The Thomas Worthington High School baseball team is looking to take the next step after winning its second consecutive Division I district championship.

The Thomas Worthington High School baseball team is looking to take the next step after winning its second consecutive Division I district championship.

The fourth-seeded Cardinals defeated seventh-seeded Grove City 8-2 in a district final that began May 23 and was completed May 24 at Otterbein University to improve to 24-6 and advance to play Hilliard Darby in a regional semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 30, at Dublin Coffman.

The Cardinals lost to Olentangy Orange 7-6 in a regional semifinal last season, giving up a three-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning.

"We're very pleased where are guys are right now," coach Stephen Gussler said. "I think the experience we gained last year has helped us. Last year, emotions were high and high school kids sometimes have trouble controlling that.

"We've only given up five runs in (three postseason games) and that's pretty impressive. We expect to play hard and play soundly and we've done that. We've kept an even keel and stayed under control."

Thomas did not play Darby during the regular season. The Panthers were seeded 13th in the district and upset top-seeded Pickerington North 2-0 in a district final May 22 behind a five-hitter by pitcher Chase Longwell to improve to 19-10.

The regional semifinal winner will face Marysville or Gahanna in the regional final at 5 p.m. Friday, May 31. The regional champion advances to a state semifinal June 7 at Huntington Park.

"I don't want to sound disgruntled, but the (tournament) brackets were screwed up by the Central District Athletic Board and I sent my assistants to scout the Gahanna-Olentangy Orange game thinking that winner would be our regional semifinal opponent," Gussler said. "So we don't know anything about Darby.

"Unfortunately, (CDAB) let everyone know about the mistake (May 23), so Darby got to scout us against Grove City and has an unfair advantage now. We still have to go out and play the game, so it's not an excuse, but we have to do a better job of disseminating the proper news so that everyone has the same opportunities."

Darby likely will start Nate Green or Longwell on the mound against Thomas. Through 29 games, Green was 9-0 with a 0.91 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings and Longwell was 3-1 with a 4.07 ERA.

Gahanna, which was seeded sixth, was 20-9 after beating second-seeded Orange 6-2 in a district final May 22. Marysville, which was the 14th seed, won its first district title since 1992 and improved 21-7 by beating third-seeded Watkins Memorial 7-2 in a district final May 23.

Thomas has not played Gahanna this season but faced Marysville twice in OCC-Central Division play, winning 1-0 on April 22 behind a six-hitter by pitcher Roscoe Blackburn and 8-7 on April 30.

Roscoe allowed only two hits and three walks in six innings against Grove City, as the Cardinals built a 6-0 lead before the game was suspended in the sixth inning because of rain.

Thomas scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth on three hits, four errors and a wild pitch.

Second baseman Keegan Lanter and Blackburn had one-out singles and left fielder Sam Ankrom hit a bloop single that fell in front of Grove City left fielder Tyler Cowles for an RBI single. Cowles overthrew third baseman Brandon Marczika trying to get Blackburn out. Greyhounds pitcher Ryan Bennett, who was backing up third, retrieved the ball as Blackburn raced home and overthrew catcher Drew Nankivell and the ball rolled into the dugout, allowing Ankrom to score.

Two more errors in the inning by the Greyhounds produced another run for Thomas.

"I thought it was an easy fly to left, but when I rounded first base, I saw it drop," Ankrom said. "I hustled to second (on the throw to third) and got to score on the second (overthrow). We needed a spark and I'm glad I could contribute. I don't care if you put in the paper that I ripped it off the fence or it was a bloop hit. All that matters to me is that it gave us momentum and we all started hitting after that."

Center fielder Emerson Keppler hit a leadoff triple in the fifth and scored on a two-run home run by Ben Miller, who added a two-run double in the sixth to push the lead to 8-0. Miller pitched the seventh, giving up two runs.

Grove City, which was a state semifinalist the past two seasons, finished 20-10.