With just 13 players on its roster, the Reynoldsburg High School baseball team understands that staying healthy will be among its biggest priorities this spring.
The Raiders' lack of numbers, though, isn't a reflection of the quality that exists in the program, according to fourth-year coach Bob Benjamin.
"We're really excited about this group," he said. "I know I say that every year, but there's lots of talent. I really have high hopes for this team."
The return of five seniors is one of the biggest reasons for optimism as the Raiders look to improve on last season's 8-18 finish.
Reynoldsburg, which opened March 26 against Newark and plays its OCC-Ohio Division opener April 5 against Gahanna, should be led by seniors Michael Tooker (P/1B/RF), Drew Hall (P/3B/SS), Ryan Grant (P/CF), Bradley Thompson (P/2B/3B) and Brock Mason (P/1B/3B).
Tooker pitched a complete game in the second round of the Division I district tournament last season as 32nd-seeded Reynoldsburg lost to 16th-seeded Marysville 4-2.
The Raiders upset 18th-seeded Mount Vernon 7-5 in a first-round game.
Reynoldsburg also will be looking for its first OCC-Ohio win since May 2017 after going 0-15 in the league last season.
Tooker struck out 23 in 37 1/3 innings, while Mason had a 3.86 ERA in 29 innings and junior Reece Crabtree (SS/P) had a 3.40 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
Hall pitched only 9 1/3 innings but should see more time on the mound this spring. He hit .333 last season.
The other senior is utility player Evan Perrion. Junior Kaleb Holland will see time in center field and left field, and sophomore Corey Brafford will be at shortstop when Crabtree is pitching.
Juniors Matt Wells and Drew Cook are the primary catchers, with Wells also expected to see time at third base and Cook also likely to play second base.
Juniors James Dean (OF/2B) and Gavin Smith (2B/OF) are other key players.
"We can't afford any injuries at all," Benjamin said.
Boys volleyball team continuing to build
Now in its third season, the boys volleyball team has 13 players and is hoping to continue its progression after going 5-18 overall last year for a three-win improvement.
Senior outside hitter Bryce Jenkins, who was eligible for the second half of last season after transferring from Licking Heights, senior opposite hitter Boyd Davis and junior outside hitter Donovan Travis are the top returnees. Davis and Travis both spent most of last season on junior varsity.
Senior Xavier Prince, who competed for the boys basketball program and is new to the sport, is at setter and middle hitter.
Senior Daylen Washington is another newcomer who will see time at setter and middle hitter.
The Raiders opened March 25 against Delaware and play their OCC-Ohio opener Thursday, March 28, at Pickerington Central.
They went 0-12 in their first season in the league last spring.
"I'm excited for the season," coach Matt Bailey said. "I'm very optimistic, and I think this is our year to win a couple games in the OCC. I think we're going to get more wins than in years past. My goal is to win our first (postseason) match."
Also on the team are sophomores Ethan Capetillo (setter), Sam Gilmore (opposite hitter), J.J. Massengale (outside hitter) and Gabe Sargent (defensive specialist) and freshmen Desmond Barber (opposite hitter), Caleb Meyer (defensive specialist), Fergus Theibert (defensive specialist) and Brent Turner (defensive specialist).
"Things are looking promising," Bailey said.
"What's good is that Bryce and Donovan played club this year, so they've got that experience. Having school experience last year is helping Boyd come into his own. The athletic ability of Daylen and Xavier helps out tremendously. With it being our third year as a program, we're starting out far better than in the last two years."
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
March 30 -- Home vs. Whitehall
April 1 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy
March 29 -- At Licking Heights
April 2 -- Home vs. Lakewood
April 1 -- At Bexley
April 2 -- At Westerville South
April 3 -- At Newark
TRACK & FIELD
March 30 -- Icebreaker Invitational at Watkins Memorial
April 2 -- At Westland