Lincoln baseball still searching for stride

Foothill in town Thursday
By: Jim Linsdau of The News Messenger
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The Lincoln High baseball team will open its Pioneer Valley League campaign Thursday hosting the Foothill Mustangs. Game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. on the Fighting Zebras’ diamond.

After dodging the inclement weather, the defending Division IV section champions managed six preseason games. Although the Zebras’ record is 2-4, they have played some strong teams.

With the departure of a senior pitching lineup that won 26 games in 2016, Lincoln head coach Graylon Duncan has been working to shore up an inexperienced bullpen.

“(Pitching) was a concern coming in. I mean, when you graduate your whole senior staff it’s tough,” Duncan said. “And we have guys that did not see a lot of mound time last year because we were senior heavy last year on the mound. There was a concern, but I think we’re going to be OK the more we get these guys working.”

His comment came after a visiting Whitney team hung 15 runs on the board last week. Duncan went through four of his hurlers in order to stem the Wildcats’ bats.

But Duncan has a cadre of pitchers to choose from. The 10 he has used so far have an ERA of 5.515.

At the plate, Lincoln kept pace through three innings, but a seven-run fourth allowed the ‘Cats to pull away for a 10-run victory.

Charles Middleton has been knocking the cover off the ball and two of his teammates are hitting better than .350. However, the team was averaging .262 through the first five games.

What Duncan is looking for is the leadership that also departed during last spring’s graduation ceremony.

“We don’t really have, right now, that one leader who’s just going to say, ‘Hey, jump on my back and we’re going to … I mean, we’re going to win the game with you, right now,’” said Duncan. “But I think Charles is starting to do that a little bit. Charles is kind of that quiet leader because of his work ethic.”

But section titles and league championships are difficult to come by and when a team is a defending champion it makes them a bit of a target. The Zebras have the talent, but they are still trying to find their way as a team.

“I think one of the biggest things is we’re just not as deep as we were last year. I think last year we had Eli (Garcia) pitching and (Anthony) Herrera who were outstanding, and … you had other guys you could go to that most teams just didn’t have,” Duncan said.

“We look forward to the year and just improving,” the coach added. “We will be better and when it comes time for league we’re going to be ready to go.”

League begins Thursday, 4 p.m.