Chances are few people outside the Upper Arlington High School baseball program thought the Golden Bears would contend for a Division I district championship this season. After all, the Bears finished 8-13 a year ago and had a losing record in four of the last five seasons.

Chances are few people outside the Upper Arlington High School baseball program thought the Golden Bears would contend for a Division I district championship this season. After all, the Bears finished 8-13 a year ago and had a losing record in four of the last five seasons.

But first-year coach Matt Middleton told the players to forget about the past.

"At the beginning of the year, I said to the seniors, 'Let me tell you something: For three years, you guys have had losing seasons, you haven't been very good. Maybe you lost some respect in the Central District. But how do you want to be remembered as a UA baseball player? If you go out and put together a good season and win a district title, that's how you're going to be remembered,'" he said. "I think they really took that to heart."

Seeded 12th, UA captured its first district title since 2003 by defeating Reynoldsburg 12-5 in a district final last Saturday at Grove City. The Bears improved to 23-8 and play Cincinnati Elder in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. today at Dublin Coffman.

Reynoldsburg finished 19-11.

"Coach Middleton has always been telling us we can do this," catcher Robbie Ballinger said. "We have the talent. We have the capabilities. We just needed to put it all together, and we did. It's mainly him believing in us. That's what pushed us."

UA trailed 1-0 after the first inning and even though the Bears took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth, they had left 10 runners on base through five innings. However, after the Raiders tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the fifth, the Bears scored four runs in the sixth and six runs in the seventh to break the game open.

"I was a little worried at the beginning when we weren't coming through with runners in scoring position," Middleton said. "We left too many guys out there, and if we're going to do that moving on, we're going to be in trouble."

All nine starters for UA reached base at least once, with Ballinger and second baseman Joe McGlumphy each having three hits, including a double, to lead a 14-hit attack. Outfielder Andy Bean, pitcher and outfielder Charles Cooper and third baseman Eddie Miller each had two hits, with Miller getting both of his singles in the seventh after entering the game in the fifth.

"To win a district championship, it needs to be an all-around effort, everyone needs to be playing their best," Ballinger said. "Everyone came out focused and ready to play. We came out here and took care of business and did what we needed to do."

Cooper started on the mound, allowing four hits and two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings. He was replaced by shortstop and pitcher Phil Jaskot, who allowed four hits and three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and got the victory. Matt Gibbs relieved Jaskot and recorded the final two outs.

"Charles threw a good game," Middleton said. "(Reynoldsburg) is a very good hitting team. They're very aggressive on fastballs, and that's why we went with Charles. They have three left-handed hitters in their lineup and we wanted to keep them off balance with off-speed (pitches), and we thought he did the best job of doing that."

UA defeated sixth-seeded Gahanna 3-1 in a district semifinal May 19, as Bean and Jaskot combined on a five-hitter.