During its breakthrough run to a Division I district final last season, the Reynoldsburg High School softball team benefited from having one of central Ohio's top hitters at the top of its lineup.
Mackenzie Huey, a 2018 graduate, is now starting for Mount Vernon Nazarene after batting .563 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI last season. She also was 9-7 with a 1.74 ERA as the team's No. 1 pitcher.
The Raiders also lost three other starters from a team that went 15-10 overall and reached a district semifinal for the first time since 1999.
What Reynoldsburg hopes will bring it continued success this spring is that there is experience throughout what could be a deeper overall lineup, as well as a continuing stream of young talent in the program.
"Our struggle last year (was) to get a team effort to support (Huey)," coach Tony Rettke said. "As soon as teams realized how good she was, they could neutralize her by walking her. This year, I've got more depth in the lineup (and) more options in the lineup. We've just got to get consistency. I've got it spread where you can move runners and we're not relying on one hitter."
The Raiders opened with a 14-5 loss to Westerville North on March 23 and had their game March 25 against Briggs postponed because of bad weather. They had their game March 29 against Licking Heights postponed, faced Lakewood on April 2 and open OCC-Ohio Division action Wednesday, April 10, at home against Gahanna.
Now in its fourth year under Rettke, Reynoldsburg snapped a 101-game league losing streak during his first season in 2016 when it went 6-21 and improved to 9-13 in 2017 when it won one league game. Last season, the Raiders improved to 4-6 in the league.
Rettke's senior daughter, Olivia Rettke, is the No. 1 pitcher after going 5-3 with a 3.92 ERA last season. She also batted .338 with three homers and 16 RBI and has committed to Ohio Dominican.
Freshman Madelyn Rettke, who is another of the coach's daughters, also figures to see innings in the circle in addition to playing first base and second base.
Sophomore Paige Coey could see time in the circle in addition to second base and the outfield.
Junior Nicole Pearce (SS/3B/C) is among the team's top returning hitters after batting .378 last year with four homers, 15 RBI and a team-best 31 runs.
Senior Zoe Kirk (C/SS), who batted .305 with 12 RBI, and classmates Alexis Langwasser (CF), Amanda McIntyre (LF) and Alejandra Zamora (2B/3B) are other key returnees. Langwasser has committed to play soccer for Heidelberg.
Junior Deanna Boster, who could see time in the outfield or as a designated player, and junior Tiffany Bailey (OF/1B) are others in the lineup.
Freshman Alexis Romero (SS/3B/C) is another whom coach Rettke expects to contribute.
Juniors Ellie Rannenbarger and Josie Dunn likely will see time as courtesy runners.
"The two freshmen have good bats," coach Rettke said. "We've got several lefties this year, so the slapping abilities are there. Our batting average should go up this year.
"They're excited. We're hoping to knock off the two teams we haven't beaten in our league (since I took over as coach), which are (Pickerington) Central and Lancaster. I think they understand that we're taking positive steps, but we've got to keep working."
Boys tennis squad features veteran look
Of the 12 members of the boys tennis team, eight are seniors.
The top returnee is senior Boban Mihajlov, who played first singles last season.
Brett Stewart, who formerly coached at Springfield Shawnee and Urbana and then served as Reynoldsburg's junior high boys coach the past two years, has taken over the program.
Les Somogyi, who led the boys team the past four seasons, is expected to remain as the Raiders' girls coach.
"It's a really tough league that we play in, but I think with having a lot of experience and a lot of seniors, I'm expecting us to have a pretty good year and that the experience of the guys will carry over," Stewart said.
The Raiders, who went 7-12 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Ohio last season, open league action Tuesday, April 9, at home against Gahanna. They played their first dual match April 1 at Bexley.
Seniors Preston Harmon and Sean Burns and freshman James Knorr should join Mihajlov as singles players. Mihajlov, Harmon and Burns competed in the Division I sectional tournament in singles last season.
Senior Chase Cotner and sophomore Brian McClain could see time at first doubles, with seniors Mick Garlinger and Gunnar Green at second doubles.
Also in the program are seniors Noah Habtamariam and Mason Wightman and sophomores Ryan Burns and Dane Myers.
"Last year my (junior high) team was undefeated," Stewart said. "(Knorr) is the only player moving up, but next season there will be quite a few players moving up. (Eight) out of the 12 we have this year are seniors so we're pretty deep, which is nice."
Below are the coming schedules for the Reynoldsburg baseball, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 5 -- Home vs. Gahanna
April 6 -- At Dublin Coffman (DH)
*April 8 -- At Gahanna
*April 10 -- At Grove City
April 4 -- Home vs. Watterson
April 6 -- At Hamilton Township
April 8 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
*April 10 -- Home vs. Gahanna
April 4 -- Home vs. Central Crossing
April 5 -- At Buckeye Valley
April 6 -- At Watkins Memorial with Newark
April 8 -- Home vs. Dublin Scioto
*April 9 -- Home vs. Gahanna
April 10 -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial
TRACK & FIELD
April 6 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North
*April 4 -- Home vs. Pickerington North
April 6 -- Home vs. Licking Heights and Olentangy Berlin
*April 9 -- Home vs. Coffman
*April 10 -- At Upper Arlington