Tom Marker is all about his team being aggressive.
The first-year Olentangy Orange High School baseball coach wants his players to put pressure on opponents by being aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths.
Marker replaced Phil Callaghan, who resigned after eight seasons. The 1999 Steubenville graduate has a 197-130 career record with stints at Upper Arlington (2015-18), Bexley (2010-14) and Independence (2006-08), and he also was the pitching coach at Grove City in 2009.
"We talk about being aggressive and making aggressive mistakes," Marker said. "These guys play at a high level in summer baseball and they have been successful in those leagues. They can't be afraid to be aggressive and make mistakes."
Marker inherited a team that was 16-12 overall last spring and finished third (7-8) in the OCC-Buckeye Division behind Liberty (14-1) and Olentangy (11-4).
The Pioneers were 2-3 before playing Grove City on April 2. They lost their first three contests during their spring-break trip before rebounding to win twice.
Orange lost to Bartlett (Tennessee) 9-4 and Oxford (Mississippi) 10-0 in six innings March 23 and Toccoa (Georgia) Stephens County 3-1 on March 27. It defeated Greenfield (Tennessee) 13-8 on March 29 and Nashville (Tennessee) Ensworth 16-10 on March 30.
"I think we started rough, but we figured some things out after the third game," senior outfielder Robbie Dayhuff said. "We had energy issues, especially when we got down (in the score).
"Coach has been telling us that when you're batting, you need to stay aggressive. Don't let a first-pitch fastball go right by you right down the (middle). You have to be ready for it."
Dayhuff batted .270 with 10 RBI and 17 runs scored last season and is one of three returning starters. Junior Zane Lattig is back as one of the team's top pitchers after going 4-3 with 2.08 ERA in 30 1/3 innings with 24 strikeouts and eight walks. Junior Braden Riley played second base and shortstop last spring.
Senior Tyler Ross missed last season with a knee injury. As a sophomore, he started at shortstop and also was a pitcher.
"We have some returning guys and some young talent," said Marker, whose team opens league play Friday, April 5, at Liberty. "If the younger kids play above their level, we should do well."
Sophomore Connor Till will catch with Ross and Lattig rotating at first base. Riley is at second with freshman Matthew Wolfe at shortstop and sophomore Josh Laisure at third. Dayhuff will play left field with sophomore Caden Konczak in center. Senior Jackson Vaughan, juniors Dean Belinger and David Hughes and sophomores Sam Sells and Logan Shearer all are in contention for playing time in right.
Lattig will lead the pitching staff, followed by Laisure and juniors Kyle Dickson and Lukas Cameron. Left-handers Bel-inger, Hughes and Vaughan will come out of the bullpen, as will Wolfe.
"I think our staff is really deep, and they have a good mix of pitches," Marker said. "The depth of our staff is sound. I like our mix of older and younger guys."
New coach excited about softball team
New coach Mason Robinson is thrilled to have taken the reins of the softball team at her alma mater.
The 2012 Orange graduate was a pitcher at Murray State, from which she graduated in 2017. She replaced Jenna Haskins, who left Orange after two seasons to begin the softball program at Berlin.
Last spring, the Pioneers finished 10-18 overall and 3-7 in the OCC-Buckeye.
"Even from when I was in high school, my dream was always to come back here and coach the program that I helped start," said Robinson, who was a member of Orange's first freshman class. "I have wanted to come back and make it a top-notch program."
Orange gave Robinson a victory in her first contest, defeating Licking Heights 6-0 on March 23 as senior pitcher Brenna Oliver threw a three-hitter. The Pioneers did not play during spring break and returned to action April 1 with a 12-2 loss to Buckeye Valley.
Oliver, who also is a corner infielder, is one of four returning starters. She was 4-7 with a 4.47 ERA, 55 strikeouts and 23 walks in 89 1/3 innings and batted .303 with 10 RBI last season, when she was honorable mention all-league.
Ali Rubal (special mention all-league) is another corner infielder and pitcher. The sophomore was 5-8 with a 4.69 ERA, 52 strikeouts and 41 walks in 85 innings last spring. She batted .341 with six RBI and led Orange in runs (22) and stolen bases (5).
Junior Teresa Hawk returns at catcher and junior Kinleigh Hill is back in the outfield.
"It is pretty much a brand new team," said Robinson, whose team opens OCC-Buckeye play Wednesday, April 10, at Liberty. "Our coaches have really started from scratch and are building a new culture. We also have been working on the mental part of the game."
Senior Brenna O'Reilly and junior Tatum Bardash also are in the corner-infield rotation. Sophomore Morgan Woycitzky plays second and freshman Riley Jestadt is at shortstop.
Hill will be in center field. Joining her in the outfield will be O'Reilly, junior Delaney Phillips and freshman Katie Holmes.
Others looking to contribute are sophomore Tristen Hatfield (C/OF) and freshman Morgan Powell (C/P).
Boys volleyball team set for second season
Coach Karlie Foy is ready for the boys volleyball team's second season.
The Pioneers finished 12-11 overall and 2-8 in the OCC-Buckeye last year.
"It's nice to not start from square one like last year," said Foy, whose team opens Thursday, April 4, at Liberty in a league match. "The practices started at a higher level and the players are learning twice as fast because they are surrounded by kids that know the drills."
The Pioneers return four starters -- all sophomores -- in setter/outside hitter Sam Cochran (127 assists, 130 digs), defensive specialist Lawton Hinley, (second-team all-league; 49 kills, 273 digs), outside hitter Luke Little (honorable mention all-region, second-team all-league; 184 kills, 178 digs, 49 aces) and setter/outside hitter Jake Smith (221 assists, 71 aces).
Senior middle hitter Mason Sears came off the bench last season. The only other senior is right-side hitter Alex Manngard.
"Most of our roster is still sophomores," Foy said. "Mason has really stepped up to be a great leader for us. We had a lot of open gyms and he made sure everyone felt welcome. By the time practices started, we were a much different team than the one that came to the first open gym."
Also on the roster are juniors Max Geiger (right-side hitter), Blake Saffell (right-side hitter) and Tommy Schnieder (middle hitter), sophomores Arman Faghihi (right-side hitter), Alex Heffner (defensive specialist) and Jake Mattingly (defensive specialist) and freshman Evan Schultz (defensive specialist).
"We need to work on consistency," Foy said. "Some days we will do a drill and get it done in five minutes, and then next day it can take 20 minutes. We need to do the same thing with the same level of intensity every time."
Below are the coming schedules for the Orange baseball, boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, softball, boys tennis, track & field and boys volleyball teams:
*April 5 -- At Liberty
*April 8 -- Home vs. Liberty
*April 10 -- Home vs. Westerville Central
*April 4 -- Home vs. Central
April 6 -- Home vs. Olmsted Falls
*April 9 -- At New Albany
*April 4 -- At Central
*April 9 -- Home vs. New Albany
April 5 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
April 8 -- At Canal Winchester
*April 10 -- At Liberty
April 4 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
*April 9 -- At Liberty
TRACK & FIELD
April 6 -- Stingel Invitational at Pickerington North
April 10 -- At Olentangy
*April 4 -- At Liberty
April 6 -- Home vs. Gahanna and Stow-Munroe Falls
*April 9 -- Home vs. Central