Lincoln starts league play hosting Center
The Lincoln High baseball team will begin its Pioneer Valley League campaign Thursday at home against Center (2-1). After a tough preseason, the Fighting Zebras go in search of their fourth straight conference championship.
“Our league is no slouch,” said Lincoln head coach Graylon Duncan. “If you look at last year’s playoffs, three of the PVL teams were in the semifinals. The championship game, there were two PVL teams, us against Placer.”
Although a Division IV league, Duncan said Placer, Colfax and Bear River will be strong contenders. Should the Zebras make the playoffs, they will likely be bumped up from Division IV.
At 4-2 in preseason play, Lincoln has a solid core of seniors. Duncan said this year’s club is athletic and will rely heavily on team speed and use that speed to put pressure on opposing defenses.
“Our first two wins, … we didn’t hit a lot, but we got key bunts down when we needed to and were able to put pressure on their defense,” Duncan said. “Since we are fast, we just have to get the ball in the air and they tend to panic a bit.”
Duncan also heaped praise on his coaches Rob Higgins, Charles Middleton, Aaron Coats and Ed Eaton. Duncan said they have worked with many of the Zebras’ players since they were in Little League and know them well.
Duncan said he and Coach Eaton are still working on the pitching lineup. Duncan said he has two strong closers in Brennan Rozell and Ty Williams, but they are also his starting shortstop and catcher respectively.
“Pitching has been a question, but (against Vista del Lago) Zach Eutsey gave me four innings strong and that’s what I’m kind of hoping for,” said Duncan. “We thought we were just going to be by committee. If we can get two or three (innings) out of our starters, we’re going to be happy because my setup guy and my closers are strong.”
The coach said the other advantage is how well his players adapt to playing different positions when called upon. Duncan said he had to use four different first basemen during the Zebras’ 7-3 win over Ponderosa.
So far, no PVL team has looked dominant in preseason. Like Lincoln, Colfax was 4-2 and Foothill had scored 47 runs in seven games, but they gave up 68. Placer is 1-3 and Bear River 1-4.
But preseason ends this week and the PVL pennant race is anybody’s guess.