During practice on a warm, sunny day March 14, Watterson High School baseball coach Scott Manahan had his infielders participate in a variety of fielding drills.

During practice on a warm, sunny day March 14, Watterson High School baseball coach Scott Manahan had his infielders participate in a variety of fielding drills.

When a handful of players had trouble fielding the ball on a short hop, the 18th-year coach momentarily halted the drill and said, "This isn't a gym floor where the ball is going to bounce right to you. You've got to get used to fielding the ball on diamond dust and you need to keep your glove down and be ready when it does hop up on you."

Once the drill resumed, Manahan shouted words of encouragement as players fielded the ball cleanly.

He's hoping that kind of attention to detail will pay dividends once the season begins. The Eagles open Monday, March 26, at home against Newark Catholic and begin CCL play April 2 at DeSales.

Last season, Watterson finished 16-8 overall. Seeded sixth in the Division II district tournament, the Eagles defeated Columbus East 11-0 in the first round before losing to visiting Canal Winchester 7-6 in the second round, marking their first postseason loss at home in 17 years.

Watterson committed five errors and allowed four unearned runs against Canal Winchester.

"We've been working a lot on our defense and basic mechanics because defensive mistakes really hurt us in some games last season," Manahan said. "The nice thing about these guys is they want to be successful and they're willing to work hard to get there. We held 40 workouts during the winter with lifting three days a week and running three days a week, and over 95 percent of the team participated. Our players' dedication has been outstanding."

Senior Jake Brobst (CF) is Watterson's lone returning starter. The Eagles lost 13 players from a year ago to graduation, including 12 who started multiple games.

Brobst, who plans to be a preferred walk-on at Ohio State next year, batted .453 with three home runs, five triples, six doubles, 20 RBI and 35 runs last season and was named first-team all-district and all-league, along with 2011 graduates Ray Cook (1B) and Brad McCurdy (SS).

Also on the team are seniors Colin Brinkman (1B), Kelsey Douthitt (C), Austin Greene (OF), Jared Sivinski (OF), Matthew Smolik (3B/P) and Will Sroka (2B/P), juniors Kevin Davis (OF/P), Nathan Giangardella (SS/P), Ryan Hock (3B/P), Greg Jacknewitz (1B/P), Patrick Latimer (SS/P), Gabe Martin (1B), Andrew Ohl (OF/P) and Scotty Pritchard (2B) and sophomores Joe Diorio (C), Sam Severance (OF) and Mitch Stotler (3B).

"Jake Brobst is the only kid on our team who played a lot last year, and the rest of them are fighting for positions, which is part of our process of getting better," Manahan said. "As we find out who is ready to get the job done for us, we could have five different lineups during the first week of the season."

Last season, Watterson went 5-3 in the CCL to place second, behind DeSales (7-1) and ahead of Hartley (4-4), Ready (2-6) and St. Charles (2-6).

"Our only goal is to continue the process of getting better, because we know it isn't going to happen quickly or easily," Manahan said. "We're not thinking about CCL or district championships. At this point, it's about getting better every day."

Softball team boasts seven returning starters

The softball team opens Saturday, March 24, at West Chester Lakota West and begins CCL play April 16 at DeSales.

The Eagles finished 10-16 overall last year, losing to third-seeded Groveport 3-2 in a Division I district semifinal.

Watterson features seven returning starters in seniors Ashley Andracki (3B), Rachel Eglehoff (2B/P), Kaela Hughes (OF/P) and Madeline Simmonds (SS) and juniors Katey Bell (OF), Kayla Cook (3B/P) and Audrey Manahan (C).

Simmonds is a Dayton recruit.

Rounding out the roster are juniors Colleen Kaminski (OF), Alexis Mayle (1B), Mary Murray (OF), Kyla Rader-Morse (OF) and Lily Sisamuth (INF) and freshmen Katie Manahan (utility player) and Marissa Wierzbicki (OF).

"This is an older team with a lot of experience," first-year coach Tracey Cultice said. "We'll be really strong defensively if we come together on the field."

Last year, Watterson went 1-5 in the CCL to finish last, behind DeSales (6-0), Ready (3-3) and Hartley (2-4).

The Eagles beat Pickerington North 4-1 in their district tournament opener before losing to Groveport.

"Our seniors told me they've never beaten DeSales before, so we're going to try to change that real quick," Cultice said. "Ready, Hartley and DeSales are all real competitive, so the CCL race is wide open."