In an effort to counter getting hit hard by graduation last spring, the St. Luke's School baseball team will turn to consistent hitting, along with strong defense and pitching in 2010.

St. Luke's, which went 8-10 overall, including a loss to Hopkins in the first round of the Fairchester Athletic Association playoffs, lost 11 players to graduation. It also lost a coach in its program, as Mitch Hoffman is now coaching the varsity club across town at New Canaan High.

"Anytime you lose this many seniors it's going to be an adjustment," head coach Jonathan Lord said.

Having coached many of the team's newcomers in other sports, and having taught them in the classroom, Lord (a history teacher at the school), has developed a rapport with the athletes.

"My familiarity with these kids has gone a long way in easing the transition," he said.

With that in mind, Lord isn't afraid of sticking with his usual aspirations.

"Our goal every year is to win the FAA regular season and tournament titles," he said.

Winning it all certainly doesn't stand to be easy. The FAA is deep, Lord notes, and he expects last year's regular season champion Hopkins and tourney champ Brunswick to be among those fighting for titles again this season.

"I certainly think it's going to be a challenge for us to get there," the coach acknowledged. "My expectations are to really get better every day -- to take advantage of every opportunity to get better."

The coach adds that the players will have to put in a lot of hard work in practices. He says enthusiasm, character and overall baseball ability are the strengths of this group.

This year, chemistry may be key, as it remains to be seen if this team has the clutch, power hitter that's been in the Crusaders' lineup in recent history. So far, early returns are positive. The team displayed strong defense and an ability to routinely put the ball in play in its preseason and early season games this past week.

"I think there's a high level of baseball ability in this group. But there's an even higher ceiling," said Lord, explaining that his players will continue to develop and grow as the season unfolds.

This year's captains are senior pitcher/outfielder Ryan Giggi, senior pitcher/first baseman Andrew Bradley and junior catcher/pitcher Jake Archey. Lord described these players as excellent leaders. Archey was a First Team All-FAA catcher last season. Bradley and Giggi are competing for spots at the top of the pitching rotation.

The three captains are the only returning players from 2009. The rest of the team is comprised of 10 juniors and five sophomores, all of whom will be competing for playing time, Lord said.

While winning the FAA season and tourney title is always the goal, "some of the more immediate goals include improving team defense and communication, as well as developing a deeper pitching staff," Lord said. "This group of players has excellent chemistry and is extremely coachable. I am very optimistic about the upcoming season."