Coach: Jamie Lininger, 11th season
2013: 22-8, 9-2 MAL. District champions
Returning letterwinners: Seniors Taylor Kirian (P/OF); Morgan Noftz (OF/SS); Lauren Zoeller (OF/DP); Brittany Gillig (3B). Juniors Taylor Arbogast (C); Kara Scherger (SS/P); Hailey Theis (1B). Sophomore Leah Bouillon (OF/2B).
Others: Senior Ruthann Schreiner (DP/OF/2B); Lauren Ladd (1B). Junior Brittany Baker (UTIL). Freshmen Emily Hohman (2B); Ellysa Theis (OF/P/MI); Gidge Elchert (C/OF); Haley Hoepf (1B/OF); Kady Elchert (OF/1B).
Outlook: With eight starters back from a district championship team, expectations are high. Lininger will be the first to admit this team is capable of accomplishing some great things.
"I think we are capable of winning a lot of games," he said. "The expectations for this team are probably higher than any team we have ever had - and we've had some lofty goals for some of our teams in the past. We need to make sure we keep our egos in check and play like we are capable of playing every game. If we do that, I really think we could play for the state championship."
Lininger's words aren't hyperbole.
Included in the group of returns are six players who gathered an All-MAL honor, three All-District selections and one All-Ohioan. And that All-Ohioan just happens to hold the state record for home runs in a season (see cover story).
As a team last year, the Blue Jackets clubbed 36 home runs and each one is back. Four of the returners hit above .380.
"We have eight returning starters from a team that lost in the regionals last year," Lininger said. "You always like your chances when you had a successful season the year before and return that many starters. We are going to field a lineup where we will have eight or nine starters who are capable of hitting the ball out of the park. That's really incredible for a school of our size.
"Our defense was a lot better by the end of last year and I expect that to continue, and we have a solid pitcher in Taylor Kirian who seems to have picked up a little velocity since last year."
But it's not all peaches and cream for Lininger and the Blue Jackets. The one piece they do have to replace is their .421 hitting, all-district leadoff batter and second baseman. But as far as weaknesses though, they pretty much end there.
"Unlike a lot of years, I don't see a lot of weaknesses going into the season," Lininger said. "We are going to need to find someone to replace Cassandra Acree. Anytime you lose someone who is one base over half the time she came to the plate, that is a concern. Our defense has to continue to improve and we need to get consistency at the bottom of our order."