The Upper Arlington High School baseball team is looking to get off to a better start than it did a year ago.

The Upper Arlington High School baseball team is looking to get off to a better start than it did a year ago.

The Golden Bears opened 1-8 in their first season under coach Barry Keith but won 12 of their final 18 to finish 13-14. The Bears defeated Olentangy Liberty 6-3 in the first round of the Division I district tournament before losing to 12th-seeded Pickerington Central 13-3 in the second round.

UA went 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to place last behind Hilliard Davidson (7-3), Dublin Coffman (7-3), Grove City (5-5), Reynoldsburg (4-6) and Westerville North (4-6).

"The entire program was in transition," said Keith, whose team opens Monday at Grove City and plays host to Teays Valley on Tuesday. "We're in our second year together and I think the kids have bought into things more, so I don't anticipate that kind of start this year."

"It looks really promising," senior outfielder Sam Brody said. "It looks like we'll have a great team. We've had guys in the training room and weight room (preparing for the season). Everyone's putting in a lot more effort. We're getting down to business."

UA returns nine letterwinners in Brody, seniors Jamie Arkin (C), Robbie Brewer (P), Andrew Hedden (P), Raleigh Pearson (OF), Justin Ping (C/OF), Scott Schubert (P) and Brandon Sega (P) and junior Andy Bean (P/OF).

Brody (.347, 13 RBI, 12 runs) and Ping (.300, 5 RBI, 12 runs) were among the top hitters last season and are the only returnees who started regularly in the field. Brody was second-team all-league.

Bean (3-1, 3.45 ERA, 15 strikeouts, 22 1/3 innings), Schubert (1-4, 5.31 ERA, 14 strikeouts, 31 2/3 innings), Brewer (2-4, 4.67 ERA, 29 strikeouts, 39 innings) and Sega (2-4, 7.78 ERA, 14 strikeouts, 27 innings) pitched more than 20 innings a year ago. Brewer has signed with Winthrop, a Division I school in Rock Hill, S.C.

Also on the team are juniors Robbie Ballinger (C/1B), Kevin Bruce (2B), Wes Cannell (2B), Sam Clark (3B), Matt Gibbs (1B/P), Matt Hennessey (OF), Phillip Jaskot (SS) and Joe McGlumphy (SS).

"The strength of our team is our senior-heavy pitching staff," Keith said.

Through nine games last season, UA scored just 22 runs and its team batting average was just above .200. The Bears finished the season hitting .290 as a team and they scored 111 runs in their final 18 games.

"I'm actually excited about our hitting," Keith said. "We're ahead of where we were last year during the preseason."

UA now is in the OCC-Central with Coffman, Davidson, Central Crossing, Hilliard Darby, Thomas Worthington, Westland and Worthington Kilbourne. It will open league play April 3 at home against Thomas.

"I'm really excited about the OCC and our non-league schedule," Keith said. "We have a very difficult schedule. I did that so that the guys learn the level of ball that is expected of them day in and day out."

At a glance

•Coach: Barry Keith, second season

•Opener: Monday at Grove City

•Key players: Andy Bean, Robbie Brewer, Sam Brody, Justin Ping and Scott Schubert