First-year Licking Heights High School softball coach Matt Frischen previously has been involved in rebuilding projects at Newark Catholic and Northridge.

First-year Licking Heights High School softball coach Matt Frischen previously has been involved in rebuilding projects at Newark Catholic and Northridge.

Now he's hoping to see the same sort of results with the Hornets, who finished 5-17 overall a year ago following an 11-7 loss to Whitehall in a Division II first-round tournament game. He is replacing Tim Holland, who posted a 17-48 record in three seasons and two years ago led Licking Heights to its first postseason victory since 2003 in Division III.

Frischen had been running the middle-school program at Northridge the past few years. Before that he was a hitting and pitching coach at Newark Catholic, which after several down years captured a Division IV district title in 2005.

"That's what we're going to be working toward, anyway, getting this turned around," he said. "That's the goal."

He isn't being shy about wanting to see positive steps sooner rather than later. Nor is he afraid to commit to his best players regardless of age. As many as three freshmen are expected to play prominent roles.

They include pitchers Kayla Gardner and Kelsi Wilson, both of whom can best be classified as junk-ballers who rely on location. Kaitlyn Dunbrack, meanwhile, is pushing for the starting catcher position and also is being considered for the leadoff spot in the batting order.

"Our freshmen pitchers carry themselves pretty well. I can hand the ball over to either one of them and feel comfortable," Frischen said. "They both play year-round, and they've been pitching at the new distance (pushed back to 43 feet from 40).

"And Kaitlyn, well, she's just forcing my hand. She's going to be a good one."

That isn't to say the Hornets don't have their veterans, young as some might be. Junior Michaela Green returns as a middle infielder while sophomore Alyssa Stanley is back to play shortstop and center field. Stanley, a proven contact hitter, may bat second.

Alex Sandy, a corner infielder, is one of two seniors. She's also the likely cleanup hitter. The other senior is first baseman Brittany Gerthing, who is another promising run producer.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to manufacture some runs by getting our lead girls on and punching them in. With the increased (pitching) distance, there's definitely going to be more offense in the game," said Frischen, whose team opens Monday, March 28, at home against East Knox. "We have speed, some power and we should field the ball pretty well. We just need to score some runs."

Also returning are juniors Ally Walters (OF) and Kailee Stevens (C) and sophomores Cassy Cochrum (3B/OF) and Brynna Fetter (2B/OF). The other newcomers are junior Gabrielle Palombaro (1B) and Bronte Harber (P/OF), who sat out last season after transferring from Reynoldsburg.

The Hornets play their MSL-Cardinal Division opener April 1 at Grandview. Liberty Union (14-0) won the title last season.

•Unlike Frischen, baseball coach Jeff Boyer has a slew of graduates to replace.

Last year's seven seniors included center fielder Dan Pennington, a four-year starter and former shortstop who hit in the cleanup spot, and Cody Bailey, who was last year's top starting pitcher and the team's leadoff batter.

Boyer, who begins his 31st season with the Monday, March 28, opener at home against East Knox, has been in a similar situation several times, however. He has said he's especially excited about the pitching depth, which should help offset the graduation of so much run production until the hitting comes around.

The top pitchers should include senior outfielder Josh Hoar, a left-hander, as well as juniors Mick Stakely, Zack Dunbrack and Dalton Golden, who should have a place in the heart of the batting order. Stakely is a third baseman and Dunbrack an outfielder. Stakely likely will take the mound in some of the key MSL-Cardinal games. Fisher Catholic went 13-1 to win the title a year ago while ending Grandview's three-year reign as champion.

The Hornets finished 16-9 overall with a 5-3 loss to eventual Division II state semifinalist Lakewood in a second-round district-tournament game, one in which they led early 1-0 and 2-1. They defeated Buckeye Valley 8-5 in their postseason opener en route to matching their highest victory total since going 18-10 in 2006. The 2008 team went 16-11. The Hornets have won 13 or more games in each of the past seven seasons.

Also returning are seniors Graham Yonker (1B), Ty Stallings (OF) and Bryan Haist (OF), junior Zan Scott (C) and sophomore Ronnie Dawson (2B), who lends a potent left-handed bat to the order. The newcomers include sophomores Andrew Giggin (C), Andrew Bailey (3B) and Jake Foley (SS).