Figuring out how best to use the 30 players on the Dublin Coffman High School baseball team might be among the biggest challenges for coach Tim Saunders this spring.
The Shamrocks, he believes, have a deeper pool of talent than a season ago when they stayed in contention for the OCC-Central Division championship until the final week of league play before tying Upper Arlington for third at 9-5, behind Hilliard Davidson (11-4) and Marysville (10-5).
The versatility on a roster that features 15 players who can pitch, including five who throw left-handed, also bodes well.
"What I like is that we've got more depth," said Saunders, who is in his 31st season. "We're strong up the middle with a nice shortstop, second baseman and catcher. ... This could be a 20-win season for us."
Coffman, which went 15-11 overall last season and lost in the second round of the Division I district tournament, opened March 26 with a 2-0 loss at Lexington (Kentucky) Tates Creek. The Shamrocks opened OCC-Central action April 2 by losing 1-0 at Hilliard Davidson and played the Wildcats on April 4.
Canyon Caldwell gave up one run on just one hit and two walks and struck out five over 4 2/3 innings against Tates Creek.
The senior right-hander headlines a pitching staff that also should include junior left-hander Ryan Ebeling and junior right-hander Ben Hall in the rotation. Caldwell went 3-1 with a 3.80 ERA in 27 2/3 innings last season.
Senior Marcus Ernst, an Ohio State signee, served as a key pitcher last season but is expected to spend most of his time this season at shortstop and also can play second base. He batted .333 with 14 RBI and 19 runs scored last season and went 2-for-2 with a walk in the opener.
Junior James Bartman is the starting catcher, with junior C.J. Rothermund serving as his backup.
Senior Alex Werth (1B) and juniors Matt Dorenkott (CF), Spencer Eiselt (3B) and Ethan Hetzel (RF) also are key returnees. Werth batted .327 with 15 RBI last season.
"This year's team will have its strengths and weaknesses, but I believe we'll come together well," Hetzel said. "This will be a fun and exciting season and I hope we make it far in the (postseason) tournament."
When not on the mound, Hall will see time at third base and Ebeling will be in the outfield.
Others playing key roles include seniors Mike King (2B), George Kranstuber (P/1B), Will Kranstuber (P/3B) and Graham Schiefferle (DH/OF) and juniors Luke Bartemes (P/1B), Alex Dluzynski (OF/P), Grant Guetle (2B) and Phillip Perez (P/SS).
Also providing outfield depth are senior Tommy Whitty and juniors Ryan Moriarty and Anthony Villella.
Rounding out the roster are senior Andrew Simpson (2B), juniors Hayden Grundei (OF), Bryce Hostetler (P/1B), Mike McCarthy (1B) Matt Hunter (P/3B), Matt Morabeto (P), Ben Sarver (P) and Matt Vick (P) and sophomore Ethan Simpson (SS/2B).
Volleyball team looking to rebound
Despite having a freshman at setter in Jack Proctor in 2016, the boys volleyball team won a postseason match and reached a Division I East Region semifinal.
Proctor, now a junior, is part of what fourth-year coach Shane Farrell hopes is a growing foundation.
Coffman, which went just 7-16 overall last season and lost in the first round of the regional tournament, opened April 3 at Pickerington Central.
"I would say we'd like to be optimistic," Farrell said. "Two years ago, we had Jack Proctor as our setter and beat Davidson in the tournament to reach a regional semifinal. All of our players got another year of experience last year. In Dublin, we don't have a middle school program, so we're all pretty young and they're all learning."
Proctor was first-team all-OCC-Ohio last season as the Shamrocks went 2-8 to finish fifth behind champion Davidson (10-0).
Junior Joey Mitchell (outside hitter) was second-team all-league and led the team in kills last season.
Senior Sam Malloy (libero) will be asked to lead a defense that also should include junior Andrew Nikolai and sophomore Sotaro Fujiyoshi.
The only other seniors are Ethan Reed (opposite/setter) and Adam Sagun (outside hitter).
Juniors Tali Berzins (opposite), Aaron Forbush (outside hitter), Sean McDerment (middle hitter) and Cole Northup (6-foot-4, middle hitter) are other key players.
Also looking to contribute are juniors Cameron Burris (opposite) and Nolan Roush (middle hitter) and sophomore Ian Watabe (setter).
"With what the varsity team has right now, I think we're looking really good," Forbush said. "With all this new, young talent, we have to learn to play as a team as well. After a few games under our belts, I expect Coffman to be giving good teams a battle."
Softball team to build with youth
With no seniors on its 12-player roster, the softball team could be a work in progress early on this season.
The biggest positive, according to fifth-year coach Scott Tillman, is that there is pitching depth with junior Maddi Luke and sophomore left-hander Kelsi Anderson.
"I like our pitching," Tillman said.
"They're probably pretty close as far as their skill level, so I'm going to give them both opportunities."
Coffman opened April 2 by beating Olentangy Liberty 3-2 and played April 3 against Lancaster. The Shamrocks open OCC-Central play Wednesday, April 11, at home against Davidson.
Juniors Sophie Maggs (1B), Marley McDonald (C) and Caroline Stukey (2B) were other key players last season, when Coffman went 11-15 overall and tied Upper Arlington for fourth in the league at 3-7, behind champion Central Crossing (9-1).
Sophomore Haley Newland was a junior varsity player last year but is batting leadoff and playing shortstop.
Sophomore third baseman Rylee Anspach hit better than .400 and was named honorable mention all-league after moving up from the j.v. late last season.
Junior Avery Ketch leads the outfield corps.
Also looking to contribute are junior Anitra Starks (OF) and sophomores Olivia Castle (OF) and Lizzie Werth (1B/P).
"Our initial goal is .500, and then we can go from there," Tillman said. "We have some talent, but it's young. Just like always in softball, the main thing in how well you do has to do with your pitching, and I feel confident in (our pitching)."
March 26 -- at Lexington (Ky.) Tates Creek
*April 2 -- at Hilliard Davidson
*April 4 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 6 -- vs. Westland
April 7 -- vs. Scioto
*April 9 -- at Westland
*April 11 -- at Marysville
*April 13 -- vs. Marysville
*April 16 -- at Central Crossing
*April 18 -- vs. Central Crossing
April 19 -- vs. Watterson
*April 20 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*April 23 -- at Upper Arlington
April 24 -- vs. DeSales
*April 25 -- at Hilliard Davidson
April 26 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 27 -- vs. Westland
April 28 -- vs. Toledo St. Francis and Brunswick
*April 30 -- at Marysville
May 1 -- at St. Charles
*May 2 -- at Central Crossing
May 3 -- at Jerome
*May 4 -- vs. Upper Arlington
May 5 -- at Beavercreek (DH)
May 7 -- vs. Hilliard Bradley
April 2 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
April 3 -- vs. Lancaster
April 4 -- vs. Mount Vernon
April 5 -- vs. Watkins Memorial
April 6 -- at Canal Winchester
April 7 -- at Big Walnut with Hartley
April 9 -- vs. Olentangy Orange
April 10 -- vs. Hartley
*April 11 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 12 -- vs. Westland
April 14 -- at Lakewood with Watterson
*April 16 -- at Marysville
*April 18 -- at Central Crossing
*April 19 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*April 23 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 25 -- at Westland
*April 26 -- vs. Marysville
April 28 -- at Newark with Newark Catholic
*April 30 -- vs. Central Crossing
*May 2 -- at Upper Arlington
May 3 -- vs. New Albany
May 5 -- at Jerome with Scioto in Battle of Dublin
*April 3 -- at Pickerington Central
*April 4 -- vs. Gahanna
*April 5 -- at Upper Arlington
*April 9 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
*April 10 -- vs. Reynoldsburg
April 14 -- Spike for Tykes Tournament at Hiram College
April 16 -- vs. DeSales
*April 17 -- vs. Pickerington North
*April 19 -- at Gahanna
*April 23 -- vs. Pickerington Central
*April 24 -- vs. Upper Arlington
*April 26 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson
April 28 -- at Cincinnati Oak Hills with Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier and Louisville (Ky.) Trinity
*May 1 -- at Reynoldsburg
May 3 -- at New Albany
May 4 -- Battle of Dublin at Scioto
*May 8 -- at Pickerington North
May 10 -- at Westerville Central
Below are the coming schedules for the Coffman boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis and track & field teams:
*April 5 -- Home vs. Hilliard Davidson
April 7 -- At Hudson
*April 10 -- At Pickerington Central
*April 5 -- At Davidson
April 7 -- At West Chester Lakota West
*April 10 -- Home vs. Pickerington Central
*April 5 -- At Davidson
*April 10 -- Home vs. Westland
April 11 -- Home vs. New Albany
TRACK & FIELD
April 7 -- Lexington Invitational
April 11 -- At Scioto