As first-year Bexley High School baseball coach Ray Noe began sizing up his potential lineup during the offseason, he knew there would be a glaring hole to fill.

As first-year Bexley High School baseball coach Ray Noe began sizing up his potential lineup during the offseason, he knew there would be a glaring hole to fill.

With the graduation of catcher Will Davis, who batted .310 with 20 RBI last season and was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, the Lions would be in need of a new defensive leader and partner for an experienced pitching staff.

"The catcher is really the most important guy out there and he's pretty much like the general of the defense," said Noe, whose team was 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the MSL-Ohio Division before playing London on April 13.

Coaches discussed moving a middle infielder to catcher because they typically have a quick throwing release. However, the position also requires someone who can sacrifice his body.

The list of possibilities also included senior outfielder Chase Roddy, who had jokingly mentioned the possibility of catching to former coach Tom Marker at the end of last season.

Marker thought Roddy was serious.

"Coach Noe texted me and said I heard you were wanting to give this a shot," said Roddy, who had played the position sparingly in middle school and Little League. "I knew I had earned a starting position in the outfield, but I also knew that maybe moving to catcher was best for the team."

The search was over.

After the decision was made, Roddy was nothing but serious about learning the position, and his preparation and progression have impressed coaches and the pitching staff.

"Going from outfield to catcher was a big jump," Noe said. "There is so much to learn, but you can just see his transformation and I really have my assistant coaches to thank for that."

That instruction came from assistant Brett Counts, who was a member of Bexley's state semifinal team in 1998 and played at Cleveland State and Ohio Dominican. He was inducted into the Bexley High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.

Counts and Noe's brother, Tim, who caught at Dublin Jerome, spent numerous hours with Roddy.

"I remember the first day I didn't even put on a glove, only a mask," Roddy said. "There was so much to learn. You have to have soft hands and there are small fundamentals about how you catch the ball and frame the pitch."

Roddy also would have to learn how to catch the knuckle curveball of pitcher Josh Shapiro. The senior, who signed with Marshall University last November, improved to 2-0 when he tossed a no-hitter in a five-inning, 11-1 victory over Madison Plains on April 10.

To prepare, Roddy loaded the team's pitching machine with as many as 80 balls and set it to serve up left-handed curveballs.

"He would just sit there and this thing would just keep chucking curveballs and fastballs," Shapiro said. "I know the pitchers know how much work he put in during the offseason. Oddly enough, it hasn't been all that weird because Chase caught me in Little League."

Noe isn't second-guessing his choice.

"It was a big change for him, but he's really gained the trust of our staff."

Gustin leaves boysbasketball program

It was a decision that boys basketball coach Dave Gustin wanted to keep among his family and closest friends. Before the start of the 2014-15 season, he knew it would be his last.

"Not many people knew except my family and people close to me," said Gustin, who announced his retirement after the team's banquet last month. "I didn't want (the season) to be about me (leaving). That wasn't right for the players."

Bexley finished 14-10 overall with a 64-63 overtime loss to Columbus South in the second round of the Division II district tournament March 7. The Lions went 8-6 in the MSL-Ohio to finish fourth behind Whitehall (13-0), Worthington Christian (11-3) and Grandview (10-3).

Gustin began his 23-year coaching career at DeGraff Riverside, where he spent four seasons.

He then coached London for eight seasons before taking over the Bexley program in 2004-05, when his team won a league championship and lost to Whitehall in a Division II district final.

The Lions also won a league title in 2009-10, when they went 20-3 overall and lost to DeSales in a district final.

Gustin spent 11 seasons as Bexley's coach and 15 years as a health and physical education teacher in the school district. His teaching career spans 33 years.

"The administration has been great and Bexley has always been a great place to teach and coach," he said. "I wanted my kids to attend that high school. It has been a great experience."

Bexley's new coach must replace three seniors in Niejel Young (second-team all-district, first-team all-league), Drew Esposito (honorable-mention all-district, second-team all-league) and three-year starter Drew Elliott (honorable mention all-league).

Top players expected to return are juniors Carter Williams (honorable-mention all-district, second-team all-league), Miles Penn and Cole Heilman and sophomore Simon Kroos.

Track teams prepfor Bexley Relays

The boys and girls track and field teams will compete under the lights in the annual Bexley Relays on Friday, April 17.

Joining the Lions will be Columbus Academy, Columbus International, Columbus School for Girls, Eastmoor Academy, Independence, London, Marion-Franklin, St. Charles, Tree of Life and Worthington Christian.

"The event is circled on our calendar all year," boys coach Shane Roberts said. "Former Bexley athletes come back just to watch the event and it is one of the few large meets that ends under the lights. Every student-athlete should have at least one opportunity to compete under the lights in our stadium. It's a buzz."

Last year, the boys finished third (74) behind St. Charles (87 points) and Eastmoor (83) and the girls won (82) ahead of Eastmoor (79) and Grandview (71).