How much did Blooming Grove's Lions win Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to No. 1-ranked Malakoff?
Sure, without a doubt it was a heartbreaking defeat as the Lions came close to pulling off an upset when they advanced a runner to third with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
But after the game, coach Aaron Ehly told his players to keep their heads high.
"I was proud of my team," Ehly said. "It shows we can compete with them. They're the No. 1 team in the state and we were right with them."
Ehly believes his Lions can take a lot from the game and build on and add to what has already been an incredible season in the Grove.
The Lions are now 16-4-1 after Tuesday's loss, which snapped a 10-game winning streak. They're 6-1 after completing the first half of the District 18-3A race, and begin the second seven-game stretch at 7 p.m. Friday in Palmer.
They face Malakoff again in the final district game of the season in Malakoff. There is a possibility the two teams could face each other in the postseason because the top two teams in each district are placed at opposite ends of the bracket, which means if the Lions and Malakoff both win their first four playoff games they would meet in the 3A Region III championship on June 5 with the winner advancing to the state tournament in Round Rock. That game or series would be played at a neutral site -- possibly Price Field in Corsicana, where the CHS diamond is not only a state of the art facility, but is also geographically ideal.
There's a lot of baseball between now and then, but Ehly is 100 percent right when he says his team gained a lot from Tuesday's loss. There is no substitute for confidence.
"We went into that game focused," he said. "It was a tough loss but we know if we can play with the No. 1 team in the state then we can play with anybody."
Blooming Grove ace Justus Revill went 5 2/3 innings and pitched well, holding Malakoff to four runs while striking out nine, and Kelton Bell had a an impressive performance, throwing 1 1/3 inning of perfect relief while striking out three of the four Tigers he faced.
Bell also had a big day at the plate, going 2-for-3 and belting a triple. He scored and drove in Colton Nicholson. Jackson Hoover went 1-for-2 and drove in Matthew Beacom.