Positive vibes resonated through the Dublin Jerome High School softball program last season as it more than doubled its victory total from 2016.

Included in a 10-14 overall finish were wins over Coffman and Scioto by scores of 8-4 as the Celtics captured the Jessica Hirth Memorial Trophy in Battle for the Cure between the sister schools.

Nearly every key player has returned, bringing optimism to a team that was seeded 31st in the Division I district tournament but upset 19th-seeded DeSales 4-2 in a first-round game before falling to 14th-seeded Hilliard Darby 5-3.

The Celtics are hoping to post their second season with at least 10 wins under fourth-year coach Alyssa Kelley.

"We're looking to build off of our success from last season," Kelley said. "We're super focused on getting better every single day. We try to control the controllables, so to speak. We hustle and communicate. That's all I can ask them to do. It puts us in a position to be successful."

Jerome opened April 2 with a 4-3 victory over Worthington Kilbourne in an OCC-Cardinal Division game.

One of the biggest reasons for optimism is the return of senior Ashley Hammett, who is the team's No. 1 pitcher and also plays shortstop after making first-team all-league last season.

Sophomore Julia Burch (LF), who was second-team all-league, and senior Tasia Talton (CF), who made honorable mention all-league, also have returned.

The other senior is Carrie Cramer (1B).

Juniors Lauren Belu (OF), Sydney Berberick (OF/C), Whitney Karg (3B) and Anna Orben (SS) and sophomores Alie Intihar (C), Alessandra Monte (OF), Kendall Sestili (INF) and Jenna Watts (2B/P) also are key players.

Others looking to contribute include sophomores Holly Harris (utility) and Brigitte Rehtus (OF).

"We have our entire starting lineup back from last year and some additional people are back, so we're really excited about this team," assistant coach Audrey Mowery said. "Our freshman class last year was pretty big and sophomores do dominate the team overall. They all get along really well, which is awesome.

"It's really nice having the majority of our girls back. So far we've been really focused. The girls are doing what we need to be doing to get better every day, which is all we can ask for."

Baseball team expects to be on solid ground

Things didn't go as well as planned last season for the baseball team, but the Celtics aren't expecting a repeat of those ups and downs this spring.

Jerome, which finished 16-14 overall last season but went just 3-9 in the OCC-Cardinal, committed 91 errors a year ago and struck out 192 times.

The positive from those numbers is that only 31 of those errors and 83 of those strikeouts were attributed to players who have returned this season.

That's not even including a pitching staff that 14th-year coach Chris Huesman believes could be his team's biggest strength.

"We're excited," Huesman said. "We love how this group works and we love the camaraderie of the team right now. It's a great environment to be around every single day when they're getting workouts in."

Jerome opened with five games in Orlando, Florida. After beating Elizabeth (Pennsylvania) Forward 12-2 on March 27 and Lombard (Illinois) Montini Catholic 10-8 on March 28, the Celtics lost to Columbus (Wisconsin) on March 29 and then split a doubleheader March 31, beating Wanaque (N.J.) Lakeland Regional 4-3 and losing to Little Falls (N.J.) Passaic Valley Regional 6-0.

The Celtics were 3-2 overall before opening OCC-Cardinal play April 3 at Kilbourne.

The top returnees are senior Rob Cope (LF) and junior Trent Belli (1B/OF/LHP), both of whom were named second-team all-league last season.

Belli, who has committed to Ohio University, batted .394 a year ago and also was honorable mention all-district. Cope hit .421 and also was second-team all-district.

Junior Hayden Schell (CF/P) set the program record for stolen bases in a season with 20 last season and is batting leadoff.

Senior Chase Gorman could see time at second base, shortstop and third base, and senior Reed Mesaros will serve in a utility role.

Cole Harris, Jackson Harris, Wil Intihar and Jacob Johnson are senior outfielders.

Sophomores Nick Lapham (SS/P) and Will Piccin (C/P/DH) are returning starters in the infield. Lapham has been recovering from a knee injury suffered during football season.

Juniors Nate Davis (INF/P/OF) and Will Rigby (INF/P/OF/DH) should see most of the action at third base.

Intihar should lead a pitching staff that also includes seniors Vik Doddi, Zach Heins and Nick Kirk and junior left-hander Carson Rengel.

Also looking to contribute are juniors Ben Clouser (INF/OF/DH), Kyle Ebert (INF), Luke Gearhart (OF), Andy Kloss (OF) and Dalton Miller (P/OF), sophomores Adam Booth (C/P), Ryan Callahan (LHP/OF/INF), Easton Gross (INF/P) and Dan Wilson (1B/P) and freshmen Ryan Miller (C/P/utility) and Sammy Stoner (C/P/utility).

The Celtics lost 11 players from last season to graduation, including first-team all-league and all-district shortstop and pitcher Sam Wilson, who now plays for Marshall.

"We've got a good group, and I think we've got a good chance of winning the OCC this year," Schell said. "We all get along really well."

Volleyball team feeling energized

Finishing as a Division I regional runner-up last season has the boys volleyball team feeling hungry for another strong finish this spring.

Last year, the Celtics finished 13-11 overall and went 8-4 in the OCC-Cardinal to finish third behind champion Darby (12-0).

"We're talented," said fifth-year coach Phil Cagnoli, whose team opened April 3 against Thomas Worthington. "We finished as regional runner-up last year, and we've returned a decent amount. We lost some big-time seniors, but that said, our program's in a better state so we're better able to fill in those blanks and set high expectations."

What Cagnoli is hoping to see are players emerging as leaders.

The Celtics have four seniors in Chris Clapp (defensive specialist), Saket Nekkanti (middle hitter), Chris Obert (outside hitter) and Nate Prenger (setter). Sophomore Tommy Poole (libero) also returns to lead the defense.

The junior class is comprised of Cam Rich (opposite), Gage Utrup (outside hitter) and Brendan Zimovan (middle hitter), while sophomore Leo Morales (opposite/setter) is a move-in from Puerto Rico who is expected to contribute.

Also on the roster are sophomores Gavin Balak (middle hitter) and Nathan Chao (outside hitter/setter) and freshman Tyler Nutting (outside hitter).

Last season, Poole was named first-team all-league, Obert was second-team all-league and Prenger was honorable mention all-league.

"We're going to be really good," Poole said. "Most of our starting players have played club. There's also some upcoming talent."

Despite being the seventh seed in the East Region tournament last season, Jerome upset sixth-seeded Gahanna and fifth-seeded Olentangy Liberty before falling to top-seeded Darby with a shot at the state tournament on the line.

Cagnoli, whose team's biggest loss to graduation was first-team all-league outside hitter Cole Wilson, believes his team again will be in the mix to contend for a state berth.

"I would say we're easily a top-10 team in the region," Cagnoli said.

"I'm hoping top five, and we're hoping top two and making it to state. We're not going to back off of that. It's going to be a tough road to get there and we're aware of that."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 27 -- Elizabeth (Pa.) Forward in Orlando, Fla.

March 28 -- Lombard (Ill.) Montini Catholic in Orlando

March 29 -- Columbus (Wisc.) in Orlando

March 31 -- Wanaque (N.J.) Lakeland Regional and Little Falls (N.J.) Passaic Valley Regional in Orlando

*April 3 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

*April 4 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*April 6 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

*April 9 -- at Thomas Worthington

April 10 -- vs. Hartley

April 11 -- vs. St. Charles

April 12 -- vs. Ready

*April 16 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*April 18 -- at Hilliard Darby

*April 20 -- at Hilliard Bradley

April 21 -- vs. Briggs (DH)

*April 23 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*April 25 -- vs. Delaware

*April 27 -- at Delaware

April 28 -- vs. Westerville North and Westerville Central

*April 30 -- at Scioto

*May 2 -- vs. Scioto

May 3 -- vs. Coffman

May 5 -- vs. Pickerington Central and Big Walnut

SOFTBALL

*April 2 -- at Worthington Kilbourne

April 3 -- vs. Marysville

*April 4 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

April 5 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

April 7 -- at Jonathan Alder with Warsaw River View

*April 9 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

April 10 -- at Lancaster

*April 11 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*April 12 -- vs. Delaware

April 13 -- at Upper Arlington

April 14 -- at Olentangy Liberty (DH)

*April 16 -- vs. Scioto

*April 18 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

*April 19 -- at Thomas Worthington

April 21 -- at Heath with Buckeye Valley

*April 25 -- at Hilliard Darby

*April 26 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*April 30 -- at Delaware

May 3 -- vs. Canal Winchester

May 5 -- vs. *Scioto and Coffman in Battle of Dublin

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*April 3 -- vs. Thomas Worthington

April 4 -- vs. St. Charles

*April 9 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*April 10 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*April 12 -- vs. Delaware

April 14 -- Spike for Tykes Tournament at Hiram College

*April 17 -- at Scioto

*April 19 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

April 21 -- vs. Mount Vernon and Pickerington Central

*April 23 -- at Thomas Worthington

*April 26 -- at Hilliard Darby

*April 30- at Worthington Kilbourne

*May 1 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*May 3 -- at Delaware

May 4 -- Battle of Dublin at Scioto

*May 8 -- vs. Scioto

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Jerome boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse and track & field teams:

BOYS LACROSSE

April 7 -- At Olentangy

*April 10 -- Home vs. Delaware

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 10 -- At Delaware

TRACK & FIELD

April 6 -- Panther Invitational at Hilliard Darby

April 10 -- At Olentangy Liberty

*League contest