Coach Sean Ring is hoping a trip south on spring break will help his young Westerville North High School baseball team gain needed experience before returning home.
That's not to say that the Warriors are devoid of experience. They have returned five players with varsity experience from a team that finished 15-14 overall and went 7-8 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to tie Olentangy Liberty for fourth behind champion Olentangy (12-3).
With nearly half of its lineup consisting of newcomers, North went 3-2 in a season-opening trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, over spring break.
"We graduated a lot of experience in a class of 11 seniors, and eight of the 11 played as sophomores," said Ring, who is in his ninth season. "We return five of our 15 (players) with substantial varsity playing time, but we still have a lot of sophomores and freshmen making the jump. Those young players are very talented and athletic."
The five returnees are seniors Chad Gordish (LF/P), Josh Houston (SS), Andrew Miller (1B/P) and Jack Murgas (RF/P) and junior Adam Stefanelli (2B).
"We're a young team so we have a lot of learning experiences coming up," said Houston, who was named honorable mention all-league last season. "We do have good team chemistry, and I think we're pretty athletic. We have a lot of speed and we have talent to go with it, so that should help."
Gordish and Murgas are expected to lead the pitching staff, which was in flux before the team headed down to Myrtle Beach. Other possible pitching options are Miller, senior Joseph Stilson, juniors Brandon Bond and Mason Lowe, sophomores Ari Dover, Harper Flynn, Kraig Lowe, Brenden O'Malley and Nolan Todys and freshman Ty O'Hearn.
"Chad and Jack are our two most experienced guys and all of the young guys throw (as pitchers)," said Ring, whose team opened league play April 4 against Westerville Central. "We have to get the younger guys in game situations and see how they fall."
Miller also plays at first base, with Stefanelli at second base and Houston at shortstop. The starters at third base and catcher were up in the air, but Flynn and Lowe played behind home plate in Myrtle Beach.
Gordish and Murgas will hold two of the outfield spots, with Dover and juniors Dominic Bobovnyk and Andrew Delasanta also being in the mix.
"One thing I like about this team is versatility," Rings said. "A lot of the kids can play anywhere from second to third to catching. That helps keep things fresh and exciting, and it keeps athletes out there on the field."
The Warriors opened their spring break trip March 25 with a 4-1 win over Marysville before defeating Paintsville (Kentucky) 7-5 on March 26. They then lost to Southampton (Pennsylvania) Council Rock South 10-0 on March 27 and Morehead (Kentucky) Rowan County 2-0 on March 29 before bouncing back to defeat Claysville (Pennsylvania) McGuffey 7-2 on March 30.
"First and foremost, we wanted to come back to Ohio with wins as well as enjoy the nice weather and get as much practice as possible," Rings said. "Heading down there, we were a young team that had to work on things that the weather up here wouldn't allow us to simulate. That should help us a lot."
Softball team may battle growing pains
Second-year softball coach Caitie Fackler hopes the versatility of her athletes can help ease the growing pains of her young team.
The Warriors have returned five starters from last season, when they finished 15-11 overall and went 5-5 in the OCC-Buckeye to tie Liberty for third behind Central (10-0) and Olentangy (7-3).
However, much of their lineup is filled with younger players.
Back are seniors Cheyney Carr (OF), Kirsten Georges (2B; .391, 23 runs), Kasyn Scarantine (C; .333, 13 RBI, 21 runs, 6 doubles) and Mackenzie Smucker (SS; .360, 7 home runs, 19 RBI, 7 doubles) and junior Megan Zody (P; 10-8, 3.62 ERA, 108 innings).
Smucker was named honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league last year, while Georges was second-team all-league and Scarantine was honorable mention all-league.
"We have a decent amount (of experience) back, but we have a lot of young additions and we're very young," Fackler said. "They are very versatile, and most of the girls play different positions. That can make it more difficult for me to figure out who plays where."
The Warriors have three freshmen in their lineup in third baseman Emily Edgell and outfielders Riley Farrell and Abbey Hittlepole.
"We have three freshmen on varsity this year who have great foundations as far as fundamentals," said Fackler, whose team opens league play Wednesday, April 11, at home against Central. "Emily starts at third, has a great arm and she does things you don't expect from a freshman. Abbey is a lefty slap hitter who starts in center and Riley is small but has a lot of punch in her bat."
Rounding out the roster are junior Lexi Hagemann (utility) and sophomores Marin Kalista (1B/C), Katie Palmer (P/utility) and Chloe Yingling (OF).
The Warriors opened the season with a spring break trip to Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They went 2-4 on the trip, defeating Staten Island (New York) St. John Villa Academy 11-1 on March 24 and Fox Lake (Ill.) Grant Community 2-0 on March 25 and losing to Plainfield (Illinois) South 7-6 on March 25, Corry (Pennsylvania) Area 11-7 and Willoughby South 7-1 on March 26 and Lakes Villa (Ill.) Lakes Community 11-8 on March 27.
"I think we'll be competitive and it's nice to have speed (Nos.) 1 through 9 (in the batting order)," Fackler said. "There will be times when we may struggle because we're young, but overall this should be one of our most well-rounded teams."
March 25 -- Marysville at Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 26 -- Paintsville (Ky.) at Ripken Experience
March 27 -- Southampton (Pa.) Council Rock South at Ripken Experience
March 29 -- Morehead (Ky.) Rowan County at Ripken Experience
March 30 -- Claysville (Pa.) McGuffey at Ripken Experience
*April 4 -- at Westerville Central
*April 5 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 6 -- at Olentangy
*April 9 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 13 -- at Olentangy Liberty
April 14 -- at Hilliard Davidson (DH)
*April 16 -- at Westerville South
*April 18 -- vs. Westerville South
April 19 -- at Worthington Kilbourne
*April 20 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
*April 23 -- at Olentangy Orange
April 24 -- Upper Arlington at Ohio Dominican
*April 25 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 27 -- at Olentangy
April 28 -- at Dublin Jerome and at Dublin Scioto
*April 30 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*May 2 -- at Westerville South
May 3 -- vs. Bexley
*May 4 -- at Olentangy Orange
March 24 -- Plainfield (Ill.) South and Staten Island (N.Y.) St. John Villa Academy at Ripken Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
March 25 -- Fox Lake (Ill.) Grant Community at Ripken Experience
March 26 -- Corry (Pa.) Area and Willoughby South at Ripken Experience
March 27 -- Lakes Villa (Ill.) Lakes Community at Ripken Experience
April 4 -- vs. Lancaster
April 5 -- at Pickerington Central
April 7 -- at Licking Heights (DH)
April 9 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 11 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 12 -- at Olentangy
April 14 -- vs. New Albany
*April 16 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 18 -- at Westerville South
*April 19 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 20 -- at Big Walnut
*April 23 -- at Westerville Central
*April 25 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 26 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*April 30 -- vs. Westerville South
*May 2 -- at Olentangy Orange
May 4 -- vs. Groveport
May 5 -- vs. Johnstown and Thomas Worthington
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 5 -- At Big Walnut
April 7 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
*April 10 -- Home vs. Westerville South
*April 5 -- Home vs. Big Walnut
April 9 -- Home vs. Gahanna
*April 11 -- At Westerville South
*April 5 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
April 6 -- At Columbus Academy
*April 10 -- At Olentangy
April 11 -- At Bexley
TRACK & FIELD
April 7 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North
*April 5 -- At Olentangy
April 7 -- Raider tournament at Reynoldsburg
*April 10 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty