Lincoln draws No. 3 seed for the playoffs
Compiling 15 straight victories on their way to their fourth Pioneer Valley League pennant in a row, the Lincoln High baseball team was given reason to reflect on their entry into the Division II playoffs after a 5-3 loss to Whitney last week.
With three straight CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV titles, to make it four straight, the Fighting Zebras will have to do it at an entirely new level. It is an opportunity to prove they belong.
At Whitney last week, Lincoln almost seemed to walk onto the Wildcats’ diamond with a nonchalance unbefitting a championship team. Their lackluster performance did not go unnoticed by Zebras head coach Graylon Duncan.
“I just didn’t like the way we went about business. In between innings, before the game, (we) just kind of rolled out here and I don’t think we put forth the effort that we needed to prior to the game,” Duncan said. “It wasn’t about the game itself; it was about how we carried ourselves in between innings and that kind of bothered me.”
Lincoln started as advertised when leadoff batter Brennan Rozell ripped a double, advanced to third and came home on a passed ball. Ty Williams drew a base on balls and scored on Jacob Lemus’ base hit.
Leo Martinez took the mound and retired the first three batters he faced. Thoughts turned to a potential rout of a team that finished 2-12 in the Division II Capital Valley League – but that didn’t happen.
Using younger players that are likely to return to play varsity for Whitney next season, the Wildcats exploded for four runs in the bottom of the second inning for a 4-2 lead.
“Whitney played an outstanding game. I mean, their pitching staff did their job,” Duncan said. “They were able get their bunts down when they needed to get them down; we weren’t able to field them today, normally we do.”
Riding a 19-game winning streak, the Zebras appeared confident the game would eventually go their way. Rozell scored again on Nick Pereira’s base hit in the top of the fifth to close within one of the ‘Cats, 4-3.
But Whitney dug in its collective heels and went up 5-3 on a throwing error in the bottom of the sixth. The Wildcats then sent senior Michael Hamp to the mound to close and he did just that.
The Zebras loaded the bases twice in the game, producing just one run.
“I can accept that there’s going to mistakes; that’s what I’m OK with. It’s more about how we respond to it, how we adjust; how we go about our business,” said Duncan. “When we make a mistake, guys are quick to pick people up; guys are quick to deal with it and today we just seemed kind of flat.”
A part of the team that never seems to go flat is its coaching staff. Duncan praised his assistants Rob Higgins, Charles Middleton, Aaron Coats and Edd Eaton for their devotion to excellence and player relations.
Ponderosa was scheduled to visit Lincoln Tuesday to open the playoffs. The 17-8 Bruins beat Whitney twice during the regular season, 14-6 and 7-4.