With so many new names on the Delaware Hayes High School baseball roster, it might look as though the program is experiencing a complete overhaul.

With so many new names on the Delaware Hayes High School baseball roster, it might look as though the program is experiencing a complete overhaul.

Fifth-year coach Mike Yinger looks at it differently.

"Because we had so many outstanding seniors in last year's class, these guys didn't have the opportunity to move up and gain much experience," said Yinger, whose team will open Monday at home against Marion Harding, followed by games Wednesday at Hamilton Township, Thursday at Marysville and Friday at Franklin Heights. "Now they have their opportunity and I think we'll see them succeed. Just because they are inexperienced on the varsity level doesn't mean there's not talent there."

There also is a solid foundation with senior Caleb Wilburn and junior Billy Harkenrider returning from a team which finished 21-7 after losing to Gahanna 10-9 in a Division I district semifinal.

Wilburn, who was first-team all-district and all-state, has signed to play at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Wilburn, a fourth-year starter, returns at shortstop after leading the team in hitting (.453), RBI (35), home runs (6), doubles (11) and slugging (.791). He was second on the team in runs (37) behind graduate Evan Shaw (40).

Harkenrider, a left-hander who played right field, batted .317 with 22 runs and 25 RBI.

"Caleb is one of the top players in the area and even in the state," Yinger said. "He works hard and is very dedicated to improving. The scary part is he's just scratching the surface of how good he can be and he has so much baseball ahead of him.

"Billy had a great end to his sophomore year and we're moving him from right field to first base and he will also be a huge part of our pitching staff. But even though we'll depend on him more, he needs to realize this is still high school baseball and just go out and play like he's capable of playing. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves."

Harkenrider was 3-0 with a 2.47 ERA in 34 innings. Seniors Kees Burns (5-2, 1.21 ERA, 29 innings) and Jake Shaw (1-0, 4.67 ERA, 9 innings) also will pick up added duty. They will be joined by first-year senior Taylor Wood, junior Kody Akers and sophomores Tyler Dennis and Joe Weirtz. Freshmen Jacob Bosiokovic and Tyler Miller may also see time on the mound.

Yinger said the philosophy is to use two or three players in a game to keep opponents from seeing the starter three or more times in a game. That's much different than the past two seasons when the bulk of the pitching was done by graduates Scott Sheets and Frank Eastman, who helped the Pacers compile the top team ERAs in a season (2.84 in 2007, 2.92 in 2008). Sheets was second-team all-district and Eastman was second-team all-league last year as the team set a record for lowest opponents' batting average (.215).

"Shaw and Burns throw three pitches for strikes, but Shaw throws a little harder," Yinger said. "Then we've got Billy, our only left-hander. Taylor is working on his curveball and should give us a lift. We have a lot of potential pitchers and we want to keep hitters off balance."

Delaware also must replace key graduation losses of first baseman Zack Nowland, who is now playing at Ohio State, and three-year starters Hobie Jurden at catcher and Evan Shaw in center field. Nowland was first-team all-state and Evan Shaw was second-team all-state. The Pacers went 43-14 the past two seasons and won a district title.

Senior letterwinner Ben Steele is expected to replace Jurden behind the plate.

Also returning is junior letterwinner Nate Stuntz, who played third base last season and will move to second base this season.

Yinger said the the defensive positions will change depending on pitching. When they are not pitching, Burns will be in the outfield, Jake Shaw will be at third base and Wood will be in the outfield.

Wilburn, Akers (CF), Steele and Stuntz appear to be the only players with constant positions. Also on the roster are sophomores Alex Price (OF) and Preston Marks (OF).

En route to finishing second at 7-3 in the OCC-Central Division behind Pickerington North (9-1), the Pacers set season records for runs (261), runs per game (9.5), stolen bases (97), home runs (15) and batting average (.352).

"We're going to have to execute well, we can't rely on just swinging away like we have in the past," said Yinger, whose team will compete in the OCC-Capital this season with Big Walnut, Franklin Heights, Mount Vernon, New Albany, Olentangy Orange and Watkins Memorial. "We'll bunt, run the bases aggressively and put pressure on defenses. We've got some strong bats and a lot of speed, so it's a pretty good mix. But the strength of the team will be our pitching depth and defense."

At a glance

•Coach: Mike Yinger, fifth season

•Opener: Monday vs. Marion Harding

•Key players: Kees Burns, Billy Harkenrider, Jake Shaw, Ben Steele, Caleb Wilburn and Taylor Wood