Outfielder Sean Early had seen it all season from the senior-laden Bexley High School baseball team.
The Lions reached their sixth Division II district semifinal in seven seasons, showing the same resiliency that has helped them win 12 of their last 13 games entering the week.
Trailing 7-2 in the middle of the sixth inning, fifth-seeded Bexley was able to rally and tie the game with ninth-seeded Heath at 7 in the seventh May 11. The second-round game was suspended after nine innings and resumed May 12, with the host Lions earning an 8-7 victory in 12 innings and a return engagement in a district semifinal.
"We realized what we were playing for and what we needed to do," said Early, a senior who made a game-saving diving catch in center field to end the top of the 12th and led off the bottom of the inning with a single to start the winning rally. "We knew that we had been playing well and we just had to stay focused and be ready to play."
The Lions were 20-5 before playing Jonathan Alder in a district semifinal May 15. They had to defeat the top-seeded Pioneers for a chance to win their first district championship since 1998.
The district final was May 17 against sixth-seeded Watterson or 10th-seeded Sparta Highland, with the winner advancing to a regional semifinal May 25 at Carter Park in Bowling Green against Bellevue, Clyde, Kenton or Lexington.
"We have a selfless team that never gives up," coach Andrew Orlins said. "They play for each other and they keep finding ways to win."
Early scored the winning run on senior Kyle Benson's one-out grounder to the second baseman, who mishandled the ball before throwing home.
"They could have put their heads down and given up, but they didn't," Orlins said. "They stayed focused and never lost sight of what they needed to do.
"We have 10 seniors, so it's not a surprise that this happened. They didn't want this to end."
Benson picked up the win in relief of seniors Hank Snowdon and Tommy Bruning.
The Lions closed the regular season with a 9-2 win over Tree of Life on May 8. Senior Andrew Irwin picked up the victory.
Koppes, doubles teams
qualify for district
Jordan Koppes advanced to the Division II district tournament for the boys tennis team and will be joined by the doubles teams of Josh Meyer and Christian Roddy and Mark Nudelman and Leo Schottenstein.
The Lions compete at district Thursday, May 18, at Columbus Academy and Saturday, May 20, at Upper Arlington. The top two finishers in singles and doubles qualify for state May 26 and 27 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
In a sectional held May 11 at Columbus School for Girls and May 13 at Academy, the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Nudelman and Schottenstein teamed to go 4-0, including a 6-1, 6-7, 7-5 win in the final over Meyer and Roddy, who finished 3-1. In the semifinal round, Nudelman and Schottenstein defeated Worthington Christian's Ben Kindberg and Chris Tsibouris 3-6, 6-0, 6-0 and Meyer and Roddy defeated Buckeye Valley's Nick Roden and Ben Swanger 6-0, 6-0.
Koppes finished second in singles, going 4-1 but losing to Granville's John Purnode 6-0, 6-2 in the final. He defeated DeSales' Armando DiMichaelangelo 6-4, 6-1 in a semifinal.
Also at sectional in singles, Noah Hoffman finished 1-1 and Jordan Young went 2-1, losing to DiMichaelangelo 6-3, 6-3 in a district-qualifying match.
The boys and girls track and field teams opened the postseason in the Division II district meet May 16.
The meet continues Thursday, May 18, and concludes Saturday, May 20, at Westerville South. The top four finishers in each event advance to the regional May 25 and 27 at Lexington.
The Lions competed in the MSL-Ohio Division meet May 9 and 12 at Whitehall, with Molly Fagin leading the girls and Wade Randle pacing the boys.
Fagin won the 1,600 meters (5 minutes, 15.77 seconds) and 3,200 (11:21.24), and joined Julia Cohn, Abbie Sapp and Kayla Steinke on the second-place 3,200 relay (10:08.76).
The girls finished third (134 points) behind Grandview (144) and Academy (136.5) and ahead of Worthington Christian (80), London (66), Whitehall (46) and West Jefferson (37.5).
Lucy Powers won the long jump (16 feet). Placing second were Libby Brown in the 300 hurdles (49.83) and Maggie Bunker in the 200 (27.19).
Randle won the shot put (52-0) as the boys placed fourth (96) behind Grandview (146), Worthington Christian (145) and Whitehall (100.5) and ahead of Academy (92.5), London (46) and West Jefferson (19).
The 400 relay of Alexander Garside, Josh Jones, Charles McFadden and Simon Kroos was second (44.59), Kroos was second in the 200 (23.28) and Peter Hayden was runner-up in the 1,600 (4:29.78).
Boys lacrosse team
The ninth-seeded boys lacrosse team was 7-8 before opening the Division II, Region 7 tournament at eighth-seeded Buckeye Valley on May 16 in the second round.
The winner advanced to a regional quarterfinal Friday, May 19, at top-seeded Watterson or 17th-seeded Jonathan Alder. Bexley defeated Jonathan Alder 15-1 on April 7, but lost to Watterson 16-5 on May 1.
The winner advances to a regional semifinal Tuesday, May 23, at home against fourth-seeded Kettering Alter, fifth-seeded Granville, 12th-seeded Bellbrook or 13th-seeded Licking Valley.
The Lions did not play Alter or Bellbrook, but defeated Licking Valley 16-7 on May 10 and lost to Granville 13-5 on April 19.
The regional final is May 27 at a site to be determined.
Owen Rupp scored five goals against Licking Valley as the Lions snapped a six-game losing streak. Eric Crane, Hunter Hilgeman and John-Michael Rogers all had three goals, and Kyle Fulford had one goal. Goalkeeper Zak Welsh had seven saves and also scored a goal.
Hilgeman scored four times and Crane and Rogers both had two goals to lead the Lions past Academy 8-5 on May 12. Welsh had seven saves.
Girls lacrosse team
earns fourth seed
The fourth-seeded girls lacrosse team was 10-4 overall before opening the Division II, Region 7 tournament May 17 with a second-round home game against 13th-seeded Dayton Carroll.
The winner advanced to a regional quarterfinal Saturday, May 20, at home against fifth-seeded CSG or 12th-seeded Bellbrook. The Lions have not played Bellbrook this season, but lost to the Unicorns 9-7 on April 18 in a Central Independent League game.
The quarterfinal winner advances to a regional semifinal Wednesday, May 24, at top-seeded DeSales, eighth-seeded Granville, ninth-seeded Dayton Oakwood or 16th-seeded Big Walnut. Bexley did not play Big Walnut or Oakwood, but defeated Granville 19-10 on April 11 and lost to DeSales 11-6 on May 4 in league play.
The regional final is May 27 at a site to be determined.
The Lions finished 4-3 in the CIL after defeating Academy 13-12 on May 11. Ashley Bolen scored four times, and Kate Bridge and Grace Maley both had three goals. Olivia Anderson had two goals, and Cori Scott scored once. Goalie Tessa Ziegler had three saves.
Softball team falls
to Big Walnut
The softball team lost at fourth-seeded Big Walnut 5-0 on May 11 in the second round of the Division II district tournament. The seventh-seeded Lions finished 17-10.
Bexley defeated 10th-seeded Eastmoor Academy 13-3 in five innings May 9 in the first round. Lauren Woodford picked up the victory, surrendering four hits.