The Upper Arlington High School baseball team may enter its Division I regional semifinal against Cincinnati Elder at 5 p.m. today at Dublin Coffman as a huge underdog, but that's not the message coach Matt Middleton has been conveying to his players.

The Upper Arlington High School baseball team may enter its Division I regional semifinal against Cincinnati Elder at 5 p.m. today at Dublin Coffman as a huge underdog, but that's not the message coach Matt Middleton has been conveying to his players.

"That mentality tells our kids that we're just happy to be here," he said. "I told them (after a 12-5 win over Reynoldsburg in a district final last Saturday at Grove City) that you have to play like you belong here. If we take the attitude that they have everything to lose and we don't, that sends the message to the players that the game is no big deal. But we're one of the final 16 teams (in Division I), and if a couple things go our way, then all of a sudden we're playing in the final four."

The UA-Elder winner plays Mount Vernon or New Albany in the regional final at 5 p.m. Friday at Coffman, with the winner advancing to a state semifinal at 10 a.m. June 4 at Huntington Park. The state final is at 4 p.m. June 5 at Huntington Park.

UA improved to 23-8 with the win over Reynoldsburg and enters its matchup with Elder on a roll, having won 12 of its last 13 games.

Elder, which was ranked second in the state poll last week behind Cincinnati Moeller, defeated Sidney 12-2 in a district final last Saturday to improve to 25-4. Elder has won 15 of 16.

"Coming from Cincinnati, I know what they're all about," Middleton said of Elder. "They're a West-side Cincinnati, tough-nosed, get-after-you program. They're very well-coached by Mark Thompson, and they're not going to quit if they get down. So we're in for a battle."

Elder owns 12 state titles, including two (1999 and 2005) under Thompson, who is in his 21st season and enters the regional semifinal with 415 career wins. The Panthers are averaging 9.8 runs per game and their opponents are averaging 3.9.

Through 28 games, Elder had nine players hitting above .300, including outfielders Tim O'Conner (.447, 43 RBI, 31 runs, 3 HR, 17 stolen bases) and Daniel Schwarz (.351, 8 RBI, 36 runs, 10 stolen bases) and infielders Selby Chidemo (.439, 19 RBI, 42 runs, 23 stolen bases), Nick Connor (.373, 26 RBI, 32 runs, 13 stolen bases) and Jeremy White (.431, 25 RBI, 30 runs, 2 HR).

On the mound, the Panthers are led by Brian Korte, who was 7-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 42 innings through 28 games. Other key pitchers are Ryan James (5-2, 2.91 ERA, 31 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings) and Matt Pate (5-1, 2.95 ERA, 24 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings).

"We're just going to go out and play our hardest like we do every day and hope for the best," catcher Robbie Ballinger said. "It's a crazy game, anything can happen."

Middleton plans to start Andy Bean against Elder. Bean, a left-hander, is 5-1 with a 3.53 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings. In his last outing, a 3-1 win over Gahanna in a district semifinal May 19, he allowed five hits, four walks and an earned run in 6 2/3 innings.

"Gahanna's coach (Mike Shade) said that was the best game they've had thrown against them all year," Middleton said. "Andy threw well. He kept them off balance. ... His fastball's not overpowering, but he's got a good breaking ball and he's got a good change-up and he knows how to pitch."

UA has not played any of the three teams at regional this season. Mount Vernon, ranked ninth in the state poll last week, beat Olentangy Liberty 3-1 in a district final last Saturday to improve to 26-3, and New Albany was 19-12 after upsetting second-seeded Dublin Jerome 10-1 in a district final last Friday.