Me-chelle Burkhalter knows she has a high standard to live up to after replacing Randy Saxour as softball coach at the Wellington School.

Me-chelle Burkhalter knows she has a high standard to live up to after replacing Randy Saxour as softball coach at the Wellington School.

Saxour, the program's founder who had only two losing seasons in 24 years as coach, retired after last season.

"Randy is an icon," said Burkhalter, an assistant coach under Saxour in 2007 and 2008. "You have to understand and love the girls and love the game. Randy loved the game like no one else."

The Jaguars, who open Saturday, March 31, with a doubleheader against Mansfield Madison, finished 4-13 last season, losing to Fredericktown 10-0 in six innings in the first round of the Division IV district tournament.

Wellington returns seniors Andrea Flowers (1B) and Sophia Knowles (SS), both of whom were second-team all-district last year, as well as sophomore Katie King (C). Seniors Brea Porter and Gabrielle Smith and junior Erin O'Neil are competing for time at second base and third base.

"The infield is going to be the cornerstone of my team," Burkhalter said. "We have a lot of leadership and a lot of experience there."

Senior Courtney Wayman and sophomore Abby Fleeter will split time as pitchers.

"They have completely different styles," Burkhalter said. "(Wayman) is a straight-forward pitcher. (Fleeter) is going to bring you a little more spunk."

Seniors Victoria Guinn, Brittany Johnson and Kim Roseler and sophomore Emily Hammett are competing for playing time in the outfield.

"For me, a successful season means sending our seniors off with some great memories and a deep run in the tournament," Burkhalter said.

"The key to doing that is going to be pitching, maintaining a solid defense and having consistency at the plate."

Versatility should be baseball team's strength

Sixth-year baseball coach Craig Jones likes the fact that nearly every player on his roster is listed with two positions. Moreover, five players are listed with three positions.

"We have a lot of versatility this year," said Jones, whose team opens Thursday, March 29, at Eastmoor Academy. "With these 15 guys, I can have many different configurations."

That versatility should help Wellington replace the five players from last year's team who graduated. The Jaguars finished 5-15 last season, losing to Grove City Christian 18-2 in five innings in the first round of the Division IV district tournament.

The outfield was particularly hard hit by graduation, as Wellington lost Nick Bruno, David Connell and Taiyo Scanlon-Kimura. Last season, Scanlon-Kimura batted .282 with 11 runs and four RBI and was honorable mention all-district.

The Jaguars return two outfielders in senior Austin Holland and sophomore Anthony Davis. Five newcomers in junior Christian Braddy, sophomores Grayson Ashby and Josh Roseler and freshmen Elliott Fite and Luke Hogan also are contending for playing time in the outfield.

"(Bruno, Connell and Scanlon-Kimura) played a bulk of the innings last year," Jones said. "Even some of the guys who are returning don't have the game experience. It's almost like a rookie season for them."

Senior Sam Zacher is expected to lead the pitching rotation with Ashby, Davis, senior C.J. Hansen, junior Shawn Meddock and sophomores Josh Leino. Last season, Zacher had a 5.48 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 23 innings.

When Zacher isn't pitching, he will play catcher. Also returning to the infield are sophomores Taff Anderson (1B) and Joe Campbell (1B/C), while Hansen (2B/C), Meddock (3B), Ashby (INF) and freshmen Linus Beatty (1B) and Zach Kauffman (SS/3B/C) also are looking for playing time.

Last season, Zacher batted .442 with 12 RBI, seven doubles and a triple and made second-team all-district.

"I included three musts in our expectations for the season," Jones said. "We must have fun, we must work hard and we must compete.

"We've always been good at the first two things, regardless of the circumstances. Competing is where we've really had some growth. They have really latched on and taken ownership of the team."

Chester expected to lead girls lacrosse team

Fourth-year girls lacrosse coach Liz Clapacs is not sure what to think of her team as it prepares to open Monday, April 2, at home against Westerville South.

Wellington lost six players from a year ago to graduation after finishing 11-5 overall. The Jaguars defeated Cincinnati Seton 11-9 in the first round of the Division II South/Central Region tournament last year before losing to Cincinnati Indian Hill 12-7 in the second round.

"I have no idea (what to expect)," Clapacs said. "There are a lot of unknowns for us. When we started from day one, there was a different energy, but it was real positive one."

The Jaguars will center their attack around senior Abby Chester, who scored 44 goals last season and was named second-team all-region.

According to Clapacs, Chester has been overshadowed the last two seasons by 2010 graduate Kara Concheck, who had 123 goals during her senior season, and 2011 graduate Grace Korandovich, who had 79 goals last year.

"It's Abby's moment now," Clapacs said. "It's her season to stand out."

Clapacs said Chester will be supported by sophomore midfielder Natalie Morse and senior midfielder Sophia Mershad, who played for the Jaguars as a freshman and sophomore but attended a boarding school in Florida as a junior before returning to Wellington.

"Lacrosse is one of Natalie's passions and her enthusiasm has been contagious to some of the other players," Clapacs said. "Mershad is very athletic, has a powerful shot and is very fast. I see her making an impact as well."

Defensively, the Jaguars are led by junior Helen Fite and sophomore Mallory Tannous, both of whom will rotate between the midfield and close defense, and senior goalkeeper Paige Price, who made honorable mention all-region a year ago.

Clapacs moved Price from midfield to goalkeeper last season.

"(Price) has the instinct, mentality, coordination and agility to play (goalkeeper)," Clapacs said. "Opposing coaches were always coming up and complimenting her. You would've thought she'd been playing the position for a long time."

Wellington went 5-2 in the Central Independent League last year to tie Hartley for second, behind Columbus Academy (7-0) and ahead of Columbus School for Girls (4-2), Watterson (3-3), Bexley (2-5), DeSales (1-6) and Granville (1-6). A postponed game between CSG and Watterson was not rescheduled.

The Jaguars open league play Tuesday, April 3, at CSG.

"We want to be competitive in the league and do well in the postseason," Clapacs said. "Over the past couple of years, we have developed somewhat of a reputation and we want to sustain that."

Boys tennis begins life without Wagner

For the first time in five years, the boys tennis team does not have a clear-cut first-singles player.

Wellington lost Ian Wagner, a four-time Division II state qualifier in singles, to graduation.

Wagner, who is playing for Emory University in Atlanta, placed fourth at state as a freshman, third as a sophomore, lost in a quarterfinal as a junior and was state runner-up last year. He finished 18-3 last season, losing all three matches to Watterson's Chris Diaz, who beat Wagner 6-1, 6-0 in the state final, 6-2, 7-6 in a sectional final and 6-1, 6-0 in the district final.

"Hopefully, our guys can emulate his attitude toward practice and in matches this season," said second-year coach Tom Haddow, whose team plays host to New Albany on Wednesday, April 4. "Ian was always serious when it came time to practice. He never goofed around."

Junior Vishal Sharoff, sophomores Lincoln Ficek and Shabach Tyus and freshman Nicholas Sweeney are competing for the singles spots. Sharoff, Ficek and Tyus played varsity last year.

Leading the list to play doubles are senior Aashish Katapadi and juniors William Gross and Nick Mayne. Katapadi and Gross were on varsity last year.

"We don't have that true superstar like we've had with Ian the past couple of years," Haddow said.

"The key is going to be how well our doubles teams come together. Our depth is going to be what carries us."