Hilliard Bradley High School baseball players knew what was on the line in the offseason and wanted to do their best to make the most of their chance.
Having reached a Division I district semifinal last season, the Jaguars wanted more. They dedicated themselves to the weight room, believing that getting stronger will help them go further in the postseason.
Bradley, which finished 16-13 overall last spring, returns seven players who started at one time or another. One is senior Trey Yoder, who started at third base.
"Right now we're taking things day by day," said Yoder, a Muskingum recruit who was second-team all-league after batting .333 with 11 RBI and 15 runs. "The focus for us is on winning (the) OCC(-Cardinal Division) and winning our first district championship."
The Jaguars went 7-5 in the OCC-Cardinal a year ago to place third behind Darby (11-1) and Thomas Worthington (9-3).
New coach Nate Hillery, who replaced Matt Gilkerson after eight seasons, is impressed with his players' work ethic.
"These guys have worked so hard in the offseason to get better and prepare for the season," Hillery said. "(Seniors) Jack Rasmussen, Trey Yoder and Enrique Ozoa and (junior) Drew Donaldson have all put on 15 pounds of muscle to prepare for the season. They have been driving balls that wouldn't have been driven before."
Rasmussen (1B/P) is coming off a record-setting season in which he was second-team all-district and all-league. A Cuyahoga Community College recruit, he batted .313 and set program records with three home runs and 25 RBI. He also was 3-2 with a 3.65 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 27 walks in 48 innings.
Ozoa (SS/P) also will play at Cuyahoga Community College. He was special mention all-league last season after hitting .329 with 10 RBI, 16 runs and eight stolen bases.
Seniors Tim Miles (INF/C: .295, 9 RBI, 13 runs) and Isiah Winters (C) also return, as do junior Luke Barren (P; 1-2, 4.63 ERA, 22 2/3 innings) and Donaldson (INF; .306, 9 RBI, 10 runs).
"Anytime you change leadership and terminology, what you are doing doesn't change but how you do it or the way you do your business does," Hillery said. "Our guys are pretty serious. They saw the opportunity to have a good year and they attacked it. We have some scrappy kids that have a lot of energy. They bring the juice every day."
The infield has Rasmussen and sophomore Dylan Ysseldyke at first, Yoder at second, Ozoa and Donaldson at shortstop, Miles and Donaldson at third and Miles and Winter behind the plate.
The outfield features Barren and juniors Pat Day, Jack Duffer, Aaron Malarkey and Chase Smith.
Rasmussen and Ozoa lead a pitching staff that also includes Barren, Ysseldyke and seniors Jake Norris and Shaun Richardson.
Rounding out the roster are juniors Dylan Planck (1B), Brandon Tuller (P) and Nathan Weita (3B), sophomore Cam-eron Medley (C) and freshman Caleb Jenkins (utility).
The Jaguars were 4-2 after losing their league opener to Thomas 4-1 on April 2. They defeated DeSales 16-5 on March 24 and St. Charles 6-0 on March 26. Teays Valley handed Bradley its first loss 6-2 on March 27, but the Jaguars rebounded to sweep Big Walnut 3-2 and 12-7 in a doubleheader March 31.
"I feel pretty good about the start of the season," Yoder said. "We have been working hard in the offseason so it's good to come out and have a hot start."
Softball team hoping to continue momentum
Coach Kevin Moody and the softball team are looking to remain among the top squads in central Ohio after having a season to remember last spring.
The Jaguars return six starters after going 24-5 overall, losing to Gahanna 6-2 in a Division I regional final. They defeated Pickerington Central 7-6 for their first district championship and also won their third league title, going 12-0 in the OCC-Cardinal.
Senior pitcher Lexie Hilling, a Wright State signee, leads the returnees. The right-hander was second-team all-state, first-team all-district and league Player of the Year after going 21-5 with a 2.11 ERA, 152 strikeouts and 40 walks in 166 innings. She also batted .398 with five home runs, 37 RBI and 20 runs.
Junior center fielder Jaiden Bryant (first-team all-district and all-league) batted .388 and led the Jaguars in home runs (11), RBI (39), runs (41), triples (5) and stolen bases (15). Senior shortstop Lauren Renner (first-team all-district and all-league) batted .471 with 19 RBI, 32 runs, 10 doubles and six stolen bases.
Senior first baseman Heather Holly (special mention all-league) hit .429 with 19 RBI, 34 runs and 11 doubles. Other starters were senior Savannah McCoppin (3B) and junior Annika Murray (2B).
Senior Hannah Lewis (honorable mention all-league) started in the outfield, but will miss the season following hip surgery.
"We're very excited about getting back together and getting things going," said Moody, who is in his ninth season. "It's easier because of the amount of experience we have. Our seniors are doing a fantastic job of showing the younger players what it takes to achieve their goals."
Stepping in at catcher is McKenzie Hilling, the freshman sister of the team's ace.
Joining Bryant in the outfield are sophomore Lauren Cerda in left and sophomores Macie LoParo and Amanda Nashalsky in right.
Rounding out the roster are senior Khalysah Rashid (3B/OF) and junior Michaela Medich (1B).
"We're making sure everyone is in the right spot defensively," said Moody, whose team opened April 2 by defeating Thomas 20-1 in five innings in league play. "We're getting more aggressive with our players defensively and we have to work to make ourselves champions."
March 24 -- at DeSales
March 26 -- at St. Charles
March 27 -- vs. Teays Valley
March 31 -- vs. Big Walnut (DH)
*April 2 -- at Thomas Worthington
*April 4 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
April 7 -- at Grove City with Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary
April 10 -- at Westerville Central
*April 11 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
April 14 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne* and Springfield Shawnee
*April 16 -- at Delaware
April 17 -- vs. Davidson
*April 18 -- vs. Delaware
*April 20 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
April 21 -- vs. DeSales and Pickerington Central
*April 23 -- at Dublin Jerome
*April 25 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
*April 27 -- at Dublin Scioto
April 28 -- at Jonathan Alder
*April 30 -- at Darby
*May 2 -- vs. Darby
*May 5 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 2 -- at Thomas Worthington
April 4 -- at Davidson
*April 5 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne
April 6 -- vs. Grove City
April 7 -- at Marysville with Teays Valley
*April 9 -- at Delaware
*April 11 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
*April 12 -- vs. Dublin Scioto
April 14 -- Mason and Medina at Pickerington Central
*April 16 -- at Darby
*April 18 -- vs. Thomas Worthington
April 21 -- at Westerville South with Big Walnut
*April 23 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*April 25 -- vs. Delaware
*April 26 -- at Dublin Jerome
April 27 -- Holland Springfield in Prebis Memorial at LaGrange Keystone
April 28 -- Grafton Midview and North Canton Hoover in Prebis Memorial at LaGrange Keystone
*April 30 -- at Dublin Scioto
*May 2 -- Darby at Hilliard Municipal Field
May 4 -- Stow-Munroe Falls in Gahanna Showcase
May 5 -- Circleville and North Canton Hoover in Gahanna Showcase
Below are the coming schedules for the Bradley boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 5 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*April 9 -- At Thomas Worthington
*April 5 -- At Scioto
*April 10 -- Home vs. Thomas
*April 5 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
*April 6 -- At Thomas
April 7 -- Bradley Doubles Classic
April 9 -- At Davidson
*April 10 -- At Delaware
TRACK & FIELD
April 6 -- Panther Invitational at Darby
April 10 -- At Buckeye Valley
*April 5 -- Home vs. Kilbourne
April 6 -- Home vs. New Albany
*April 9 -- At Delaware