Bobbi Jones played for a winning program, and now the first-year coach wants to bring that same mentality to the Northridge High School softball team.

Bobbi Jones played for a winning program, and now the first-year coach wants to bring that same mentality to the Northridge High School softball team.

Jones, a 2001 graduate of perennial state power Lakewood, is excited to help the Vikings try to win the program's first district title.

"Any time you come in as a new coach into a program that has had such success over the past couple of years it can be tough, but they welcomed me with open arms," Jones said. "These girls are intense and have high expectations."

The expectations are high because the Vikings have reached at least a district semifinal in each of the last two seasons. In 2010, they finished 26-3 overall after falling to Sparta Highland 3-2 in a Division III district final. They also won the program's first league title.

Last season, Northridge finished 15-3 overall, losing to Caledonia River Valley 3-0 in a Division III district semifinal after beating North Union 6-0 in its tournament opener. It won a second consecutive MBC championship, going 12-2 to tie Loudonville for the title.

The nucleus of those teams remains intact with five starters returning in seniors Kara Barclay (SS), Kayla Davison (2B) and Kimber Hazlett (P) as well as juniors Kassi Davison (1B) and Taylor Mann (OF).

Hazlett, who was first-team all-district last season, went 13-2 with a 0.83 ERA, 165 strikeouts, 17 walks and 44 hits allowed in 93 innings. She also batted .296 with 11 runs and two triples.

Kayla Davison was second-team all-district after batting .462 with 13 runs, 12 RBI, eight doubles, two triples and 13 stolen bases. Mann hit .360 with 13 RBI and 11 stolen bases, and Barclay batted .304 with nine runs and seven RBI.

"It takes talent and hard work (to win a district title)," said Jones, who has coached as an assistant at Urbana University and in youth softball in Heath. "These girls are natural athletes. They have to keep their mental focus and continue their hard work."

Sophomore Courtney Mann, who was an outfielder last season, has moved to catcher to replace all-district performer Chelsea Tietz.

"I asked during an indoor league game at Licking Valley if anyone had experience behind the plate," said Jones, whose team opens Tuesday, March 27, at Liberty Union. "Courtney said she played some in youth league, so we have put her back there and she has done a fantastic job for us."

Rounding out the roster are junior Faith Hiser (OF/P), sophomores Courtney Legg (OF/C) and Heidi Wolfe (OF) and freshmen Megan Hatfield (3B/P) and Mikaela Pankuch (OF/SS/P).

"We need to work on hitting and fundamentals. We need to be more fundamentally sound with hitting and defense," Jones said. "We're strong defensively, but we still make mental errors and we can always improve in those areas. I'm excited and I think we're going to do very well."

The baseball team returns seven starters from last year's squad that finished 8-15 overall with an 8-1 loss to West Jefferson in the first round of the Division III district tournament.

The returning starters are seniors Brandon Hull (OF) and Hank McCormick (1B/P) as well as juniors Austin Campbell (OF), Jerrad Carr (C), Gavin Kyle (OF), Storm Strout (P/2B) and Ross Wilson (3B/P).

"We are a very young team, but we're a talented team," second-year coach Jeff Wilson said. "The kids have a lot of enthusiasm and have been working really hard."

Senior Stephen Peters (3B/DH) missed last season because of an injury. As a sophomore, he hit .400 in 45 at-bats before sustaining a stress fracture in his back.

Rounding out the roster are sophomore Ryan Trimble (2B/OF) and freshmen Nick McConnell (P), Clayton Nicks (OF/P), Matt Simmons (C), Tate VanFossen (2B/P), Brad Wilson (SS/P) and Greg Wilson (OF/P).

Northridge opens Monday, March 26, at Bexley.

"We need to work a little more on fielding and work on (handling) groundballs," Wilson said. "We have been doing well both hitting and pitching. I've been pleased with that this spring."

Last season, the Vikings tied Centerburg and East Knox for fifth (5-9) in the MBC behind Fredericktown (12-1), Utica (11-3), Johnstown-Monroe (9-5) and Loudonville (7-6) and ahead of Danville (2-12).

•The boys and girls track and field teams open April 2 in the Newark Catholic Relays.