For the first time since 2001, the Bexley High School softball team's home games actually will be at home.

For the first time since 2001, the Bexley High School softball team's home games actually will be at home.

The Lions played their home games at Capital University's Clowson Field the past nine seasons, but they no longer will have to travel to play a home game as construction of a softball field behind the high school has been completed.

Second-year coach Rick Wemlinger is not sure what kind of affect that will have on the Lions, who finished 7-21 overall last year after losing to Olentangy Orange 6-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament.

"These girls have never seen a game (at Bexley)," said Wemlinger, whose team opened March 29 at home against West Jefferson. "When they walk on the field, they're going to get a new sense of pride in the program as we start to make some new traditions."

The Lions return eight of nine starters from last year, having lost only catcher Lily Watson to graduation.

"We have a couple of kids who were on the junior varsity last year who are pushing to make varsity this year," Wemlinger said. "I believe we're better than we were last year. Will that play out to getting more wins? I don't know."

Sophomore Elena Zervas and freshman Elizabeth Williams are competing for the starting job at catcher, with sophomore Maria Kahan expected to be the primary pitcher. Senior Maddie Brunning (1B), junior Bethany Barnes (3B) and sophomores Rachel Jackson (SS) and Brianna Stewart (2B) comprise the rest of the infield.

Seniors Tori Delap and Chelsea Gordon are expected to play right field and center field, respectively. Among the players competing for the starting job in left field are freshmen Kayley Barno, Emily Gatterdam, Jordan Nagle and Sidney Woodford.

Bexley went 0-12 in the MSL-Ohio Division last year to finish behind Lakewood (11-1), Gran-ville (10-2), Licking Valley (7-5), Heath (6-6), Newark Catholic (6-6) and Whitehall (2-10).

Lakewood, which has won seven consecutive league titles, won the Division II state title last year, defeating Poland Seminary 1-0 in the final. Granville lost to DeSales 3-2 in a Division II district final last season.

"The key is going to be pitching and playing better defense," Wemlinger said. "Last year we were making four errors a game. We can't do that this year, and I don't think we will."

•The baseball team showed significant improvement from its first season under coach Tom Marker to the second, as it finished 16-12 overall after going 7-13 in 2009.

Bexley ended last season with a 3-1 loss to Hilliard Bradley in the second round of the Division II district tournament.

"What helped was solid leaders and young guys who were willing to go that extra mile," Marker said. "To be honest, I don't know how (the team went 7-13 in 2009). The talent was always there."

Senior Ben Golden is moving from second base to shortstop to replace 2010 graduate Matt Snowberger. Senior Adam Schwartz and sophomore Grant Murphy will split catching duties, with senior Tom Zervas (1B), junior Travon Bowman (3B) and sophomore Tyler Konbracke (2B) rounding out the infield.

Schwartz (.411, 27 RBI), Golden (.348, 19 RBI), Murphy (.343, 19 RBI) and Zervas (.324, 13 RBI) all batted higher than .320 last year.

"I've been really impressed with the middle of the infield," Marker said. "I don't think we're going to make many errors there."

Sophomore Jim Kahan, who saw time at second base and third base last year, has been moved to left field. Seniors Spencer Fries and Ryan Young will play right field and center field, respectively.

Schwartz, senior Jacob Luscher and sophomores Chase Smith and Will Gingery, who is a left-hander, will anchor the pitching staff. Schwartz, who didn't allow a run in the team's first two scrimmages this spring, went 5-2 last season with a 3.50 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 41 innings.

"Schwartz has got four pitches he can use for strikes," Marker said. "He shows no emotion on the mound and goes out there and takes care of business."

Junior Scott Needles (OF), sophomore Jaxon Sher (DH) and freshmen Alex Eikenberry (OF) and Marshall Drewry (P/3B) also are expected to contribute.

Bexley went 7-7 in the MSL-Ohio last season to place fifth, behind Lakewood (14-0), Heath (12-2), Columbus Academy (8-6) and Granville (8-6), and ahead of Licking Valley (6-8), Newark Catholic (5-9) and Whitehall (0-14).

Newark Catholic was the Division IV state runner-up last season and Lakewood was a Division III state semifinalist. Heath was a Division III regional semifinalist and Academy was a Division III district finalist.

"When we have Schwartz on the mound, I think we can beat anyone," Marker said. "The key for us is going to be developing a second solid pitcher."

•The boys tennis team returns a lot of experience, as it lost only one starter from a year ago to graduation in third-singles player Brian Yost.

Bexley, which finished 13-4, returns five of its six players who advanced to the Division II district tournament.

Junior Matt Wareti, who played first singles last season, and seniors Gabe Coe and Zack Goldstein are expected to play singles. Last year, Wareti lost to Wellington's Ian Wagner 6-0, 6-4 and Goldstein lost to Watterson's Chris Diaz 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of district. Diaz went on to win the state singles title and Wagner lost in a state quarterfinal.

Seniors Christian Liefeld and Matt O'Hern will comprise one doubles team and juniors Max Schottenstein and David Seckel will make up the other.

Seckel and Yost lost to Watterson's Aaron Casares and Enzo Milano 6-3, 6-2 and Liefeld and O'Hern lost to Academy's Lang-ston Hughes and Eoghan Bahnson 6-0, 6-3 in the first round at district. Hughes and Bahnson lost to teammates Chad Buchanan and Andrew Enslen 6-3, 6-4 in the state doubles final.

"These guys have been there before," coach G.J. Seckel said of his players. "We could be in for a pretty good season."

Bexley placed second in the MSL-Ohio/Cardinal last season at 5-1 (42 points), behind Academy (6-0, 48) and ahead of Granville (30), Grandview (20), Fisher Catholic (13), West Jefferson (7) and Whitehall (1).

The Lions' schedule includes matches against Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier (April 23), Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit (April 16), Upper Arlington (May 2), Lexington (April 6), Gahanna (April 20), Thomas Worthington (May 4) and Watterson (April 15).

"We've bumped up the competition to the highest caliber as we can," said coach Seckel, whose team opens Thursday, March 31, at home against DeSales. "Our depth is going to be the key. Everyone has gotten a lot bigger and a lot stronger. We'll see how it all plays out."