Canal Winchester High School softball coach Randy Hinton said his players understand that they will be facing a higher level of competition this year in the postseason given that they have moved up from Division II to Division I.

Canal Winchester High School softball coach Randy Hinton said his players understand that they will be facing a higher level of competition this year in the postseason given that they have moved up from Division II to Division I.

But according to the 12th-year coach, the Indians haven't changed their expectations for the postseason.

"This is going to be our first year as a Division I team and we know it's going to be more difficult, but we have lofty goals, and one of them is to at least get to the regional," Hinton said. "We're going to be one of the smallest Division I teams, and there's a perception that a school is better just because it's bigger, but we know we have the potential to win in the Division I tournament. We want to prove that we deserve to play Division I schools and that we're ready to be competitive at that level."

Canal Winchester opens against Amherst (Wis.) on Tuesday, March 27, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. The Indians begin MSL-Buckeye Division play April 2 at Logan Elm.

The Indians are led by two fourth-year starters in senior shortstop Morgan White and senior third baseman Angela Steube, along with a third-year starter in senior pitcher Lauren Arndt.

Arndt, who had more than 200 strikeouts last season, is a Mount Vernon Nazarene recruit. She and White were first-team allleague last season.

Juniors Alyxis Moore (C) and Kaleigh Whitlatch (2B) are second-year starters, and juniors Hannah Barnhart (OF) and Evie Wentzel and freshman Taylor Griffin (1B) are first-year starters.

Competing for playing time are juniors Jackie Brown, Sierra Detty, Alex Jackson, Ari Palmer and Sarah Ramsey.

"Lauren did a good job last year and she's gotten stronger," Hinton said. "We have an experienced infield and we have the potential to be a good hitting team."

Last season, Canal Winchester finished 17-11 overall and went 10-4 in the MSL-Buckeye to tie Logan Elm and Teays Valley for first, ahead of Circleville (9-5), Fairfield Union (8-6), Bloom-Carroll (6-8), Amanda-Clearcreek (2-12) and Hamilton Township (1-13).

The Indians opened the Division II district tournament with a 19-0 win over Columbus East, as Arndt pitched a no-hitter, and defeated Olentangy Orange 10-4 in the second round before losing to Lakewood 6-5 in a district semifinal.

"Our three seniors are trying to push the underclassmen because they have lofty goals of winning the MSL-Buckeye and a district title, and I think those goals are achievable," Hinton said. "We just need to play within ourselves because we have the talent to do well."

•The baseball team opens Saturday, March 24, at St. Charles and begins MSL-Buckeye play April 2 at Logan Elm.

Last season, the Indians finished 16-11 overall, losing to eventual state champion DeSales 11-10 in 10 innings in a Division II district semifinal.

Canal Winchester has moved up to Division I this year.

The Indians have returned six players who started multiple games last season in seniors Chris Angle (3B/P), John Sharp (RF/LF) and Nick Zaluski (P/DH) and juniors Kevin Ilich (2B), Josh Miller (1B/P) andĘIsaac Pifer (SS).

Last season, Angle batted .442 with seven home runs, 10 doubles, 44 RBI and 32 runs and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Zaluski made second-team all-league, batting .408 with a home run, five doubles, eight RBI and 10 runs and going 5-1 with a 4.67 ERA. Ilich hit .364 andĘSharp batted .355 with two home runs, 10 RBI and 20 runs.

Rounding out the roster are seniors Brandon Davis (OF/C) and David Hawkins (OF/2B), juniors Matthew Cunningham (C/P), Zach Kiser (OF), Colby Rapier (INF/OF), Jerod Shirley (1B/OF/C) and Ty Sickels (OF) and sophomore Trevor Beerman (3B/P).

"Our strength is our infield because we've got a lot of talent and experience there," second-year coach Jay Bartos said. "We have a lot of good, young talent that just needs to be proven."

Last season, the Indians went 10-4 in the MSL-Buckeye to place second, behind Bloom-Carroll (11-3) and ahead of Circleville (9-5), Teays Valley (7-7), Amanda-Clearcreek (7-7), Hamilton Township (6-8), Logan Elm (4-10) and Fairfield Union (2-12).

Canal Winchester defeated Linden-McKinley 37-0 in five innings in the first round of the district tournament and upset sixth-seeded Watterson 7-6 in the second round, handing Eagles coach Scott Manahan his first home tournament loss in 17 years, before losing to DeSales.

"We should be decent if we can get good pitching," Bartos said. "I think we can hang with the Division I teams if we're consistent, relax and have fun. We're playing a competitive schedule to get our guys battle tested for the tournament."