With two of its top players moving to new positions, the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team is expecting its defense to be improved this season.

With two of its top players moving to new positions, the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team is expecting its defense to be improved this season.

What likely will dictate whether the Raiders are able to move above .500 after three consecutive losing seasons is a pitching staff that will have several new leaders.

Reynoldsburg, which went 13-14 overall last year and tied Lancaster for sixth (5-9) in the OCC-Ohio Division behind champion Grove City (12-1), opens Saturday, March 28, at Westerville South.

The Raiders begin league play April 6 at Grove City.

"I think we can definitely improve on the record we had last year," sixth-year coach Rob Gravatt said.

"It's a young team and we've got a very young pitching staff. Defensively we've improved and offensively I like what I've seen in the cages. Pitching is always going to be the key."

Anchoring the team defensively as well as at the plate should be senior Tanner Thomas (CF/LF) and juniors Shayne Lyons (1B), Nick McPommell (3B) and Connor Richardson (C).

Lyons batted .370 with 14 RBI last season, and Thomas batted .349 and was honorable mention all-district in Division I and honorable mention all-league.

Richardson started at shortstop the last two seasons but is moving behind the plate, and McPommell is moving from catcher to third base.

Another key senior should be outfielder Rick Phillips, who sat out the first half of last season after transferring but batted .387 in 31 at-bats.

Battling at second base and shortstop during the preseason were senior Conner McCloud, juniors Zach Greenwald and Connor Mullenax and sophomores Zach McCroskey and Darius Montero.

Junior Mike Johnson should see time at both catcher and third base, and sophomore Max Benjamin will play first base, third base and catcher.

Also expected to be in the outfield are senior Tyler Knapp and juniors Devin Burkhardt and Parker Facemeyer.

Senior Eric Duncan should move into the role of No. 1 starter after leading in pitching appearances a year ago with 12.

He had a 2.93 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.

Also expected to pitch are Benjamin, Burkhardt, Johnson, Lyons and McPommell.

"I think we'll be just as good as last year if not better," Duncan said.

"We've got some great returning players and have great team bonding. Our pitching staff is looking really good as a whole."

The Raiders, who lost in the second round of the district tournament a year ago, lost a first-team all-district and all-league selection in Alex Core as well as one of their key hitters and pitchers in Hunter Steele as part of a seven-member 2014 senior class.

Zach Ruschill, who pitched a team-best 50 innings and was special mention all-league, also graduated.

Still, Gravatt believes his program has enough returning talent to improve on last season.

"We've got a real good nucleus back," he said.

Schedule

March 28 -- at Westerville South

March 30 -- vs. Worthington Kilbourne

April 1 -- at St. Charles

April 2 -- at Walnut Ridge

*April 6 -- at Grove City

*April 8 -- vs. Grove City

April 9 -- at Licking Heights

*April 10 -- vs. Pickerington Central

April 11 -- vs. New Albany

*April 13 -- at Pickerington Central

*April 15 -- vs. Gahanna

April 16 -- at Hartley

*April 17 -- at Gahanna

*April 20 -- at Pickerington North

*April 22 -- vs. Pickerington North

*April 24 -- at Lancaster

*April 27 -- vs. Lancaster

*April 29 -- vs. Newark

*May 1 -- at Newark

*May 4 -- at Groveport

May 5 -- vs. Canal Winchester

*May 6 -- vs. Groveport

*League contest