Competition in the preseason might help to make the St. Charles Preparatory School baseball team better as the season progresses.

Competition in the preseason might help to make the St. Charles Preparatory School baseball team better as the season progresses.

The Cardinals have to replace key players from a team that finished 13-13 overall last season with a 4-0 loss to Watkins Memorial in the second round of the Division I district tournament. St. Charles beat Westerville North 3-2 in the first round.

Those lost to graduation include left-handed pitcher Patrick Dyer and the team's top hitter in infielder Michael Mackessey, who had a .342 batting average and 11 stolen bases. The 6-foot-8 Dyer, who is now playing at Akron, went 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA last season.

"It's always tough to lose guys like Patrick Dyer and Michael Mackessey," said 15th-year coach Ray Benjamin, whose team opens Saturday, March 24, at home against Canal Winchester. "We're looking for a No. 1 pitcher to step in for Patrick and (we have to) replace Michael's defense at second. We have a bunch of guys right now out there competing for spots in the infield and outfield as well as pitching and catching."

The Cardinals tied Ready for fourth (2-6) in the CCL last season, behind DeSales (7-1), Watterson (5-3) and Hartley (4-4).

Senior outfielder Joey Gilmore (.342, 17 RBI) is the top returning hitter. Senior infielder Calvin Flinders batted .319 and scored 18 runs, senior outfielder Chris Fenlon hit .295 and junior catcher Lucas Glover batted .279.

Senior J.D. Vrabel was 3-5 with a 5.86 ERA last season. Gilmore was 1-1, junior Chris Brake was 1-0 and Fenlon was 1-1 with a save.

Jon Alexander (INF) and Zak Stephenson (1B/P) round out the six-member senior class.

"All of our seniors have done a great job of being leaders," Benjamin said. "I'm impressed with the work ethic of all of our seniors. They are starting to get it and realize that if things don't come to you, you have to go get them."

The junior class also includes Louie Altomare (1B), Asher Friend (P), John Galden (INF/P), Neil Joseph (INF/P), Jerad Kitzler (OF/P), Jonathan Ogden (INF/P), Leo Piela (OF/P), Patrick Quinlan (OF/P) and Will Stechschulte (C). Sophomores are Andrew Fenlon (C), Mason Fisher (OF), Charlie Kolp (INF/P), Jacob Weikert (INF/P) and Trey Willard (OF/P).

"Our strength right now is our defense," Benjamin said. "First, we need to throw strikes and put the ball in play. We're returning a good defense, and we need to get some pitching and get some offense and we will be fine."

Tennis team to rely on depth, flexibility

The tennis team will be looking for the appropriate matchups this spring, hoping that placing the right player on the right court on the right day will equate to success.

"We don't have a standout No. 1 who glares out ahead of the rest, but we have three or four guys who can play any position on any day," fourth-year coach Linda Myers said. "I love our depth and our flexibility, which are our strengths right now."

The Cardinals were 11-4 overall in duals last season and won the CCL title with a 3-2 victory over Watterson. In the league standings, St. Charles (4-0) finished ahead of Watterson (3-1), DeSales (2-2), Ready (1-3) and Hartley (0-4).

Returnees include seniors Michael Susa and Stuart Swartz as well as junior Kevin Smoot and sophomore William Niermeyer.

"(The returnees) have all beaten one another on any given day, so we'll be working a rotation on the courts," Myers said. "Probably the hardest part will be forming doubles teams. We'll likely have to start from scratch and put people together to see who plays the best together."

Niermeyer's brother, 2011 graduate Weston Niermeyer, teamed with classmate Grant Dolven to reach the Division I state tournament last spring. They won their opening-round match against Jake Youse and Chad Buchanan of Lexington 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, but lost to Ryan O'Gara and Zach Berry of Springboro 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 in the second round.

Senior Dennis Gleason, a district qualifier last season, did not return to the team.

The roster is rounded out by former j.v. players in junior Trey Stranges and sophomores David Kellogg and Conner Mentel in addition to freshman Connor Yakubuv, who is expected to be a key contributor.

The Cardinals open Monday, March 26, at home against Westerville North. The team will play its home matches at Columbus School for Girls.

"Kirk Campus is such an amazing place to play and the guys have had no problem adjusting to those outstanding courts," Myers said. "It will be great playing on courts of that quality."