With its lineup from a year ago nearly intact, the Big Walnut High School softball team is looking to rebound from its first losing season since 2006 and only its second in the past decade.

With its lineup from a year ago nearly intact, the Big Walnut High School softball team is looking to rebound from its first losing season since 2006 and only its second in the past decade.

The Golden Eagles finished 13-16 overall last season and went 6-8 in the OCC-Capital Division to tie New Albany and Olentangy Orange for fourth, behind Hilliard Bradley (13-1), Mount Vernon (11-3) and Delaware Hayes (9-5) and ahead of Watkins Memorial (4-10) and Franklin Heights (1-13).

Big Walnut, which had won OCC-Capital titles in 2008 and 2009, was seeded eighth in the Division II district tournament and defeated Mifflin 15-0 in five innings in the first round and fifth-seeded Jonathan Alder 5-4 in the second round before losing to fourth-seeded Granville 7-6 in a district semifinal.

"Last year was a letdown from the standpoint that I thought it was the most athletic team I've had," said fifth-year coach Jeff Hatfield, whose team opens Monday, March 28, at Cardington. "I think this is going to be a better year.

"I won't say there's a sense of urgency, but (the players) have talked about (improving on last season).

"It's like they refuse to let last year happen this year. We're a senior team, and they want to go out with success."

Big Walnut returns nine letterwinners, including eight starters in seniors Brittany Bok (2B), Carrie Borchers (RF), Shelby Fink (SS), Leah Haines (LF), Tayler Nance (3B) and Tabatha Piper (CF) and juniors Emily Petty (P/1B) and Morgan Stephens (C). Fink has signed with Bowling Green State University.

The other returning letterwinner is senior Alyssa Newman (1B/OF).

Last season, Haines (.469, 20 RBI, 15 runs) was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district. Fink (.330, 13 RBI, 25 runs, 11 stolen bases) and Piper (.374, 28 RBI, 18 runs) both made second-team all-league, and Nance (.317, 17 RBI, 19 runs) was honorable mention all-league.

Petty (.310, 21 RBI, 18 runs) and Stephens (.307, 12 RBI, 21 runs) also were key contributors at the plate a year ago.

Rounding out the roster is sophomore Allie Walker (P), who appeared in eight varsity games last season, going 3-3 with a 4.14 ERA and nine strikeouts in 22 innings. She is expected to split the pitching duties with Petty, who was 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 84 innings last year.

Piper pitched last season, going 5-10 with a 4.49 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 92 innings, but likely won't see time in the circle this season, Hatfield said. Piper also played first base a year ago but has moved to center field to replace 2010 graduate Tara Johnson.

Nance is recovering from a broken ankle and is expected to miss the first week of the season, Hatfield said. Sophomore Cheyan Pace and freshman Hayley Apple are among the candidates from the junior varsity who will play third until Nance returns, he said.

Hatfield is confident the Golden Eagles will improve on last season if they hit better than their .312 team batting average last year and maintain their focus in the circle and in the field. Errors led to 57 unearned runs last season.

"I believe offensively we're going to be very good," Hatfield said. "We were down a little bit last year. And we allowed 120 walks last year and that just killed us. We progressively got better as the season went on, so I'm hoping we can pick up where we left off. It's just a matter of cutting down the mental mistakes, both in the circle and on the field."

•The baseball team opens its first season under coach Chris Holly on Monday, March 28, at defending Division II state champion Jonathan Alder.

Big Walnut, which hasn't had a winning season since 2004, finished 8-17 overall last season under Kyle Bennett and went 2-12 in the OCC-Capital to place seventh, behind Mount Vernon (13-1), Orange (9-5), New Albany (9-5), Watkins Memorial (9-5), Bradley (7-6) and Delaware (6-7), and ahead of Franklin Heights (0-14). A game between Bradley and Delaware was canceled.

The Golden Eagles ended last season with an 11-3 loss to Bexley in the first round of the Division II district tournament.

Bennett did not return because his teaching position in the school district was eliminated following the failure of a 7.5-mill operating levy last May.

"We've got a bunch of great kids and I expect a lot out of them," said Holly, a 1998 Big Walnut graduate who coached Cardington last season. "I don't like losing. We're trying to get this program back to where it needs to be."

Big Walnut returns 11 letterwinners in seniors Joe Curran (SS/2B), Blake Gulley (P/1B), Dan Pike (P/3B/OF) and Dillon Walls (P/INF) and juniors Grant Beam (1B/OF/P), Tyler Beam (3B/SS/P), Aaron Dattilo (2B/3B/C/P), Aaron Gase (C), Ben Romer (OF/P), Austin Vertrees (OF) and Seth Wandling (1B/C/OF/P).

Last season, Curran (.512, 26 runs, 12 stolen bases) was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district and Tyler Beam (.385, 26 runs, 24 RBI) made special mention all-league and honorable mention all-district.

Grant Beam missed the final 12 games last year because of a right shoulder injury. Dattilo and Romer also missed significant portions of the season because of injury.

Also on the team are senior Braden Hale (OF/P) and juniors Zack Blackburn (OF/C), Brad Krinn (P/INF), Aaron Shaw (2B/P) and Todd Tarney (INF). Hale missed all of last season with a torn knee ligament.

"I can go with so many lineups because these kids play so many positions," Holly said. "I think we're pretty solid. We've got a lot of guys who can do a lot of things with the bat. We don't have that standout stud (on the mound), but we've got a lot of guys who can pitch. We just want everybody to throw strikes. We talk about getting ahead of batters and staying ahead and keeping the ball down.

"We have a young but experienced lineup because we're junior dominated, but we have good leaders in our seniors and everybody has bought into what we're trying to do. I expect good things from these guys."