Throughout his tenure as Worthington Christian High School baseball coach, Tim Kraynak has stressed the importance of bonding and keeping busy with the sport during the offseason.
Perhaps more than any previous offseason, he also encouraged his returning players to make a commitment to the weight room considering all but one player was eligible to return after the Warriors went 18-10 overall last spring.
The results, he believes, have been promising.
"It's been a great group of guys that enjoy working, so hopefully we'll see the fruits of that," said Kraynak, who is in his 15th season. "We've seen significant gains and all the guys who participated have put on 10 to 15 pounds. You can see the differences in velocity and the ability to just hit with more power at the plate. Whenever guys start to see the gains, it creates more and more incentive for them to want to do it. It's a contagious environment."
The Warriors opened with five games in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, before beginning the MSL-Ohio Division schedule April 2 by beating Grandview 11-4. Worthington Christian finished fourth (6-6) in the league last season behind champion Bexley (10-1), but one of the teams that finished ahead of the Warriors, West Jefferson (9-3), is no longer in the league.
Worthington Christian opened with a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati Mariemont on March 26. It then lost to Elgin (Illinois) 4-2 on March 27, Wynnewood (Pa.) Friends' Central 11-1 on March 28 and Hartville Lake Center Christian 7-3 on March 29 before beating Wintersville Indian Creek 7-5 on March 30.
"The team has looked really good all offseason and we've made huge strides since last spring," senior Conner Crawford said. "We hope to win the league for the time at our school in the past 15 years and to compete (deep into the postseason)."
Crawford sat out the first 13 games last season after transferring from Westerville South. He then batted .478 with one home run and 18 RBI in 46 at-bats and went 1-3 with a 2.82 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings.
Crawford, who has committed to Taylor University, figures to play shortstop and serve as the No. 1 pitcher. He also could see time at catcher.
Seniors Josh DeMarco (CF), Danny Myers (C/RF) and Mike Rettstatt (P/3B) also should fill key roles.
Myers was penciled in as the starter in right field but is starting at catcher after junior Derek Fabian suffered an injury in mid-March that likely will sideline him for much or all of the season.
Fabian hit .378 with one home run and 19 RBI last season, and Myers had 18 RBI. Rettstatt batted .289 with 13 RBI and was 6-1 with a 1.18 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings.
Junior Nathan Sewall should be one of the team's top pitchers after going 3-3 with a 2.65 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 42 1/3 innings. He also should start at first base.
Junior Nathaniel Elliott started in left field most of last season and figures to be a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Sophomore Cooper Crawford (SS/P) went 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA, and sophomore Jack Lockhart (2B/3B/P) had a 2.70 ERA in 23 1/3 innings.
The other seniors in the program are Grant Burt (2B) and Alex Poke (OF).
Freshman Ethan Kraynak, who is the coach's son, is a starter in the outfield.
Freshmen Braden Anderson (P) and Zach Hoheisel (1B) also are looking to contribute.
Senior Matt McCoy (INF/P) transferred to Olentangy Orange. The only player lost to graduation was Ry Nicholson (OF).
"We've got some good young talent and some freshmen that will help us," coach Kraynak said.
Young talent abounds for boys tennis team
New coach Dino Tsibouris is excited to see what the boys tennis team can produce this season with a mix that includes just two seniors but a strong sophomore class.
A 1986 Worthington Christian graduate who played on the school's first boys tennis team, Tsibouris is a former assistant middle school and former varsity assistant coach at the school. He took over after Justin Bays stepped down at the end of his fourth season.
Another 1986 graduate, Mary Homoelle, is assisting. Both Tsibouris and Homoelle have sons on the team.
"We have a young team with a lot of players who practice in the offseason," Tsibouris said. "We have six players who take private lessons, so that's a good baseline for us. We've got some alternate players that will be good, too."
Senior AjAi Smith, who played third singles most of last season, was among the leading candidates to be at first singles when the Warriors opened April 3 with an MSL-Ohio match at Grandview.
Sophomore Peter Tsibouris also is expected to be one of the regulars in singles, while senior Isaac Deskins likely will be at one of the singles spots or first doubles.
Last season, the Warriors went 8-3 overall and placed third (4-2) in the MSL-Ohio behind Columbus Academy (6-0) and Bexley (5-1). Wellington, which also figures to be one of the area's best Division II teams, has joined the league.
In last year's Division II sectional, Smith and Tsibouris each lost in the second round and Deskins lost in the first round in singles.
Sophomore Tommy Robinson should see time at singles and doubles.
Sophomores Jake Flanagan, Benjy Homoelle, Aaron Pettit and Caleb Slagle and freshman Davis Homoelle also are looking to contribute.
Also in last year's postseason, 2017 graduates Ben Kindberg and Chris Tsibouris placed fourth at sectional in doubles before losing in the first round at district. Chris Tsibouris is now playing for Cedarville.
"It's definitely a building year because we've got a much younger team," coach Tsibouris said. "One of the reasons I took the job was obviously because I like the program, but the kids are just a great group of kids. The kids on the team have been together for years and there's just a really positive attitude on the team. ... I think we'll win a good number of matches."
March 26 -- Cincinnati Mariemont in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 27 -- Elgin (Ill.) in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 28 -- Wynnewood (Pa.) Friends' Central in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 29 -- Hartville Lake Center Christian in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 30 -- Wintersville Indian Creek in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
*April 2 -- vs. Grandview
*April 4 -- at Grandview
*April 9 -- at Columbus Academy
April 10 -- vs. Centerburg
*April 11 -- vs. Columbus Academy
*April 16 -- vs. London
*April 18 -- at London
April 19 -- at Fairbanks
April 21 -- at West Jefferson
*April 23 -- at Whitehall
April 24 -- vs. Newark Catholic
*April 25 -- vs. Whitehall
April 27 -- at Utica
April 28 -- at Hartley (DH)
*April 30 -- at Bexley
May 1 -- at Watterson
*May 2 -- vs. Bexley
May 3 -- at Olentangy Orange
*April 3 -- at Grandview
*April 5 -- vs. Columbus Academy
April 9 -- at Granville
*April 10 -- at Wellington
*April 12 -- at Bexley
April 13 -- vs. Buckeye Valley
April 14 -- at Teays Valley
*April 17 -- vs. Whitehall
*April 19 -- vs. London
April 20 -- at Upper Arlington
April 24 -- at Marysville
April 26 -- at Village Academy
April 27 -- vs. Westerville North
May 1 -- at Big Walnut
May 7 -- vs. DeSales
Below are the coming schedules for the Worthington Christian softball and track & field teams:
April 7 -- Home vs. Fisher Catholic
April 10 -- At Liberty Union
TRACK & FIELD
April 6 -- Diller Invitational at Buckeye Valley