After 13 games, the Licking County Athletics baseball team is hovering around the .500 mark.

After 13 games, the Licking County Athletics baseball team is hovering around the .500 mark.

The A's lost to fellow District 6 foe Marysville Post 79A 16-13 last Wednesday to fall to 7-6 overall.

"We didn't expect to start quite that slow," coach Rick Houston said. "With a lot of new faces we're still getting used to each other and I'm still learning the kids, too."

Beginning last Friday and concluding Monday, the A's played host to a round-robin tournament at Don Edwards Park against Pickerington Post 283, Mount Carmel Post 72, Wheeling (W. Va.) Post 1, Portsmouth Post 23, Ashland Post 88 and Granville Post 398.

Learning one another will be a season-long process, but the amount of games in a short time frame will speed up that process. In addition, Houston and his assistants have put certain restrictions in place so every team member gets to know one another.

"I don't allow anyone to throw with anyone from their own school when we're getting loose," Houston said. "We're forcing them to get to know each other. The team chemistry is coming around pretty good. We're playing a lot better defensively and putting the bat on the ball more consistently."

Through 10 games, Derek Yahn of Heath led the A's offense, hitting .433 with 10 RBI and nine runs scored in 34 plate appearances. As a team, the A's were batting .318 with a .400 on-base percentage and averaging 5.5 runs per game.

"We're swinging the bats the way I think we should now," Houston said. "We haven't been doing that until our last four to five games. We're swinging it well clear up and down the lineup. Sure, Derek has been hot, but we're hitting well as a group. A lot of these guys haven't seen this type of pitching every day and now that they're getting comfortable it's made a big difference."

On the mound, the A's staff is fronted by Garrett Clark, Bryan Large, Nick Moore, Miles Richardson and Justin White. Through 10 games, the A's had an ERA of 4.24.

In the coming weeks, pitching must be sharp and the offense must be swinging if the A's are to achieve their goals. First, the Fourth of July Invitational will be held Thursday through Sunday at Lancaster. Among the A's top rivals are Lancaster Post 11 and Marysville Post 79A, and both will be competing at the event.

"That tournament gets us ready for district play," Houston said. "It's always a real good tournament and you always see six or seven real strong teams. We've got a little thing going with Lancaster and it's always fun. That's a nice rivalry."

The A's have played Post 11, losing the first game 10-5 on June 3 and winning the rematch 8-0 on June 18.

In addition, both Post 11 and Post 79A compete in District 6 along with Grove City Post 164, which reached the state tournament last season. The winner of the District 6 tournament advances to the state tournament July 26-30, which this season will be held at Lancaster instead of Ohio University.

"We've not seen everybody (in District 6), but Marysville always has a good team," Houston said.

Post 79A was a win away from advancing to the winner's bracket final of the District 6 tournament last season, but lost to the A's 7-4. A day later, Post 79A lost to Prospect Post 368 16-6 to finish 25-13. Post 79A is now five years removed from its 2004 state title.

"We came close last year with a pretty young team," Post 79A coach Chuck Gould said. "They were able to learn what it takes to win those big games. Obviously, with four players from the Division II state champions Jonathan Alder and the experience of what they were able to do, those two combinations will hopefully get us over the hump and help us in those big games."

The A's have split their first two meetings with Post 79A, too, winning 4-3 on June 8 before losing last Wednesday.

"Marysville always has a good team," Houston said. "But we have not seen every team. They're always real good coming out of Prospect and Mount Vernon (Post 92) beat us up the first time (10-1 on June 16). But we weren't playing real well at that particular time.

"Things are encouraging about our team. With the turnover from last year it has taken a while, but we're getting more comfortable with each other."