Although the Thomas Worthington High School baseball team lost three Division I all-district players from a year ago to graduation, second-year coach Chris Olson likes the versatility of his squad this season.

"The strength of our team will be our depth and versatility," said Olson, whose team was 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing April 4 at Hilliard Bradley. "This team has a lot of options on the mound, defensively, on the bases and at the plate. We will be looking for guys to slide into different roles to help contribute.

"We lack varsity playing experience overall, but we have six returning letterwinners and four returning starters. We dressed a lot of players for our tournament run last year, and I think that helped them get acclimated to the speed of varsity baseball."

The Cardinals lost 11 players to graduation after losing to Olentangy Orange 1-0 in a Division I district final to finish 19-5 overall.

The returning starters are seniors Nick Kendig (RF), Spencer Kiehl (P/OF), David Lalonde (1B) and Niles Mantor (CF). Also back are seniors Jim Sanfrey (C) and Jeff Strayer (SS/P).

Kiehl was named first-team all-league last season, when Thomas went 9-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to place second behind Hilliard Darby (11-1). Kiehl also was second-team all-district, and Kendig was honorable mention all-league.

"Spencer is a two-time all-district pick who will be the ace of our pitching staff again," Olson said. "But we have some capable, yet unproven, guys behind him in (senior) Ethan Armitage, (junior) Caleb Buerger and Nick Kendig. We also have a number of relievers ready to step up in sophomores Caden Kirker and Luke Coe and seniors Max Stoeckel, Jeff Strayer and Grant Cross."

Sophomores George Erickson and Austin Parsons and senior Tripp Massey also could see time on the mound.

Olson expects to have a consistent batting order with Mantor leading off, followed by Lalonde, Kendig, Kiehl, Sanfrey, Strayer, sophomore Chase Arrigo (LF), Kirker (2B) and sophomore Will Pischel (3B).

"Our offense will be led by Mantor, Kendig and Kiehl, as all are two-year starters," Olson said. "We should get great contributions from Strayer, Sanfrey and Lalonde."

Also on the roster and seeking playing time in the outfield are seniors Jakob Caudill, Dakota Huff, Grant Kucinski and Kyle Lyons.

The Cardinals, who batted .310 as a team last season, opened March 24 with a 4-2 win over Chillicothe. They then traveled south, where they beat host Hokes Bluff (Alabama) 5-4 and lost to Gadsden (Alabama) Southside 10-5 on March 26 before losing to host Birmingham (Alabama) Mountain Brook 4-2 on March 28.

Upon returning home, the Cardinals lost to Dresden Tri-Valley 3-2 on March 31 at Lakewood and beat visiting Bradley 4-1 in the league opener April 2.

Boys volleyball team returns five starters

The boys volleyball team lost just one player from a year ago to graduation, but underwent a coaching change during the offseason.

Brian Lawless has taken over for Scott Ebright, who headed the program for 14 seasons.

Last season, the Cardinals finished 3-23 overall, went 0-12 in the OCC-Cardinal to place seventh behind champion Darby (12-0) and lost to Hilliard Davidson 25-17, 25-9, 25-21 in the first round of the Division I East Region tournament.

Thomas entered last season with only three players with volleyball experience, but entered this season with five returning starters in seniors Dan DeRodes (middle hitter), Nathan Fullerton (setter), Robbie Grimes (middle hitter), Matt Shockley (libero) and Ben Werbovetz (opposite hitter).

"This team has great potential," said Lawless, whose team opened March 27 with a 25-20, 25-13, 25-19 loss to Bradley in a league match. "We have strong senior leadership and we will rely heavily on our seniors in big moments. We have players who have experience at the club level and are putting in all the work to improve their game. I'm really excited to see what this team will accomplish this year."

Completing the roster are seniors Ulan Abasbekov (setter/defensive specialist), Chris Hunley (opposite hitter), Oliver Mahnke (outside hitter) and Luke Wang (middle hitter), juniors Will Black (libero/defensive specialist), Vig Lalgudi (outside hitter) and Ben Shockley (outside hitter) and sophomore Akshay Alugubelly (outside hitter).

"I think our biggest strength is on the outside and having a setter who knows the position and can lead on the floor," said Lawless, who previously coached the freshman team at Davidson. "Nathan has been setting for our team for several years and is in a position where he has command of the offense. When you pair that with the strength of Ben Shockley on the outside and some of our developing players, we have the ability to compete in this league."

Softball team hopes to be more competitive

Under first-year coach Casey Foster, the softball team will be seeking improvement after finishing 0-18 a season ago.

Foster replaced Craig Andersen following his lone season guiding the program.

"I want us to play far fewer five-inning games this year and win a few of them," Foster said. "We just want to close the gap, although we're still a very young team."

The Cardinals already surpassed last year's win total when they beat Westland 8-3 on March 30.

Foster, a 2006 Thomas graduate, has coached travel ball with the Worthington Spirit and was the Worthington middle school coach, for Kilbourne and Worthingway, from 2010- 12.

Thomas returns eight players, but half of them were injured and did not play April 2 in the league opener against visiting Bradley, the defending league champion. The Jaguars went 12-0 in league play last year.

The Cardinals were 1-3 overall after losing to Bradley 20-1 and before playing Dublin Jerome on April 4.

"We've got a lot of injuries already building up, so we may start off slower than I really hoped to start," Foster said. "But once we get going, I think we can be a lot more competitive than we've been recently."

The returnees are seniors Marie Ashline (LF) and Kylie Wadkowski (2B), juniors Trinatee Kaczmarczyk (OF/P), Maddy Sever (C), Carmen Staton (3B) and Taylor Viebranz (2B/P) and sophomores Marika Johnson (CF) and Jillian Riegert (2B/P).

Riegert was special mention all-league and Viebranz was honorable mention all-league last season when the Cardinals went 0-12 in the OCC-Cardinal.

Senior Asia Settles (P/OF), junior Deven Howarth (1B) and freshmen Terri DeTemple (C), Reid Dunbar (SS) and Alli Kiehl (RF) are others expected to contribute.

Kaczmarczyk, Sever, Vie-branz and Wadkowski missed the Bradley game.

Completing the roster are juniors Alexa Finley (OF) and Sara Johansen (C) and freshmen Emaleigh Caudill (C), Amanda Jones (OF) and Bri Waltermyer (INF).

Dunbar hit a two-run homer and a grand slam in the first game of a doubleheader March 24 at Heath, but the Cardinals lost 29-8 and 15-3.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek

Schedules

BASEBALL

March 24 -- vs. Chillicothe

March 26 -- at Hokes Bluff (Ala.) with Gadsen (Ala.) Southside

March 28 -- at Birmingham (Ala.) Mountain Brook

March 31 -- at Lakewood with New Concord John Glenn

*April 2 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*April 4 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*April 6 -- at Dublin Jerome

April 7 -- vs. Westerville Central

*April 9 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*April 11 -- vs. Delaware

April 14 -- at Upper Arlington with Pickerington Central

April 17 -- vs. Watkins Memorial

*April 19 -- at Delaware

*April 20 -- at Dublin Scioto

April 21 -- at Teays Valley

*April 23 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*April 25 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*April 27 -- at Hilliard Darby

April 28 -- at Olentangy

*April 30 -- at Kilbourne

*May 2 -- vs. Kilbourne

May 3 -- vs. Gahanna

May 4 -- vs. St. Charles

SOFTBALL

March 24 -- vs. Heath (DH)

March 28 -- vs. Canal Winchester

March 29 -- at Buckeye Valley

March 30 -- at Westland

*April 2 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*April 4 -- at Dublin Jerome

April 5- vs. Reynoldsburg

April 6 -- vs. Pickerington North

April 7 -- at Bexley (DH)

April 9 -- vs. Westerville South

April 10 -- vs. Newark

*April 11 -- at Dublin Scioto

*April 12 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

*April 16 -- at Kilbourne

*April 18 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*April 19 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*April 23 -- at Delaware

April 24 -- at Upper Arlington

*April 26 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*April 27 -- vs. Delaware

*April 30 -- at Hilliard Darby

May 1 -- vs. Olentangy Orange

*May 2 -- vs. Kilbourne

May 5 -- at Westerville North with Johnstown

BOYS VOLLEYBALL

*March 29 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley

*April 3 -- at Dublin Jerome

April 4 -- vs. Briggs and Chillicothe

*April 5 -- vs. Delaware

April 9 -- at Chillicothe

*April 10 -- at Dublin Scioto

*April 12 -- vs. Hilliard Darby

April 16 -- vs. Eastmoor Academy and Whetstone

*April 17 -- at Kilbourne

April 18 -- vs. Licking Heights and Olentangy Orange

*April 19 -- at Hilliard Bradley

*April 23 -- vs. Dublin Jerome

*April 24 -- at Delaware

April 30 -- vs. Westerville South

*May 1 -- vs. Dublin Scioto

*May 3 -- at Hilliard Darby

May 7 -- at Westerville Central

*May 8 -- vs. Kilbourne

May 10 -- at Hilliard Davidson

May 14 -- OCC Challenge at Hilliard Darby

*League contest

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

BOYS LACROSSE

*April 5 -- At Delaware

*April 9 -- Home vs. Hilliard Bradley

GIRLS LACROSSE

*April 5 -- Home vs. Delaware

April 7 -- At Cincinnati Sycamore

*April 10 -- At Bradley

BOYS TENNIS

*April 5 -- At Delaware

*April 6 -- Home vs. Bradley

April 11 -- Home vs Gahanna

TRACK & FIELD

April 7 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North

*League contest