In an effort to bring the Bexley High School baseball team together, third-year coach Tom Marker took away as many possible distractions as he could during a recent road trip to South Carolina.

In an effort to bring the Bexley High School baseball team together, third-year coach Tom Marker took away as many possible distractions as he could during a recent road trip to South Carolina.

"We stayed in cottages down there that they had no cable TV or anything," said Marker, whose team opened March 24 by losing a doubleheader to North Augusta (S.C.) 7-1 and 8-0. "We just had two-a-day practices and then our doubleheader. They (spent) a lot of time together, but the guys are ready and excited for the season."

Last season, the Lions finished 13-17 overall, defeating Buckeye Valley 16-6 and seventh-seeded Licking Heights 4-2 in the first two rounds of the Division II district tournament before losing to second-seeded Jonathan Alder 10-5 in a district semifinal.

Bexley lost six players from a year ago to graduation, including pitcher Adam Schwartz (6-3, 3.23 ERA, first-team all-district), shortstop Ben Golden (.477 batting average, second-team all-district) and first baseman Tommy Zervas (.368, honorable mention all-district).

"It's tough to replace some of those guys because they were great players, but I'm hoping there's not a big bump in the road," Marker said. "The underclassmen were around it enough to understand what we expect. I think that will translate into good things this year."

The pitching staff is expected to be led by junior Will Gingery, a left-hander who was 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA last season. Others expected to pitch include junior Tyler Kondracke, sophomores Will Davis and Marshall Drewry and freshman Joshua Shapiro.

Travon Bowman, the team's lone senior, is expected to split time between first base and second base, with Davis (C), Kondracke (2B), Shapiro (1B) and Drewry (3B) sophomore Tate Hughes (SS) rounding out the infielders.

Bowman hit .282 last season.

The outfield is comprised of junior Jimmy Kahan (CF), sophomores Alex Eikenberry (LF) and Teddy Bruning (RF) and freshman Ethan Bredemeier (RF).

The Lions went 7-7 in the MSL-Ohio Division last season to place fifth, behind Newark Catholic (12-2), Heath (10-4), Columbus Academy (9-5) and Granville (9-5) and ahead of Lakewood (4-10), Whitehall (3-11) and Licking Valley (2-12). Newark Catholic lost to Minster 6-5 in a Division IV state semifinal last year.

Bexley, which also lost to Northridge 10-7 on March 26, begins league play Friday, March 30, at Licking Valley.

"There are teams in our (league) that go to the final four of the state every year," Marker said. "The teams in our league don't beat themselves. Every night you're going to see someone's best.

"Our guys are willing to work and get after it. We're young, but we're not afraid to compete."

Infield expected to be softball team's strength

Given the amount of experience his team has, third-year softball coach Rick Wemlinger is willing to take a few more chances.

"We're going to turn them loose a little bit," said Wemlinger, whose team opened March 27 against Grandview and begins MSL-Ohio play Friday, March 30, at Licking Valley. "We're going to try some suicide squeezes and do some things I was afraid to try before. I'm very excited to see what they can do."

Last year, the Lions finished 7-15 overall, defeating Beech-croft 13-1 in five innings in the first round of the Division II district tournament before losing to top-seeded DeSales 6-0 in the second round.

Bexley returns four infielders in senior Bethany Barnes (1B), junior Briana Stewart (SS) and sophomores Jordan Nagle (2B) and Liz Williams (C). Sophomores Kayleigh Dietz and Abby Lowenstein are competing for the starting job at third base, while senior Jena St. Aubin and sophomore Hope Stewart also should see time in the infield.

"The infield is definitely the strength of our team," Wemlinger said. "Jordan and Briana are very solid. We're able to do a lot of things with them this year that I wouldn't even let them try last year."

Junior Maria Kahan returns as the team's top pitcher, with sophomore Gabby Shapiro also expected to see time in the circle. Shapiro didn't play last year because of shoulder and back injuries.

"Maria has gotten so much better," Wemlinger said. "We pounded into her head how important it is not to walk kids. We told her if she walks someone this year, we're counting it as an error."

In the outfield, sophomore Kayley Barno and Sidney Woodford will play left and center field, respectively, while Dietz and freshman Abby Barno are competing for the starting job in right.

Rounding out the team are freshmen Paige Gutter, Sarah Mauk, Sammie Miller, Taylor Moore and Orianna Rodriguez.

Last season in the MSL-Ohio, Bexley went 1-11 to finish seventh, behind Lakewood (10-2), Licking Valley (9-3), Granville (7-5), Heath (6-6), Newark Catholic (5-7) and Whitehall (4-8).

The league's eighth member, Academy, doesn't have a softball program.

"The MSL-Ohio is a bear, but we've set our goal at winning at least 50 percent of our games this year," said Wemlinger, whose team defeated Newark Catholic 3-1 last year for its first league win since 2009. "We've improved, but I don't know if we've improved enough to (challenge the top teams in the league)."