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Lincoln clings to playoff hopes, roots for three-way tie

By: Russ Edmondson The News Messenger
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Lincoln High’s varsity softball team needs some help if it’s going to qualify for the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division IV playoffs. Heading into Wednesday’s league finales the Zebras and Colfax were both 7-4 while Whitney had already finished its season with a record of 8-4. The three teams are vying for the Pioneer Valley League’s second and final playoff position as Bear River (11-0) has already locked up the league championship. Lincoln hosted El Dorado (0-11) Wednesday while Colfax closed its regular season by hosting Bear River. Whitney will advance to the playoffs if Lincoln and Colfax lose. If Lincoln wins and Colfax loses then Whitney will go to the playoffs because the Wildcats swept the Zebras in league play. If both Lincoln and Colfax win then all three teams will be tied for second place. The teams would have to play it off to decide who gets into the playoffs that begin next Wednesday. The three teams would engage in a coin flip today according to Lincoln softball coach and athletic director Donna Tofft. The winner of that would get a bye while the other two teams play each other. The winner of that game would then play the team that won the coin flip to decide who would advance into the playoffs. The Zebras (16-10 overall) have been playing good ball lately and had won three of four games heading into Wednesday’s game. The Zebras topped visiting Placer 3-2 Monday after winning at Mesa Verde 9-1 Friday and losing 3-1 at Whitney April 30. “We’ve picked it up the last two weeks,” Tofft said. “Even though we lost to Whitney, we lost to a good team on an error and a little, timely hit. We had no errors against Placer. And we’ve been playing with a lot more focus and energy.” Lincoln trailed Placer 2-1 in the last of the sixth inning when senior Cassie Emerson slammed a two-run, two-out double to right-center field to put the Zebras on top. Lincoln freshman Nikoli Sharp scored from first base on the play, just beating the tag at home plate for the lead run. Sharp also went 2-for-3 at the plate and pitched a complete game (seven innings, four hits, two earned runs, one walk, two strikeouts). Sophomore Stephanie Tofft went 1-3 with a run scored and two steals. “The last couple of weeks the luck has been in our favor,” said Tofft about Sharp scoring from first on Emerson’s double. Tofft shut down Mesa Verde from the circle Friday while she also had a big day at the plate (2-3, two runs, RBI, three steals). Sharp (2-4, run, steal), Emerson (2-4, two runs, steal), Nicole Wilkerson (3-4, two runs, three RBI, steal) and Priscilla Montoya (1-4, run, two RBI, steal) also starred offensively. Sharp was solid against Whitney (seven innings, two walks, four hits, four strikeouts, no earned runs) while Lincoln managed just two singles offensively (Tofft and Wilkerson). The Wildcats scored twice in the last of the sixth inning to go ahead for good. Lincoln qualified for the playoffs last year after tying Whitney for second place with a record of 8-4. Last year three PVL teams qualified for the playoffs but it goes on a rotating basis. The Zebras were eliminated in the first round by East Union of Manteca.