The starting lineup for the Olentangy Liberty High School softball team will look almost the same as it did last season.

The starting lineup for the Olentangy Liberty High School softball team will look almost the same as it did last season.

The Patriots return nine of 10 regular starters, including their designated player, from a year ago when they finished 9-14 overall and went 6-4 in the OCC-Capital Division to place third behind Big Walnut (9-1) and Watkins Memorial (7-3) and ahead of Dublin Scioto (5-5), New Albany (3-7) and Franklin Heights (0-10).

The Patriots lost to Mount Vernon 7-2 in the first round of the Division I district tournament.

"We have 13 girls on the team and they all have experience playing at the varsity level," said second-year coach Kate Ross, whose team will open Tuesday at home against OCC-Cardinal rival Westerville North. "It's great to have the group back. They have grown so much over the last year."

Liberty, which last season had no seniors and limited varsity experience, returns 12 letterwinners in seniors Maria Fortunato (OF) and Nikki Muntean (DP), juniors Kristina Campbell (OF), Kirstie Fehrenbach (SS), Amanda Hatfield (1B), Cara Hunsinger (P), Lillie Norris (2B) and Kristen Wisecarver (OF/C) and sophomores Caitlin Adkins (3B), Tara Rissmeyer (IF/OF), Dani Rivington (IF/OF) and Allyson VanGundy (OF).

Also back is sophomore Jess-ica DeWulf (C).

Fehrenbach (.461, 21 stolen bases), Norris (.367, 13 RBI, 11 stolen bases), Hatfield (.279, 20 RBI) and Muntean (.269, 13 RBI) were among the offensive leaders last season. Hunsinger pitched in all but one game and went 9-13 with a 2.12 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 145 innings.

Fehrenbach was first-team all-district and all-league. Also receiving all-league honors were Hatfield (first team), Fortunato (second team), Hunsinger (second team) and Muntean (honorable mention).

The only starter from last year who did not return was catcher Taylor McConnell, who how is at Olentangy Orange.

"We have high expectations this year," Hunsinger said. "I think we're picking up where we left off. Altogether, we're more focused and more driven than last year."

"I think (the players) expect more from themselves," Ross said. "I think we'll be better in all aspects. The area we needed to improve in the most was offensively. Last year, sometimes we struggled to score. I think we'll be better offensively this year and I think we'll be even sounder defensively with having more experience."

Liberty has moved from the OCC-Capital to the OCC-Cardinal along with Olentangy, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Marysville, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South.

"I think we moved into a little tougher softball division," Ross said. "I think that will help us come tournament time."

"We want to win as many OCC games as we can and we want to beat Olentangy," Hunsinger said.

Liberty and Olentangy are league rivals for the first time. Liberty leads the all-time series 4-1 but Olentangy won last year's game 11-5. The teams will play April 8 at Liberty and April 27 at Olentangy.

At a glance

•Coach: Kate Ross, second season

•Opener: Tuesday vs. Westerville North

•Key players: Kirstie Fehrenbach, Maria Fortunato, Amanda Hatfield, Cara Hunsinger, Nikki Muntean and Lillie Norris