STRUTHERS, Ohio (WKBN) – The Heartland Christian Lions season came to an end on Tuesday night with a 12-6 loss to the Lake Center Christian Tigers in a DIV District semi-final contest at Cene Park.  The Lions close the year with a 9-10 record, while the Tigers improve to 10-11 and will now face the Warren JFK Eagles Thursday night at Cene.

“I’m really proud of this team.  As the season went along, we kept getting better and better.  We didn’t take a step back today,” Lions coach Mark Franken remarked.  “They (Lake) played really well.  They had great at-bats, and clutch hits.”

The Lions began the game by getting on the scoreboard first when leadoff batter Joel Morgan worked a base on balls from the Tigers pitcher.  He would come home following consecutive singles by Drew Gault and Drew Walker.  Gault would race home on an RBI groundout by Nate Zarzanich to stake the Lions to a 2-0 advantage.

However, the Tigers would answer right back with a two-spot in the bottom of the first inning to tie the game at 2-2.  The Tigers Harrison Coblentz provided a two-RBI double to left field to knot the game.

The Tigers then exploded in the second inning as they scored five runs on just two hits to make it 7-2.  The Lions issued four walks and a hit batsman to help fuel the Tigers’ uprising.  Again, Coblentz came up with the big hit as he smacked basses double to center to lead the Tigers in the frame.

The Lions showed a lot of heart as they responded with four runs in the third inning to cut the deficit to just one run at 7-6.  Morgan reached on a lead-off error by the Tigers shortstop, then Gault followed with a single and Drew Walker hit an RBI double to score Morgan.  Gault came home on an RBI single to center by Garzanich, and Walker scored on a single by Jake Kling to make it 7-5.  Brett Walker would bring Garzanich home with an RBI groundout to first base.

But that was as close as the Lions would get.  Tigers starting pitcher Dylan Maninga limited the Lions to just three hits over the final four innings.  He would surrender nine hits in the game with just one walk and three strikeouts.

While Maninga was tossing up shutout innings, the Tigers added one run in the fourth, three in the fifth, and another run in the sixth to close out the scoring in the contest.

“We had pretty good swings,” Franken said.  “We were hitting them right at them and their balls fell in for hits.  In baseball, sometimes that’s the way it goes.  We love the game, but sometimes it can be very cruel.”

Garzanich would suffer the loss for the Lions while Seth Walker and Will Morgan both pitched in relief.  Drew Walker would collect two RBIs, including a double, while Garzanich also knocked in two runs.  Gault and Kling would each have two hits in the game to help lead the Lions on the night.

“It didn’t end the way I wanted,” Lions’ senior Joel Morgan remarked.  “I was at least hoping to get to the District championship and win some hardware.”

“We wanted to battle to the end.  We knew we could do it if we all worked together.  But it just wasn’t our day,” Senior Nate Garzanich added.

“I feel bad for the seniors (Morgan, Garzanich, and Luke Rafferty) especially, but our team is young. We start two freshmen and four sophomores. So we have a lot to build on, it just wasn’t our day,” Franken concluded.