ATHENS --The Pickerington American Legion Post 283 baseball team started the state tournament just the way it wanted, with a convincing first-round victory.

ATHENS --The Pickerington American Legion Post 283 baseball team started the state tournament just the way it wanted, with a convincing first-round victory.

The celebration, however, was short-lived.

The road to a state championship took a challenging turn as Pickerington lost its second game to drop into the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

"We're going to take another route," coach Chris Weber said. "We're still going to try to win this thing."

Pickerington opened the tournament last Monday with a 9-2 victory over Lima Post 96, and then dropped its second round game 12-4 to the Licking County Athletics/St. Louisville Post 802 later that evening.

Pickerington played Grove City Post 164 in an elimination game last Tuesday, and to accomplish its goal of winning the state, Pickerington had to make its way through the loser's bracket and win seven games in four days.

"We've got the arms, we've got the sticks, are we willing to fight?" Weber said.

Pickerington threw ace Kenny Yurasek against Lima. He pitched a complete game.

"He was as good as he's been all year," Weber said.

The game was tied at 2 going into the seventh inning, and once Lima went to the bullpen, Post 283 erupted for a five-run inning. Jake Isabel provided the big hit with a three-run triple to give Pickerington a comfortable lead.

"We touched them up pretty good once they brought the bullpen in, and we got a good win," Weber said. "Lima is a real good team, and we've had some battles with them."

Last year Pickerington lost 13-0 to Lima in the state tournament.

In the second game, played under the lights at Ohio University's Bob Wren Stadium, Pickerington fell behind early as starting pitcher Nic Rush struggled, and the Athletics put up five runs in the first inning.

"It's not the way you want to start, but I didn't think five runs would win it," Weber said. "I thought at that point, it's not where we wanted to be, but I wasn't nervous, I wasn't worried."

Rush gave up another run in the second inning, and then Dan Walter came on in relief as the Athletics added two runs over the next six innings, but Pickerington had its own problems at the plate.

Athletics starter Alex VanDine shut down Pickerington for most of the game and did not give up a run until the eighth inning.

"Alex VanDine was spectacular," Weber said. "We've seen him before, and he was as good as I've ever seen him."

In the eighth inning, Pickerington started to figure out VanDine. Post 283 cut the score to 8-4 and loaded the bases, bringing the tying run to the plate, but was not able to capitalize.

Licking County then responded by putting up four runs in the ninth, giving it a 12-4 lead that would stick for the victory.

Weber rotated four pitchers throughout the game to try to keep the score close and avoid wearing out too many arms early in the tournament. Rush, Walter, Jared Meyer and Eric Robinson all pitched.

"I couldn't stick with them, because if I burn them and we don't make the comeback, then I've cost myself an arm," Weber said.

In last year's state tournament, Pickerington went 1-2 and was eliminated by District 12 champion Worthington Post 239. Post 283 did not advance as far as it would have liked last year, but the experience helped give the returning players an expectation for this season.

"We expect to be here," Weber said. "It's on our schedule. It's a planned event."