Coach: Curt Mellott, 14th season.
2013: 11-14, 3-7 Northern Ohio League (4th place).
Returning letterwinners: Seniors Nate Hoyda (P/C); Garrett Bean (2B/SS); Jeffrey Crawford (OF/P). Junior Tyler Hossler (P/3B). Sophomores Christian Magill (SS/P); Aaron Sostaric (1B/P).
Others: Seniors Tyler Gillig (3B/2B/P); John Van Camp (OF/P); Kyler Cook (OF). Juniors Matthew Kiser (1B/C); Nathaniel Gilmer (C/OF); Van Williams (P); Jack Burkes (3B/P); Mason Mullennex (2B/DH); Derek Bell (OF/1B). Freshman Russ Yeast (OF/P).
Outlook: Mellott better have some extra security around practice guarding the equipment shed. Hoyda likes to steal.
The second team All-NOL and honorable mention All-District selection swiped a school record 32 bases last year, breaking a mark that stood for 27 years. He brings a .356 average back to the Tornado lineup as Mellott is looking forward to see what Hoyda and the rest of the senior class can do in their final year wearing the blue and gold.
"I am anxious to see how well this senior group is able to build upon the success they have had the past several years in baseball, as well as a class throughout their other sports," Mellott said. "I think this group of young men have a great approach and work hard every day in practices and scrimmages."
Hoyda also went 3-2 on the mound last year, and Mellott said he'll be looked upon to lead a pitching staff deep in arms.
"Nate Hoyda returns as the No. 1, with experience returning in the form of Tyler Hossler, Jeffrey Crawford, Aaron Sostaric and Christian Magill," Mellott said. "We also have other quality arms in various roles in freshman Russ Yeast, juniors Jack Burkes and Van Williams and senior situational guys in Tyler Gillig and John Van Camp."
When asked about the strengths of the team, Mellott didn't single out a specific area of play, rather, he mentioned the mental strength of the team.
"I think this group is very hungry for success and has shown to be very coachable with an outstanding work ethic," he said. "We definitely have shown signs of being able to put things together to become a very good team. The true test will be to see how our team leaders shape us to be a cohesive unit that believes in themselves and their abilities."
According to Mellott, the leadership is key as Columbian tries to compete in a loaded NOL. Norwalk and Bellevue already present a formidable challenge for league supremacy. And, this year Ontario gets added to the mix, a district champion from last year that was ranked No. 1 in the state at the end of the regular season.
"I believe the NOL will continue to be a very solid baseball league with some great talent and excellent coaching throughout," Mellott said. "Our goals for the baseball program have remained constant throughout the years. We want to focus our efforts towards playing as a team, playing with consistent effort and being able to build great individuals through the sport of baseball. Winning happens when you are able to do the little things well and maintain positive leadership.
"I believe we should be competing for a league title along with the likes of everyone else. Our league had several great teams last season in Norwalk and Bellevue. This year the league adds Ontario, who is a proven winner and last year's Division III poll champion. Bellevue and Shelby return key guys and Norwalk is extremely well-coached and disciplined. Willard and Sandusky are going to be very tough and athletic teams who will battle each time out."