Seniors Cole Callaghan and Ben Miller were a part of history last season for the Olentangy Orange High School baseball team, and now they want to make some history of their own.
Callaghan and Miller were starting outfielders who helped the Pioneers reach a Division I state semifinal, which Orange lost 3-2 to Strongsville to finish 23-9 overall.
They now are part of a 10-player senior class that is eager to see what it can do a season after Orange captured its first regional championship and won its first district title since 2012.
"For me and a lot of guys on the team, we have been waiting for this chance," said Callaghan, who has moved to second base and is the son of coach Phil Callaghan. "We have wanted to prove ourselves, and it's time for us to take things by the reins and go."
Orange lost eight players to graduation after last year's postseason run, including Tyler Brown (P/1B; first-team all-state, all-district and all-league), Matt Poole (SS/P; honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league), Jason Schutte (P/1B; first-team all-district and all-league) and Zach Stiteler (C; first-team all-district, second-team all-league). Brown now is pitching at Vanderbilt.
"These guys have so much to learn from that experience last year," said coach Callaghan, who is in his eighth season. "One thing we know about them is that it's an extremely hard-working group and the kids make outstanding decisions. Every day they are getting better in practice."
Miller and the team's third and final returning starter, junior Robbie Dayhuff, will be in the outfield along with senior Zach Beatty. Junior Tyler Ross started at shortstop and pitched last year, but will miss the season with a torn right ACL.
"Cole and Robbie and I definitely need to be leaders after starting in the outfield last year," Miller said. "All the seniors have to step up and show the younger guys how to play. We have to play really hard and set an example for them. Now, Cole is in the infield leading them at second base so it's good to have that leadership in there."
The rest of the infield has senior Jack Betz at first base, freshman Josh Laisure at shortstop and junior Zane Lattig at third. Senior Connor Evans will catch a pitching staff that includes Beatty, Miller, Laisure and Lattig as well as seniors Hunter Andres, Grant Ogden, Jackson Tyler and Jack Ward and juniors David Hughes, Ryan Lewis and Jackson Vaughan.
Rounding out the roster are senior Josiah Minniear (C), juniors Zach Shirtzinger (OF) and Sam Till (C/INF) and sophomore Braden Riley (INF).
"It's definitely a different game this year," coach Callaghan said. "Every scrimmage, we have gotten a little bit better and it's been fun to watch.
"Right now, we just want them to play and if they make a mistake we want it to be an aggressive mistake. Instead of playing scared, just go 100 mph and if you make mistakes, you just make them."
The Pioneers opened by going 2-2 in the Baseball at the Beach in Destin, Florida, during spring break. They defeated Dayton Oakwood 6-3 on March 26 and Navarre (Florida) 4-3 in eight innings March 28, and lost to Uniontown Green 11-10 on March 27 and Niceville (Florida) 11-9 in nine innings March 29.
Orange went 10-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division last season to finish second behind Olentangy (12-3). The Pioneers opened league play April 3 against Liberty.
Five starters back for softball team
Second-year coach Jenna Haskins is optimistic about the softball team, which has five returning starters.
Those players are seniors Cami Clarkson (SS/P; .296, 9 RBI, 6 runs), Alyssa Laisure (C; .333, 16 RBI, 9 runs, 9 doubles) and Alex Ronk (CF; .353, 5 RBI, 9 runs) and juniors Marie Beattie (2B) and Brenna Oliver (P/1B).
The Pioneers finished 5-14 overall last season and placed fifth (2-8) in the OCC-Buckeye behind champion Westerville Central (10-0).
"We have good leadership with our seniors, but right now the focus is on competition," Haskins said. "We're driving that home. Given the opportunity, either you rise to the occasion or you won't be getting the playing time that you want."
Orange has three pitchers who will rotate throughout the season. Oliver was 2-8 with a 5.44 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 13 walks in 65 2/3 innings last season, while Clarkson (second-team all-league) and freshman Alli Rubal also will throw to Laisure (honorable mention all-league).
The infield will have Oliver, sophomore Tatum Bardash and Rubal at first, Beattie and sophomore Kinleigh Hill at second, Clarkson and freshman Josephine Horgan at shortstop and senior Abby Achevich, sophomore Teresa Hawk and freshman Heather Higgins at third.
The outfield will feature seniors Katie Achevich and Jenn Rubal and sophomore Tatum Gibson in left, Ronk (second-team all-league) and Gibson in center and Beattie, Jenn Rubal and Hill in right.
"We have six seniors, but the younger girls will be getting a lot of opportunity for playing time," Haskins said. "We told that to the girls in the first week in practice and everyone seems to be on the same page. We want to eliminate that (complacency) in the program."
The Pioneers opened by going 3-2 in the Softball at the Beach in Destin, Florida, during spring break. They defeated Fort Walton Beach (Florida) 5-2 on March 26 before winning a pair of games March 28 against Clayton Northmont (5-4) and Vandalia Butler (8-6). Orange lost to Oshkosh (Wisconsin) North 11-0 on March 26 and Fort Walton (Florida) Choctawhatchee 10-2 on March 27.
Orange opens OCC-Buckeye play Wednesday, April 11, against Liberty.
March 26 -- Dayton Oakwood in Baseball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
March 27 -- Uniontown Green in Baseball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
March 28 -- Navarre (Fla.) in Baseball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
March 29 -- Niceville (Fla.) in Baseball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
*April 3 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 4 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*April 6 -- at Westerville Central
April 7 -- at Newark
*April 9 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 11 -- vs. Westerville South
*April 13 -- at Westerville South
April 14 -- at Lakewood with Liberty Union
*April 16 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 18 -- at Olentangy
*April 20 -- at Westerville North
April 21 -- at Mount Vernon
*April 23 -- vs. Westerville North
*April 25 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 27 -- at Westerville Central
*April 30 -- vs. Westerville South
*May 2 -- vs. Olentangy
May 3 -- vs. Worthington Christian
*May 4 -- vs. Westerville North
May 5 -- vs. Mansfield Madison and Sparta Highland
March 26 -- Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) and Oshkosh (Wis.) North in Softball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
March 27 -- Fort Walton (Fla.) Choctawhatchee in Softball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
March 28 -- Clayton Northmont and Vandalia Butler in Softball at the Beach in Destin, Fla.
April 4 -- at Big Walnut
April 5 -- vs. Dublin Jerome
April 7 -- vs. Hilliard Davidson and New Albany
April 9 -- at Dublin Coffman
*April 11 -- vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 12 -- at Westerville Central
April 14 -- at Marysville with DeSales
*April 16 -- vs. Westerville South
*April 18 -- vs. Olentangy
*April 19 -- at Westerville North
April 21 -- at Lancaster with Whitehall
*April 23 -- at Olentangy Liberty
*April 25 -- vs. Westerville Central
*April 26 -- at Westerville South
April 28 -- at Grove City with Dresden Tri-Valley
*April 30 -- at Olentangy
May 1 -- at Thomas Worthington
*May 2 -- vs. Westerville North
May 3 -- at Ready
May 4 -- vs. Hartley
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 5 -- At Westerville Central
April 7 -- Home vs. Medina
*April 10 -- Home vs. New Albany
*April 5 -- Home vs. Central
April 7 -- Home vs. Columbus School for Girls
*April 10 -- At New Albany
*April 5 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty
*April 10 -- At Central
TRACK & FIELD
April 7 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North
April 9 -- At Olentangy
*April 5 -- Home vs. Central