Despite losing 12 players to graduation, Grove City High School baseball coach Ryan Alexander is optimistic his team still can achieve its main goals.
Alexander's confidence stems from a deep pitching staff led by seniors Jacob Boyd, Tyler Ebert (INF), Connor Goss and Garrett Hardy (1B) and juniors Gavin Wolf (3B) and Brayden Skibinski. Hardy will pitch in relief and the rest are starters.
"We did lose a lot of our bats in our lineup, so the thing now is seeing how fast our bats catch up to varsity-level pitching," Alexander said. "We have a lot of pitchers back who've thrown a lot of innings. With the youth that we have in the field and at the plate, our pitching is going to have to carry us early until our bats can catch up."
Alexander, who is in his 11th season, again is stressing the importance of aiming for league and district titles along with a 20-win season.
"The goals are OCC title, 20 wins and district championship," Alexander said. "They never change. ... It starts with pitching. With the arms that we have, I'll put us up against anybody."
The Greyhounds fell short of their three major goals last season, finishing 18-9 overall and 8-6 in the OCC-Ohio Division and losing to Marysville 1-0 in a Division I district semifinal.
The Greyhounds opened March 23 by splitting a pair of games in Oxford, Alabama, defeating Hamburg (New York) 10-7 and losing to Oxford 15-4 in five innings. Grove City, which faced Auburndale (Florida) on March 25, plays host to Thomas Worthington on Monday, April 1.
Grove City begins OCC-Ohio play April 5 at Lancaster.
Another key returnee is junior Jacob Burris, who has moved from the outfield to catcher in place of 2018 graduate Brian Lee. Last season, Burris hit .347 and was honorable mention all-district.
"Every year at the beginning of the season, it's always 20 wins, it's always winning the OCC and it's always winning district and then keep playing," Burris said. "We love competing every single day. Grove City is going to get everybody's best shot, so we love playing in a tough (league)."
Hardy batted .316 and senior D.J. Neff (2B) hit .310 last spring.
Other returnees are seniors Luke Barnhart (OF), Aaron Marshall (P/DH) and Reece Wolfinger (OF/P) and juniors Laythen Arnold (OF), Zach Elliott (OF) and Colby Gulick (utility).
Barnhart will play at Otterbein, Ebert and Hardy will play at Muskingum and Boyd and Goss will play at Wittenberg.
Other players are seniors Nate Catlett (C), Alex Spohn (OF/P) and Thane Wilson (OF/DH), juniors Cole Schreck (P), Luke Smith (OF/1B) and Brayden Quincel (INF) and sophomores Jared Knight (P/OF) and Sam Roy (C).
"We're looking strong," Burris said. "Our bats are really hot and we have a really great core of pitchers. With senior Jacob Boyd and junior Gavin Wolf, that's going to be really strong, along with Connor Goss. We're going to be a pretty solid ball club this year."
Alexander is hoping another challenging schedule, including league play, will help prepare his team for a long postseason run.
"Pick North, Gahanna (and) Lancaster are going to be really good this year," he said. "Pick Central was good last year. Out of the (OCC), Upper Arlington should be really good. Olentangy Liberty will be good again. I heard New Albany is really good, so it will be a good one."
A major loss to graduation was Nick Erwin (SS/P), who batted .342 with 18 RBI and scored 17 runs last season. Erwin, who is playing at Ohio State, was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league.
Softball team hopes to contend for titles
The softball team entered the season looking to compete for OCC-Ohio and Division I district titles.
Grove City opened March 23 by losing to Mount Ulla (North Carolina) West Rowan 12-2 in six innings before competing in the Grand Strand Softball Classic, which began March 25 and concludes Friday, March 29, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The Greyhounds open OCC-Ohio play April 10 at Lancaster.
"We want to win the league and go from there," said coach Ted Williams, who is in his 19th season. "We have some nice speed with some sticks. We don't have a dominant pitcher who is going to strike out 14 a game. We're going to play a little bit of defense and all-around we're pretty decent."
Last season, Grove City went 18-10 overall and 5-5 in the league to tie Gahanna for third behind champion Lancaster (8-2).
The Greyhounds return a strong nucleus led by senior pitcher Mylie Torres, who led the team in batting average (.483) and RBI (36) last season and was 13-7 with a 3.89 ERA, 88 strikeouts and 32 walks in 109 2/3 innings. She was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Senior outfielder Abby Tschiggfrie hit .398 with eight doubles, five home runs and 27 RBI and was first-team all-league.
Sophomore outfielder Maddie Wilcox batted .473 with 21 RBI and a team-high 38 runs and tied Tschiggfrie for the team lead in home runs with five. She was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Sophomore shortstop Sydney Sharron batted .374 with eight doubles and 31 runs and was second-team all-league.
Chloe Clark (2B) hit .333 and Kendall Weber (designated player/3B) hit .310. Both are sophomores.
Other returnees are seniors Grace Freeman (P/1B) and Lauren Walls (OF), juniors Katelyn DeWeese (1B), Anna Papas (3B) and Emma Sigman (OF) and sophomore Avery Ciborek (C).
Other players are senior Riley Biri (2B), junior Hannah Brode (C) and sophomores Ginger Sayre (OF) and Ashlynn Stinson (P/2B).
"We have a nice core of young kids and little bit older kids," Williams said. "Everybody is doing everything they need to do to lead, taking care of their own business."
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 1 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
April 2 -- At Olentangy Orange
April 3 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
March 28 -- Geneseo (Ill.) in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
March 29 -- Maple Park (Ill.) Kaneland in Grand Strand Softball Classic in Myrtle Beach
April 2 -- At Ready
April 3 -- At Groveport
April 2 -- At Central Crossing
TRACK & FIELD
April 2 -- At Canal Winchester