Bexley High School baseball coach Andrew Orlins entered the season leading a group of inexperienced varsity players.
Fortunately for Orlins and the Lions, next season will be different.
The Lions had several young players mature this spring. They finished 10-13 overall and tied Grandview and Worthington Christian for third (5-5) in the MSL-Ohio Division, behind London (8-2) and Columbus Academy (6-4) and ahead of Whitehall (1-9).
"While this year we only returned three letterwinners, next year will be much different," said Orlins, who completed his third season. "The lineup we had on the field for our last game of the year all returns next year. While we will miss our seniors, we have a great group of guys back next year."
The Lions had two seniors in pitcher Wally Jacobs (honorable mention all-league; 4-1, 2.62 ERA, 20 strikeouts, 15 walks, 32 innings) and first baseman Michael Johnson (.229, 9 RBI, 5 runs).
"Michael Johnson and Wally Jacobs are both great kids who were loved by everyone in our program," Orlins said. "Wally ended up being one of our top pitchers and Mike played first base for the majority of the season. We will miss them both on and off the field."
Seeded 13th for the Division II district tournament, Bexley defeated 16th-seeded Eastmoor Academy 15-2 in five innings May 8 at home before losing at third-seeded Jonathan Alder 10-0 in five innings May 10 in the second round.
The Lions expect to return their top four position players in juniors Ryan Callahan (OF; first-team all-district and all-league), Matt Shapiro (C; honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league), Anthony Welsh (SS/P; first-team all-league) and Jacob Wright (OF; second-team all-league). Callahan, Shapiro and Welsh were the returning letterwinners.
Callahan led Bexley in batting average (.453), home runs (1), doubles (10) and stolen bases (16) and tied Shapiro for the lead in runs with 19. A Wright State recruit, Callahan also had 13 RBI and a .512 on-base percentage.
Welsh led the Lions with 16 RBI and a .521 on-base percentage while batting .418 with 14 runs and 12 stolen bases. Wright hit .375 with 13 RBI and 14 runs, and Shapiro batted .333 with 13 RBI.
"We had a tight group of guys and when one of us has an off-day, there are two or three guys there to pick it up," Shapiro said.
The top pitchers expected back are Welsh (1-3, 2.24 ERA, 17 strikeouts, 10 walks, 16 innings), junior Vinny Pernotto (1-3, 3.36 ERA, 9 strikeouts, 9 walks, 21 1/3 innings) and sophomore Whitaker Noble (honorable mention all-league; 3-3, 3.63 ERA, 16 strikeouts, 9 walks, 41 innings).
"We had many guys who stepped up to learn new positions and others who played multiple positions," Orlins said. "Our pitchers really stepped up, too, especially considering our top three pitchers this year had just about zero prior varsity experience."
Wemlinger steps down as softball coach
Rick Wemlinger has decided not to return after nine seasons leading the softball program.
The Lions finished 14-11 overall this spring and placed third (3-5) in the MSL-Ohio, behind co-champions London and Whitehall (both 7-1) and ahead of Grandview (2-6) and Worthington Christian (1-7).
Wemlinger was 91-122 with the Lions. He also coached at Central Crossing in 2007-08 and was an assistant at Ready for 14 seasons.
"It was time," Wemlinger said. "I'm going to miss the kids so much, but my body is beat up. It's getting tougher to hit fly balls and ground balls and the girls have had to pick up softballs for me. There are a lot of good kids at Bexley High School and I'll miss them all."
Bexley won two home postseason games before losing to top-seeded Lakewood 12-2 in five innings May 16 in a Division II district semifinal at Pickerington Central. The 11th-seeded Lions defeated 15th-seeded Licking Valley 4-3 on May 8 and 14th-seeded London 9-6 on May 10.
"We did fantastic, especially with all of the injuries we had," Wemlinger said. "I think we had more injuries than we have ever had."
Junior Miracle Williams, the team's top pitcher, had shoulder surgery, keeping her from throwing this season. Wemlinger said seniors Natalie Grace (P/1B), Nicole Hoyer (3B) and Grace Hunley (P/1B; first-team all-league) and juniors Sarah Schellhaas (1B) and Sophie Yates (OF) also missed time with injury.
Senior shortstop Katie Grune-wald (honorable mention all-league) played the final two weeks of the season with a broken finger on her right (throwing) hand.
Haley Bernstein (2B/designated player) rounded out the senior class.
Leading the expected returnees is freshman catcher Aly Cox, who was first-team all-league. Juniors Savannah Schwallie (3B) and Kaia Woodford (2B) were second-team all-league. Sophomore Camille Manring (utility) and freshmen Claire Melville (P/1B) and Liv Wilson (CF) also played key roles.