With the majority of its starters back, the Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team has big expectations.

With the majority of its starters back, the Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team has big expectations.

Last year the Lions finished 20-10 overall and were second at 7-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division behind Hilliard Darby (9-1) and ahead of Groveport (6-4), Newark (5-5), Lancaster (2-8) and Westland (1-9). They lost to West Chester Lakota West 16-11 in a Division I regional final.

Gahanna will be led by seniors Christian Lockett (P), Pat Ross (OF) and Brock Trimbur (P/OF) and sophomore Joey Tomko.

Lockett (Kent State) and Trimbur (Ohio) signed with Division I colleges last November and will be a formidable 1-2 combination as starting pitchers. Ross recently signed to play outfield for Notre Dame College in suburban Cleveland and will be counted on for his offense and defense.

Other players expected to contribute include Ben Bokor (1B), Josh Bokor (C), Joel Clark (C), Taylor Cooper (OF), Shane DiFranco (3B), Bryce Frentzel (OF), John Grooms (1B), Drew Kessler (OF), Drew Majerus (3B), Cody McKimmons (P), Jarrod Moss (2B) and Tyler Ranney (3B).

"We had a pretty good year last year but we didn't get an OCC championship," Ross said. "We'd definitely like to win an OCC championship and it's been awhile since we've done that. That's our main goal right now. After that our goal would hopefully be to make it back to regional and win a state championship."

Gahanna lost only two players from last year in John Beatty and Elliot Williams but the impact of those players was huge. Beatty was a power-hitting first baseman who led the team in home runs and RBI and Williams was a center fielder who served as the leadoff hitter and led the team in stolen bases.

"Replacing those guys will be tough to do. Those are some big shoes to fill," coach Mike Shade said. "They were great players for us. We've got a lot of veterans back so we've got some decisions to make."

In Lockett and Trimbur the Lions feature two of the best starting pitchers in the area. Losing Beatty and Williams will impact the offense, but the rest of the players got acclimated to varsity pitching last year and should be improved this season. Majerus, Moss, Ross and Tomko are the top returning hitters.

"We definitely have what it takes (to get back to the regional)," Trimbur said. "We have the pitching and the pitching depth. We just need to make sure our offense helps us stay in games like they did last year."

Gahanna now is in the OCC-Ohio Division with Grove City, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central, Pickerington North and Reynoldsburg. Pickerington Central and Pickerington North were league champions last season and Newark was one of three district champions along with Gahanna and Hilliard Darby.

The biggest change the realignment will bring is that there will be three league games instead of two played every week.

"That will be big. Last year you could throw your one and two and it wasn't a big deal," Trimbur said. "Now you definitely need more depth."

"The question about pitching rotation comes into play," Shade said. "You're hoping guys can go deep into the ballgames so you can have fresh arms later in the week. You can't sit on just one pitcher and walk through the league. You've got to have a deep staff to win consistently."

Gahanna returns most of its starters and features two of the better starting pitchers in the area, but Shade knows success last season does not guarantee it this year. "There's too many good teams in the Central District," he said. "We're not going to rest on our laurels."

At a glance

•Coach: Mike Shade, 18th season

•Opener: April 6 at Lancaster

•Key players: Christian Lockett, Pat Ross, Joey Tomko and Brock Trimbur