The Grove City High School baseball team is headed back to the Division I state tournament, and this time a more polished group of veterans definitely is in it to win it.

The Grove City High School baseball team is headed back to the Division I state tournament, and this time a more polished group of veterans definitely is in it to win it.

"We're coming to win," senior Mitchell Stephens said after the Greyhounds rallied to defeat Olentangy Orange 7-4 in a regional final May 25 at Dublin Coffman. "Last year we got all big-eyed, but this year we have a lot of guys back and we really want to do well."

The Greyhounds, who improved to 26-2 with an eighth consecutive victory, play Cincinnati Moeller in a state semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 31, in Huntington Park. Westlake and Massillon Perry meet in the other semifinal. The state final is at 1 p.m. Saturday, June 2.

Moeller defeated Cincinnati Elder 6-4 to win its regional May 25, improving to 22-5. The Crusaders are making their ninth appearance in the state tournament, which ties Hebron Lakewood for ninth all-time on a list led by Elder (20). Their five state championships, the last of which came in 2009, ties Coldwater and Cincinnati Western Hills for fourth place. Reading and Newark Catholic have won six each, which trails only Elder (12).

The Crusaders were ranked second in the final state poll led by Grove City. They likely will have ace Brian Burkhart, who has a 9-1 record, take the mound for the semifinal. He needed only 87 pitches in a no-hitter as Moeller eliminated Cincinnati Anderson 3-0 in a regional semifinal May 24.

One of Moeller's top offensive players is Ty Amann, a senior middle infielder who has signed with Ohio University. Zack Shannon, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore first baseman and pitcher who already has verbally committed to Ohio State, hit a two-out RBI double in the fourth inning against Elder to break a 4-all tie.

Westlake, which was ranked 18th in the final state poll, rallied from a 6-0 deficit to defeat sixth-ranked Ashland 10-7 to win its regional May 25 while improving to 23-6. The Demons allowed 11 runs in two regional games, however, most among the state semifinalists. They are making their first state appearance.

Perry, which was not ranked in the final state poll, defeated 11th-ranked Chardon 5-2 to win its regional May 25 and improve to 21-10. The Panthers allowed just three runs in regional play, fewest among the four remaining contenders. They also are playing in the state tournament for the first time.

"Last year, we were surprised that we got there and we had trouble believing we could play with that kind of talent," said Grove City coach Ryan Alexander, whose team lost 7-2 to eventual-champion Liberty Township Lakota East in a state semifinal in its third state appearance but first since 1983. "This year, we know we can play with them and we want to get back to prove that."

The Greyhounds' recent postseason experience paid off in the regional final. They fell behind early before scoring three runs in both the top of the fifth and sixth innings for a 7-2 advantage. Jimmy Gravett, a senior shortstop, scored in each inning after reaching on bunt singles.

Grove City, which is seeking its first state title, also had to come from behind to eliminate Worthington Kilbourne 5-3 in a district semifinal May 14.

"We've been kind of off and on hitting-wise all season," Gravett said after the Greyhounds had 12 hits while beating Olentangy 11-1 in five innings in a regional semifinal May 24 at Coffman as Kyle Bennett was the winning pitcher. "But when one of us starts hitting, we all do."

Alexander held Stephens back to pitch the regional final, and he has a 9-0 record with three postseason wins. Stephens escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fourth inning against Orange with the Greyhounds trailing 2-1.

"I wanted to just throw strikes and not walk in a run," he said. "Then when we got out of it that was a big momentum-builder."

Tyler Kent provided the offensive spark in the regional semifinal with a two-run double in the second inning for the game's first runs and a two-run homer in the third as the Greyhounds sent 13 batters to the plate and scored eight times for an 11-0 advantage.

"The home run, we were already up, so it probably wasn't as big as the double was. That double really got us going," the senior center fielder said. "Our goal all along has been to make it back to Huntington Park."