The Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team wasn't ready to concede that its OCC-Ohio Division championship aspirations were gone after recent back-to-back 3-2 losses to first-place Pickerington North.

The Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team wasn't ready to concede that its OCC-Ohio Division championship aspirations were gone after recent back-to-back 3-2 losses to first-place Pickerington North.

Still, the Lions know that goal - as well as its hope of winning a third Division I district championship in four seasons - could slip away depending on how much mental toughness they show over the coming weeks.

"It's a belief level right now," said coach Mike Shade, whose team entered the week 5-3 in the OCC-Ohio. "We've been playing well, although we're in a little bit of a skid right now. All you can do is get back up again."

While Gahanna was ninth in the Division I state poll last week, Pickerington North played fundamentally clutch baseball against the Lions to prove why it was ranked second.

The Panthers, who entered the week 7-1 in the OCC-Ohio, got a solo home run in the ninth inning from Nick Glanzman to win the April 18 matchup with the Lions. Vinny Galiardi pitched into the ninth but suffered the loss after allowing the home run as Gahanna failed to answer in the bottom of the inning.

In the rematch April 21 at North, the Lions led 2-0 but allowed two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Then in the bottom of the seventh, Drew Williams was called safe on a close play at the plate to give the Panthers the victory.

Chris Secore walked and scored on an RBI single by Joey Tomko in the third and Jarrod Moss singled and scored on a triple by Drew Kessler in the fifth for the Lions' runs. Nick Van Keuren pitched a complete game but fell to 3-1 with the loss.

Gahanna's players were visibly frustrated as they picked up their equipment after the second loss to North.

"(One play) decides them all," Kessler said. "Right now, our focus is coming back strong for tournament time. I think everybody on the team has some things they need to work on, but we've all been playing pretty well."

Despite the offensive struggles against North, Gahanna had five hitters batting over .350 as the Lions won nine of their first 11 games. Tomko was hitting .472 to lead the way, followed by Evan White (.406), Shane DeFranco (.387), Moss (.361) and Cole Greisinger (.351).

DeFranco led in RBI with 17 and Moss led in runs with 14.

Galiardi (32 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings) and Van Keuren (21 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings) settled into the top two spots in the pitching rotation during the first 11 games.

"With a team like Pickerington North, they don't hurt themselves," Shade said. "They're not going to beat themselves. We've been close in the two games with them. We've been playing well, just not well enough."