The Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team's belief in itself hasn't wavered as it approaches the Division I district tournament.
The Lions, despite having their OCC-Ohio Division title hopes dashed by recent one-run losses to Lancaster (3-2 on April 25), Grove City (2-1 on April 26) and Pickerington North (3-2 on May 1), are expecting to be a contender for a district championship.
One glimmer of hope occurred April 29 during an 11-1 win over visiting Grove City, which has been in the thick of the league title race all season.
The Lions received the sixth seed for the district tournament and open the postseason Wednesday, May 15, against visiting Westland, which is seeded 41st. The winner plays 15th-seeded Westerville South, 23rd-seeded Hilliard Bradley or 26th-seeded Upper Arlington in a district semifinal May 20 at Grove City.
"If we do what we did (April 29), we've got a tough lineup from top to bottom," senior Christian Chiero said. "I think we're on the right track."
Chiero (SS/3B/P) is one player who knows what it's like to be moving in the right direction offensively.
Last season while batting fifth, he hit in all but one game and ended the season on a 17-game hitting streak.
He is batting second this spring, and through 21 games had at least one hit in all but three games.
Chiero and junior outfielder Zach Baumann, who moved to the leadoff spot in mid-April, have been among the most consistent hitters in a lineup that has battled injuries.
Junior Evan White (1B/P) also has been steady batting third after missing time earlier this season with injuries.
Senior catcher Dakota Cararo, who has committed to Adrian College in Michigan after making second-team all-district and first-team all-league last season, isn't expected to return because of a back injury that has sidelined him all season.
Junior Kain Lowe, sophomore Cole Carey and freshman Doland Martin all have seen time at catcher. Martin started in a 7-3 win over Hilliard Darby on April 30 and again May 1 in the first of consecutive games against Pickerington North.
Gahanna, which lost to Pickerington North 11-1 on May 3 and beat Pickerington Central 2-1 on May 6 before facing the Tigers again May 8, led 2-1 entering the seventh in the first game against Pickerington North.
The Panthers scored twice in the final inning off sophomore reliever Cole Gibson.
"We've left I don't know how many baserunners on, but (the second Grove City game) was something we needed," coach Mike Shade said. "We've been getting great pitching. (Sophomore Mason Daniels) gave up two hits (in the loss April 26) and we just didn't have timely hitting. We made some errors that have hurt us and, in tight ballgames, you can't do that. When you score four runs in three games, it gets in your head.
"Christian Chiero has been very consistent for us. Zach Baumann in the (leadoff spot) has been very consistent. What's in the past is in the past and you have to move on and start to believe in yourselves again."
Chiero is the younger brother of Jordan Chiero, a 2008 New Albany graduate who played for Gahanna as a freshman before transferring.
Jordan Chiero, an assistant coach at Otterbein University, signed April 21 to play for the Taos Blizzard of the Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs in Taos, N.M.
"He's always been there to help me out and has been a good role model," Christian said of his brother.
"I think we just lost focus for a little while. We're a good baseball team. We just need to spread things out a little bit."