Mike Weer realizes he has some big shoes to fill as the new baseball coach at Hilliard Darby High School.

Weer replaces Chris Fugitt, who had been the Panthers’ only coach since Darby opened in the fall of 1997.

Fugitt, who posted a 348-243 record in his 21 seasons, stepped down days after his team lost to Olentangy 5-4 in a Division I district final to finish 21-8 overall. Fugitt wanted to spend more time with his family.

“This is absolutely an honor,” said Weer, who has been an assistant with the Panthers for 12 seasons. “Chris built a first-class program, so this is both exciting and daunting. The best news is that the rest of the staff also returns and we’ve got some good, young talent entering the varsity to go along with a small group of experienced players coming back.

“Our approach and expectations will remain the same and we’ll all be on the same page like we’ve always been in this program. We just want to continue the success that Chris built and do whatever we can to help the kids enjoy their high school experience.”

The Panthers have reached a district final in four consecutive seasons and have captured four league titles in row after going 9-3 to win the OCC-Cardinal Division last spring.

“Mike has been with the program for maybe 16 years total, although he took a hiatus for about four years to spend time with his family,” Fugitt said. “His baseball knowledge is off the charts and he has great relationships with the kids. He’s a great situational coach in terms of knowing matchups and in-game adjustments. It’ll be a smooth transition.”

Fugitt’s teams won six OCC championships (2007, ’08, ’15, ’16, ’17, ’18) and four district titles (2007, ’08, ’13, ’17) and recorded 13 winning seasons, including seven in which Darby posted at least 20 wins.

Weer is expected to have a young squad in 2019, as the Panthers lost 10 players to graduation.