This might be the season the Grandview Heights High School baseball team puts everything together.
After having a record hovering around .500 each of the past two seasons, the Bobcats have veteran returning players who are ready to help them earn their first winning record since 2009.
Grandview lost only three players from last year's team that finished 14-14 overall and 5-5 in the MSL-Ohio Division. The team returns five starters and three of its top pitchers.
The Bobcats opened March 23 with an 8-2 win over Madison Plains and played Fairfield Christian on March 25. They begin MSL-Ohio play April 8 against Worthington Christian.
"We have been around the .500 mark for the last few seasons, and I would like to get off to a fast start, get a taste of winning and never look back," said fifth-year coach Tyler Fitzgerald, whose team was 10-14 in 2017. "A lot of our guys coming back are seniors and have played three years for us. They are champing at the bit for their turn, and they want to make the most of it."
One of those seniors is Jake Hollar, who is moving from center field to second base after having surgery on his right shoulder last July. He batted .376 last season with 17 RBI, a .467 on-base percentage and team highs in runs (33) and stolen bases (16).
"We can be just as good as last year, if not better," said Hollar, who was second-team all-district and first-team all-league. "We have just about everyone coming back and we have people at new positions who will be able to step up and play well."
Senior Gavin Van Horn (honorable mention all-district, second-team all-league) was mostly a reliever last season and moves into the starting rotation. The right-hander was 3-4 with a 4.85 ERA, 30 strikeouts and 24 walks in 21 2/3 innings, and he batted .295 with 21 RBI, 27 runs and 11 stolen bases.
Back in the starting rotation are senior Jon Vetter (second-team all-league; 4-1, 3.26 ERA, 20 strikeouts, 13 walks, 49 1/3 innings) and junior Luke Berlin (honorable mention all-league; 3-1, 3.18 ERA, 24 strikeouts, 5 walks, 39 2/3 innings).
"We have a lot of experience back," said Van Horn, who, in addition to pitching, is moving from shortstop to center field. "We didn't lose too many players from varsity, so we know what to expect."
The Bobcats also return their leading hitter in junior Joey Bertani, who was second-team all-district and league Player of the Year last spring. The first baseman led the Bobcats in batting average (.443), home runs (3), RBI (23), doubles (14) and on-base percentage (.510) and scored 23 runs.
Other returning starters are senior left fielder Sam Freeman and junior Sam Amurgis, who is moving from second to third.
Junior Jon-Micah Griffith, a move-in from Granville, takes over at catcher for junior Trey Cook, who will miss the season with a knee injury. Senior Liam O'Connor is at shortstop and seniors Kameron Carpenter, Cody Cook and Vetter and junior Glenn Cribbs will play in the outfield.
Carpenter split time between j.v. and varsity last season.
"The game is more intense (at the varsity level)," Carpenter said. "Coach has helped me keep my head in when hitting and bring my arm back farther to throw better."
Juniors Alex Sterneker (OF/P) and Josh Voltolini (DH/P), sophomore Johnny Clark (P/OF) and freshman Jadon Griffith (C/P/3B/OF) round out the roster.
"This is one of the most committed teams that we have had," Fitzgerald said. "They love to be at the ball field, they love to be around each other and they are all in it for the greater good."
Softball team expects to have potent offense
The softball team aims to have better production at the plate as it looks to improve on last season's mark of 6-15 overall and 2-6 in the MSL-Ohio.
Third-year coach Tori Lynch said the Bobcats put in work in the batting cages to get ready for the season, which began March 25 against Madison Plains.
"One of our biggest focuses has been hitting," Lynch said. "If you have a team with the bats moving, you can make up for mistakes in the field. We have a lot of strong hitters."
Grandview returns five starters in juniors Claire Bower (P/2B/OF), Taylor Fultz (P/OF), Jenna Richards (OF) and Marissa Tose (SS) and sophomore Emma Murphy (3B).
Bower and Fultz both pitched last season and will be joined in the circle by the program's lone senior, Chrissy Harker-Knight.
"I would like to have a three-pitcher rotation," Lynch said. "I also like our infield defense, especially on the left side with Emma at third and Marissa at short. Not a lot will get past them."
Sophomore Sami Swartz will catch with Harker-Knight, Fultz or sophomore Millie McNamara at first and junior Claudette Moul at second.
Richards will be in center field with Fultz or junior Maya Hanscel in left and Hanscel or McNamara in right.
"We need to get our outfield comfortable together and get them used to playing out there with each other," Lynch said. "They haven't had a lot of time working out there together."
Rounding out the roster are junior Lara Kowalcyk (2B/OF), sophomore Maggie Lyon (OF) and freshmen Simone Chordas (INF), Ava Cunningham (SS/OF), Mandy Headapohl (OF) and Maddie Hollar (OF).
The Bobcats open MSL-Ohio play Monday, April 1, at home against Bexley. Because the league consists of only Grandview, Bexley, Whitehall and Worthington Christian, the teams will play each other three times.
Below are the coming schedules for the Grandview Heights baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
March 28 -- At Centennial
March 30 -- At Franklin Heights (DH)
April 2 -- Home vs. Westland
*April 1 -- Home vs. Bexley
*April 3 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
*April 2 -- At Worthington Christian
April 3 -- At Canal Winchester
TRACK & FIELD
April 1 -- At Olentangy Liberty with Dublin Scioto