The fact that the Licking Heights High School baseball team was upset early in the Division II district tournament served as a lesson.

The fact that the Licking Heights High School baseball team was upset early in the Division II district tournament served as a lesson.

"You can lose a game in the first inning just as you can in the seventh," coach Jeff Boyer said of a 4-2 loss to Bexley in a second-round game May 12 in which the Lions scored three runs in their first at-bat. "If there's one thing we learned, it's that."

The seventh-seeded Hornets, who had a first-round bye, defeated Bexley 3-2 in their second regular-season game on March 29. They finished 16-5 overall, but the final week of the season did have its moments.

The Hornets topped eventual Division III district-champion Heath 10-5 on May 10 and then Harvest Prep 10-0 in six innings the following day to win the outright MSL-Cardinal Division title, their first league championship since 1989. They went 12-2 in the MSL-Cardinal as Liberty Union (11-3), West Jefferson (10-4), Berne Union (8-6), Fisher Catholic (8-6), Grandview (5-9), Harvest Prep (2-12) and Millers-port (0-14) followed.

"We have a lot of multi-sport kids," said Boyer, whose team has won 16 or more games in three of the past four seasons. "Hopefully, winning the league will open the door now in other sports."

The team will lose four seniors, including first-team all-league selection Josh Hoar, who was 5-1 with two saves and will play next year at Tiffin. Seniors Ty Stallings (CF) and Graham Jonker (1B) made second-team and honorable mention all-league, respectively.

Much of the team's infield will return along with junior pitcher Mick Stakely, who posted a 7-1 record was first-team all-league.

Sophomores Ronnie Dawson (2B), Jake Foley (SS) and Andrew Bailey (3B) and junior Zak Scott (C) are expected back, as are juniors Zack Dunbrack (OF) and Dalton Golden (DH).

Scott and Dunbrack also made second-team all-league. Dawson was the team's only all-district player as an honorable mention selection.

Hoar will play this summer for the Licking County A's. Stakely and Golden are expected to play for Columbus-area travel teams, Boyer said.

"Our season ended abruptly, no question," Boyer said. "But it wasn't like we played poorly or anything. One kid (Tommy Zervas) beat us, really. He drove in all four of their runs (as the Lions advanced to a district semifinal for the first time since 1999).

"We just didn't get the big hit when we needed a big hit, that's all. We'll learn from the way it ended and move forward. We have quite a bit coming back next year, so there's a lot to look forward to."

ĽKayla Velasquez's bid to advance to the Division II state track and field meet ended in the Dayton regional on May 26 when the junior placed seventh (106 feet, 7 inches) in the girls discus. Sherrard Pollard finished 15th (18-8 3/4) in the boys long jump and also failed to qualify.

The boys 400-meter relay competed in the finals on May 28. The top four finishers in each event advanced to the state meet Friday and Saturday, June 3-4, at Ohio State.

Velasquez won the district discus title (114-1) on May 21 at Hamilton Township as the Hornets (10 points) finished 16th behind champion Hartley (111). That distance gave Velasquez the top seed in the Dayton regional, where Heath's Katie White finished first (120-4).

Pollard was fourth (19-11 1/2) in the district 2 meet, as was the 400 relay of Tyrel Horsley, Andre Wiafe, Brionne Mitchell and Kerby Pierre (44.24). The Hornets placed 10th (24.5) behind champion Eastmoor Academy (131).