Heading into his 27th season as coach of the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team, Dave Starling has a talented group, but one that might be a year away from dominating as the Raiders have this decade.

Heading into his 27th season as coach of the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team, Dave Starling has a talented group, but one that might be a year away from dominating as the Raiders have this decade.

Reynoldsburg lost six key graduates from last season's team, which finished 13-13 overall and fourth at 4-6 in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind champion Hilliard Davidson. The Raiders lost to Delaware 8-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament, posting their first non-winning record since 2001.

This season, the Raiders are in the OCC-Ohio with Gahanna, Grove City, Groveport, Lancaster, Newark, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North.

They likely will start just two seniors -- catcher Mark Hammond and designated hitter Bo Walker -- with five sophomores and one freshman also in the starting lineup.

"I will expect a lot out of them and I'm excited about it," said Starling, whose team will open Monday against visiting Ready. "I hope to have some early success to get them off to a strong start."

Sophomore Weston Weiss was a regular last season and started at and played almost every position. He batted better than .300 and went 3-2 as a pitcher. Weiss will bat leadoff and play shortstop and likely will be the closer.

Sophomore Mike Castro will play second base, and freshman Nick Jensen-Clagg will bat second and start at third base and will see some time on the mound.

Sophomore Drew Otani will bat third, play center field and also see some time on the mound. Otani was 1-1 in limited starts last season. Walker will be designated hitter and also a backup catcher. Sophomore J.C. Gibson will play left field and bat fifth.

Hammond will bat next and returns for his second season as starting catcher. Junior Jonathan Hammond looks to be the right fielder and bat seventh. Sophomore Jon Sheline and junior Travis Ebetino will play first base. Jensen-Clagg will start at third base and will pitch.

Starling said his starting rotation will consist of sophomore Halen Core (1-0 last season), junior Craig Andrews (1-0), Jensen-Clagg and Otani. Junior Dillon Gray, Gibson and sophomore Taylor Snare are candidates for long relief.

"The pitching staff is so young, they might be a question mark," Starling said. "The nice thing is it's the first time in a few years we have an actual starting staff and don't have to pull starters from the lineup on the field."

Hammond, who will be the starting catcher for the second season, knows the staff will be key.

"They're going to be young, but they got a lot of experience last year," he said. "Core played as a freshman, Drew Otani has been looking good in workouts, and Jensen-Clagg throws some heat. We've been preaching control this year, to throw strikes because we'll have a great defense."

The Raiders will have some holes to fill on the field after losing two-time OCC-Buckeye player of the year Justin Marrero, Ben Noble (first-team all-OCC), Dustin Reuter (second-team all-OCC) and Ryan Hedrick (honorable mention all-OCC).

"We're going to be solid defensively and quick," Starling said. "Castro has good hands and feet and loves to play. The left side of our infield moves well. We're going to be an above average hitting team. We're young but do things well, we just need varsity experience."

Seniors Matt Drumm, Needom Mitchell and Adam Price and sophomore Tommy Nobile are also on the roster.

Hammond said offensively the Raiders can be good.

"We'll have more power than speed, we need to get the guys on base and move them," he said. "(J.C.) Gibson has been crushing the ball. I think our whole lineup will be solid.

Reynoldsburg will travel to Myrtle Beach for five games at the Cal Ripken Experience during spring break. The Raiders also have non-league games scheduled against powers Worthington Kilbourne, Hilliard Davidson, Watterson and Dublin Coffman.

The OCC-Ohio looks to be strong. Gahanna won a district title last season and returns much of its lineup. Pickerington North won more than 20 games last season and also returns many starters.

"Most of the schools in our league have traditionally strong teams," Starling said. "It's going to be a black-and-blue league and we'd like to have more experience, but you've got to play and give it your best shot."

Hammond is looking forward to a team that sticks together.

"We want to be a family and come together as a team," he said. "To win in our league we're going to have to come to play every day."

At a glance

•Coach: Dave Starling, 27th season

•Opener: Monday vs. Ready

•Key players: Craig Andrews, Halen Core, J.C. Gibson, Mark Hammond and Weston Weiss