Tyler Backstrom has stewed for 10 months over the way last season ended for the Hilliard Davidson High School baseball team.

Tyler Backstrom has stewed for 10 months over the way last season ended for the Hilliard Davidson High School baseball team.

The Wildcats lost to Pickerington Central 10-4 in a Division I district semifinal, but being the tournament's top seed, the senior left-handed pitcher and his teammates had expected more -- much more.

"That really left a bitter taste in our mouths," Backstrom said during a break from hitting in the batting cages last Sunday. "We had a phenomenal regular season. Losing like that really made us feel like we really underachieved."

Davidson finished 19-7 overall and tied Dublin Coffman at 7-3 for a share of its second consecutive OCC-Buckeye Division title.

This year, the Wildcats play in the OCC-Central with Central Crossing, Coffman, Hilliard Darby, Thomas Worthington, Upper Arlington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne.

Despite losing 12 graduates, coach Jim Dougherty doesn't believe this will be a rebuilding season by any means.

"We have a combination of kids who had a lot of playing time last year and a lot who have been waiting their turn to play," said Dougherty, who is entering his 28th season with the program. "We had back-to-back veteran teams and last year was just one of those years that we didn't finish it. I think they saw how disappointed the seniors were with the finish last year and this year's group is talking like they are on a mission."

Backstrom (3-0, 4.20 ERA, 23 1/2 IP, 19 K, 16 BB) and senior right-hander Takahito Kawakami (4-2, 2.58 ERA, 35 1/3 IP, 18 K, 18 BB) give the Wildcats a solid start to the staff. Two senior right-handers -- Phillip Huff (1-0, 3.11 ERA) and A.J. Pope -- round out the rotation.

"Backstrom is a power pitcher, not a crafty left-hander," said Dougherty, whose team opens Monday at Jonathan Alder before playing host Wednesday to Vandalia Butler and beginning OCC-Central play April 3 against visiting Westland. "Takahito has so many pitches and he has improved more than anyone since joining the program in the seventh grade."

Backstrom (.360, 19 runs, 3 HR, 28 RBI, .640 slugging) will play at first base along with Huff. Senior Grant Goodwin (.314, 15 runs, 5 doubles, 13 RBI) returns for his third season at shortstop and senior Zac Daniels (.346) starts at second base after battling back injuries for the past two seasons.

Senior Bryan Gronski will play third after hitting .338 with 24 RBI and 17 runs with Hilliard Post 614A last summer. Gronski's sophomore brother Andrew, is slated to start at catcher. Also playing in the infield will be senior Richie Myers and junior Grant Whipple.

The three senior outfielders -- Hunter Broadstone (.375, 17 RBI, 23 runs, 5 doubles), Adam Frazier (.350) and Nick VanDyne (.302, team-leading 31 runs, team-leading 7 doubles, 13 SB) -- all saw much playing time last season. Also seeing time in the outfield will be Pope and junior Kenny Klatt.

"We have a lot of returnees and a lot of experience back and we have high expectations," Backstrom said. "Last year was kind of stressful. I think we put too much pressure on ourselves and clamped up late in the season. We just need to take things one game at a time and just have some fun."

At a glance

•Coach: Jim Dougherty, 28th season

•Opener: Monday at Jonathan Alder

•Key players: Tyler Backstrom, Hunter Broadstone, Zac Daniels, Adam Frazier, Grant Goodwin, Takahito Kawakami and Nick VanDyne