With just three returning players from last year's team, the Gahanna Rockets are rebuilding this season.

With just three returning players from last year's team, the Gahanna Rockets are rebuilding this season.

To make things easier, coach Ed Weston put the team in one league, the Tri-State College League, instead of competing in two at the same time as the Rockets did last year.

"From last year's team, we started with 21 guys and lost all of them except for three. So we're basically starting over," Weston said. "The majority of them are 19 or around there, but that's OK because it's a challenge -- it's a good challenge."

Some inexperience was evident in the first week when the Rockets went 2-4. Gahanna won its first two games over the Columbus Sharks Blue, then lost to the Sharks Black, Columbus Big Katz, Zanesville Junior Pioneers and Chillicothe Capitals.

"Well the first two games were great," Weston said. "Out of those first four losses, three of them were reasonably close. Like any other baseball team, you've got to hit and not make errors to win. So we've got to hit and we've got to quit making errors."

While the players may still be getting accustomed to one another, Weston has a lot of flexibility with the lineup. Every player on the roster can be called upon to play more than one position and many will.

The team consists of collegiate players Alex Hayes (P, Otterbein), Bruce Hymes (OF/P, Ohio State), Mitch Klein (INF, Ashland), James Kudalski (C, Mott Community College, Flint, Mich.), Grant Martin (P, Urbana), Jeremy Meizlish (OF, Capital), Tim Pitro (INF, Defiance), Andy Podolak (utility, Mount Vernon Nazarene), Keith Riley (utility, Toledo), Rob Rosner (P, Otterbein), Jay Serna (C, Kalamazoo Valley Community College), Kyle Sprague (INF, Tiffin), Ryan Vaughn (P, Ohio Dominican) and Luke Yetzer (P, Walsh).

Also on the team are Justin Marrero (INF), Wes Gardner (OF) and Elijah Smurthwaite (INF/P). Smurthwaite, who just graduated from Grove City, is still searching for a college and is using the Rockets as an opportunity to showcase himself. Marrero, who had committed to play for Lake City Junior College, is also searching for a college after the baseball program at Lake City was dropped.

Gardner just completed his freshman year at Ohio University, but did not play baseball. He is planning on trying out for the team next season.

"The bottom line is we've got a good group of kids with good chemistry," Weston said.

"My first impression was that we've got a bunch of laid-back guys who are out there to have fun," Sprague said. "We're going to be competitive and I think there's a lot of talent on this team."

The Rockets play in the South Division of the TSCL along with the Capitals, Big Katz, Columbus Hawks, Sharks Black, Sharks Blue, Pioneers and Sports Central. The North Division consists of the Allegheny A's, Shannon Fence, Pittsburgh BTA, Pittsburgh Pandas, J.L. Thomas, Ohio Monarchs Blue, Ohio Monarchs Gold, Twin City Blue Claws, Youngstown and the Washington Blue Sox.

For the Rockets, the biggest adjustment has been going from playing with metal bats in college to using wood bats in the TSCL. It's a good thing then that the team's strengths are defense and pitching.

The Rockets have struggled early and Gardner said he thinks the team might be trying too hard.

"I think that we're anticipating things too much," Gardner said. "We need to let the game come to us. Too many guys are trying too hard to make the perfect swing or the perfect pitch and we're just pressing too much. If we let the game come to us, it should work itself out."

While the Rockets would enjoy finishing above .500 or winning the league tournament at Cooper Stadium, the main focus getting playing time for everybody to help the players continue to develop. It is ingrained in a mantra that Weston says often.

"Everybody plays, and everybody has a good time," Weston said. "That's the bottom line."

"I've played for coaches before that were real strict and yelled all the time and that just made us more tense," Sprague said. "With the atmosphere Ed creates, we're all relaxed and it's fun to just go out there and play."

Gahanna plays host Thursday to the Hawks and will play host Saturday to a doubleheader against the Monarchs Blue and Sunday to a doubleheader against Pittsburgh BTA. The Rockets will play Tuesday against the Sharks Blue at Whitehall before a four-day break.