Of the 19 players on the Canal Winchester High School baseball roster to start the season, 16 have multiple positions listed next to their names.
For several reasons, third-year coach Tyler Kuhn doesn't want it any other way.
"Defensive flexibility is a big deal for me. I don't like guys that only play one position," Kuhn said. "It makes it difficult as a coach to get all your best bats in the lineup. With guys who can play multiple positions, it helps getting the right nine in the lineup. We move guys around all the time. We'd write a lineup for a scrimmage and then within the first three or four innings we were constantly moving guys."
Canal Winchester returns its top hitter from last season in junior catcher/third baseman Ben Stevens, who batted .377, as well as an undefeated pitcher in junior Reece Klamorick, who went 6-0 with a 0.71 ERA, 25 strikeouts and eight walks in 39 2/3 innings. Senior Bryce Palmer was 1-4 last year with a 4.20 ERA, 28 strikeouts and 19 walks in 26 2/3 innings and will exclusively pitch this season.
"I have a pretty live fastball and my breaking pitches have some life to them. I've worked a lot on those. I'm looking to add a few more mph to my fastball," Palmer said, adding that he has topped out at 87 mph. "I see myself as more of a leader for the pitching staff to rally behind. If anybody has a bad game, I want them to know they can come to me and I'll give a pep talk and help however I can."
The other players whom Kuhn plans to keep at one position this year are junior first baseman Hunter King and sophomore outfielder Jacob Francis, although Kuhn expects to move Francis between left, center and right field.
Canal Winchester was 0-2 before a game at Louisville (Kentucky) Ballard on March 26.
The Indians opened March 23 with a 17-7 loss to Chillicothe Zane Trace at V.A. Memorial Stadium and were one-hit March 25 in an 8-0 loss at St. Matthews (Kentucky) Trinity.
Last season, the Indians went 16-9 overall, placed third in the OCC-Capital Division at 9-5 and lost to Pickerington North 3-2 in the second round of Division I district tournament.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Josh Browning (OF/P), James Guccione (utility/P), Jacob Johnston (C/INF), Trevor Mays (P/C/2B/3B/IF) and Chase Moeller (INF/P), juniors Henry Conrad (utility/P), Joey Conrad (1B/OF/P), Lane Kastely (1B/OF), Jack Moore (utility/P), Jason Schmitz (utility/P) and Ryan Tackett (OF/P) and freshmen Zade Fusselman (1B/P), John Romig (utility/P) and Joey Young (INF/P).
"We have a good pitching core and we can field ground balls. That's going to help us win some games," Moeller said. "We all expect to do the same thing, compete for the OCC (-Capital) title every year and hopefully make a run in the tournament."
Canal Winchester's home opener is Tuesday, April 2, against Hartley. The Indians begin league play April 5 at Big Walnut.
Kuhn said he expects this team's personality to be a mix of his first two Indians teams.
"Even last year with having lost a bunch of seniors (from 2017), we never felt like we were rebuilding the team. We just had to change our style of play," Kuhn said. "We couldn't sit there and hit double after double and score 10 runs. We had to bunt. We had to run and draw walks. This group is interesting because I feel like it's a combination of both, where we have guys who can hit the ball in the gap, but we also have guys who can run and work at-bats."
Youth expected to lead softball team
The softball team returns eight players from last year's team that went 8-16 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Capital, but five are sophomores and three were injured either during the preseason or as the regular season began March 26 at home against Licking Heights.
Junior Kylie Harmon (SS/OF) and sophomore Dani Skinner (CF) have been injured, throwing what second-year coach Casey Whitlatch called "a monkey wrench" into the preseason, and sophomore Brooklyn Best (P/1B) missed two scrimmages because of illness.
The Indians' other returnees from last season are senior Kristin Shirey (3B/2B), junior Lexi Henkel (2B/3B) and sophomores Olivia Kolikohn (utility), Sam Peters (P/utility) and Samantha Zungri (P/utility).
"To this point, we've done a pretty good job. We're still trying to jell," Whitlatch said. "We've got some kids hurt and we're trying to put kids in spots. We're just trying to figure out what works and how we're going to proceed."
Peters led the team in batting average (.429) and hits (33) last season and had 21 RBI as well as two of the team's seven home runs. Best batted .388, Kolikohn had 28 hits and 20 RBI and Skinner had a team-high four homers.
"The experience of those five freshmen who are now sophomores will be huge. Then there's the leadership part of it and we're still trying to find that," Whitlatch said. "We've talked to them about how the team will be player-led. The core of our team, they have to have a piece of ownership. We're looking for girls to take advantage of their opportunities and hopefully everything will fall into place. We'll see how it works out."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Madison Johnley (2B/OF), Annebell Moore (OF) and Makayla Parson (2B/OF), sophomores Abby Harshman (1B) and Alayna Moore (C/OF) and freshmen Katie Bryant (OF/utility), Shayla Clanin (OF), Abby McIntosh (C), Julia Nein (utility) and Kailynn Zaluski (OF/utility).
Canal Winchester begins OCC-Capital play April 10 at Big Walnut. The Indians finished fifth in the league last year behind champion Groveport (9-1).
The team's originally scheduled opener March 25 at home against Thomas Worthington was postponed because of bad weather.
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester baseball, softball, boys tennis and track & field teams:
April 1 -- Lancaster at Beavers Field
April 2 -- Home vs. Hartley
March 28 -- At Bexley
March 30 -- Home vs. Westland (DH)
April 1 -- At Westerville North
April 2 -- Home vs. London
April 1 -- Home vs. Teays Valley
April 2 -- Home vs. Westland
April 3 -- Home vs. Grandview Heights
TRACK & FIELD
March 30 -- Newark Invitational
April 2 -- Home vs. Grove City