Having returned several players, the Westerville Central High School baseball team is looking to build on last season.

Having returned several players, the Westerville Central High School baseball team is looking to build on last season.

The Warhawks finished 24-8 overall a year ago and reached a Division I regional final before losing to Grove City 10-3.

Seeded fourth in the district, Central defeated Delaware 7-3 in the second round after having a first-round bye and beat seventh-seeded Pickerington Central 4-2 in nine innings in a district semifinal. It then captured the program's first district title by defeating Reynoldsburg 12-7 in a district final.

The Warhawks defeated Gahanna - the fifth seed in the district - 7-4 in a regional semifinal before losing to Grove City, the district's ninth seed.

Central went 10-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to place second, behind Olentangy (12-2) and ahead of Marysville (7-6), Dublin Scioto (7-7), Dublin Jerome (6-8), Westerville North (5-8), Olentangy Liberty (5-9) and Westerville South (3-11).

"Every year you want to obviously advance as far as you can in the tournament, and last year we got hot at the right time and had a magical season," fifth-year coach Jeff Kiefer said. "It was great, but this is a new year. We haven't really talked much about last year. We're not ignoring or bypassing it, but these kids are real focused. They want to make their mark and put their stamp on the program."

The Warhawks open by playing seven games in Myrtle Beach, S.C., beginning Monday, March 26.

Among the key returnees for Central is senior Connor Sitz (INF/P), an Ohio University recruit. Last season, he went 7-2 on the mound with a 1.88 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 22 walks in 63 1/3 innings and was named second-team all-league and all-district.

"I think we surprised a lot of people last season with the success we had," Sitz said. "We hope and plan on continuing the success this season. (The) Warhawk family is anxious to get back to work. We had a fairytale season last year thanks to a fantastic group of seniors and their leadership. We have a tremendous amount of support from not only the school, but from the entire community. We're looking forward to opening day in Myrtle Beach, and hopefully we can create some momentum and carry it all the way through the year."

Another key returnee is senior Dylan West (INF), who hit .383 last year and was honorable mention all-district.

Other returnees are seniors Greg Behan (OF), Cameron Box (INF/P), Matthew Bracale (INF/OF/P), Connor Bush (OF/P), Daniel Grainger (INF), Matt Knapp (C) and Corey VanDevelde (OF) and John Whitaker (P) and junior Sawyer Allen (C/INF/P).

"We have 11 seniors," Keifer said. "A few of them have quite a bit of varsity experience. Some waited their turn last year and played behind some really good players. They're champing at the bit; they're excited to get their shot. It's a really close group. What they lack for some experience, they make up in cohesiveness, work ethic and attitude."

Also on the team are juniors Tyler Bertelsen (INF/P), Nick Conkins (INF/P), Ethan Dolby (INF/P), Anthony Kinkel (INF/P), Bobby Spiers (OF) and Joe Swisher (INF/P).

The Warhawks lost seven players from a year ago to graduation, including catcher Kyle Pollock, who had a team-high .505 batting average and team-best 51 RBI. He shared league Player of the Year honors with Olentangy catcher Woody Wallace and was named first-team all-district.

Also gone are Danny Lawrence, who batted .378 and had 33 RBI and was first-team all-league and all-district, Jake Simmerman, who had a team-high nine home runs and 36 RBI and was second-team all-district, and Jerry McCartney, who hit .398 and was second-team all-league.

South coach 'enthusiastic' about returning nucleus

South returns just four letterwinners, but ninth-year coach Tim Bates likes his team's nucleus.

"I'm very enthusiastic about this year," he said. "We do have a young crew. We have three seniors and we'll fill in the rest of the spots with juniors and sophomores. We have four returning starters from last year and then we're going to try and find 10 new varsity players."

Last season, the Wildcats finished 6-15 overall after losing to Dresden Tri-Valley 9-8 in 10 innings in the first round of the district tournament.

South, which opens with a doubleheader against Reynoldsburg on Saturday, March 24, at home, returns seniors Forrest Dill (OF) and Jayson Perkins (OF/P), junior Jake Robinson (INF/P) and sophomore Tim Bates (INF), the coach's son.

Coach Bates expects Robinson to be one of the team's top pitchers.

Dill, Perkins and Trenton Antonaros (OF) are the team's only seniors.

"We graduated (eight) seniors last year, so this year we have a whole new group of kids with different attitudes and a different work ethic," Perkins said. "With the young players that we have, it's completely different."

Also on the team are juniors Alex Baumann (OF), Kyle Curtis (OF), Connor Horan (1B), Jeremy Wei (INF/P) and Taylor Zachary (C/P), sophomores Dalton Akers (C/1B), Tom Ingledue (OF), Jack Michael (C/OF/P), Patrick Orr (INF/P), Josh Tischler (INF) and Mike Thesing (INF/P) and freshman Vincent Murdock (C/P).

"We're going to be young, but all of the players love baseball," coach Bates said. "They're skilled players. The only downfall is they haven't had any OCC action yet."

Miller's return has North feeling optimistic

North opens with four games in Vero Beach, Fla., beginning Monday, March 26.

Among the key players for the Warriors is senior Jacob Miller, who is expected to be the team's top pitcher after going 3-2 last season with a 2.63 ERA, 40 strikeouts and 22 walks in 48 innings.

Also a utility player, Miller hit .314 with 18 RBI last season.

"Our No. 1 pitcher, Jacob Miller, is probably one of the elite arms in central Ohio and then we have a fairly even staff," said third-year coach Sean Ring, whose team finished 9-13 overall last season, losing to St. Charles 3-2 in the first round of the district tournament. "What we're hoping to get on the mound is pretty good contributions from everybody. We're going to need all of our arms this year."

Also back is senior Alex Morrow (C/utility player), who hit .321 last season.

"We're definitely looking forward to this season," Morrow said. "We have a big senior class, and I believe this is going to be the team that if we have a chance of doing anything it's going to be now."

Other returnees are seniors Sean Archibald (P/C), Jeff Beekman (P/OF), Casey Davis (OF), Adam Lim (2B), Travis Mollohan (P/1B), Brady Reynolds (OF), Trent Strong (C/INF) and Will Sulcebarger (INF/P) and juniors Michael Cooper (1B/3B), Dan Funk (P/utility player) and Kevin Hackett (OF).

Also looking to contribute are sophomores Ryan Curtis (C/P/utility player) and Josh Kovacs (P/1B).

"We've been very pleased," Ring said. "This is probably the most work we've gotten in and probably the best we've looked going into a season since I've gotten here. We're really looking forward to this year."

North lost only two starters from a year ago to graduation in Garrett Lieb and Colin Williams, who is playing at the University of Dayton.