hitter), Quinten Johnston (outside hitter) and Alvin Lucky (middle hitter) and sophomore Jonathan Jasso (setter) also are key players.

Briggs and Whetstone are joined by Beechcroft, Eastmoor and Northland as City schools that have boys volleyball this spring.

"What we're going to do, and we're working on dates, is that everybody in the City will play everybody twice," coach Sharfenaker said. "Then we're going to seed all five teams and have a City tournament championship. We'll have a regular-season champ and a City tournament champ. We're still working on the dates for this.

"Most of these kids (on my team) are first-year volleyball players. They're playing hard. We've got some who are stepping up and trying to do their best, and that's all I can ask."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek