Members of the Gahanna Lincoln High School softball team finally got to leave Ohio State with smiles on their faces and games left to be played.

Members of the Gahanna Lincoln High School softball team finally got to leave Ohio State with smiles on their faces and games left to be played.

The Lions defeated Central Crossing 4-3 in a Division I regional championship on May 28 to return to the state final four for the first time since losing to Whitehouse Anthony Wayne 2-0 in the 2003 final.

"We've been so close so many times," said senior third baseman Tiyona Marshall, who played on teams that lost in a regional semifinal to Lebanon 5-4 in 2008 and to Grove City 1-0 in a regional final last season. Both games were at Ohio State. "It was a little nerve-wracking, I'm not going to lie, but I have faith in my team. We've come such a long way. I knew we could do this."

The Lions, who improved to 19-10 overall and was ranked seventh in the final state poll, will face either West Chester Lakota West or Liberty Township Lakota East in a state semifinal 12:30 p.m. Friday, June 3, at Akron's Firestone Stadium. The Comets, who were ranked third in the state poll, finished 25-3 overall.

Gahanna, winners of three consecutive one-run games, took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Junior Emily Vinsel started the rally by lining shot off the lip of the left field wall for a double and then scored on a single by sophomore Olivia Schumacher, who later scored on a double by sophomore Sara Nelson. Courtesy runner Rachel Zink scored the third run on a single by junior Montana Fishel.

Central Crossing rallied to cut the deficit to 4-3 with a run in the seventh and had runners on second and third with two outs, but Gahanna senior pitcher Brandis Fishel struck out Paige Rhodes to end the game.

"We started (hitting) a little bit later than we normally do and Gahanna started (hitting early)," Central Crossing coach Rona Dorsey said. "We didn't want to have the season end this way, but they've had a season full of memories."