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Lincoln softball campaign closes with loss to Center

By: Russ Edmondson The News Messenger
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A very successful season came to a sudden end for Lincoln High’s varsity softball team on May 19 in Stockton. The Zebras (22-4-1 overall), who went 12-0 in Pioneer Valley League play, lost 3-0 to Center in round one of the Sac-Joaquin Section, Division IV playoffs. Lincoln’s PVL rival Bear River ended up winning the section title, topping Center 11-1 in Saturday’s finals. Lincoln went 2-0 against Bear River during the PVL season. This was the fourth consecutive section championship for the Bear River Bruins. Center was the No. 2 seed from the Central Valley Conference this season. The first round was single elimination while the rest of the tournament was double elimination. All Div. 4 playoff games were played at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton. “They have had the experience and (it would have been tough) to beat them a third time,” said Lincoln coach Donna Tofft about Bear River. “They were playing very well and they know what it’s like to win.” Lincoln senior pitcher Stephanie Tofft was dominant for most of the game but Center rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth inning. Tofft gave up six hits, walked one and hit a batter in seven innings. She also recorded eight strikeouts. Lincoln managed just three hits in the loss as Nikoli Sharp, Courtney Jones and Kacie Freymond each singled. “We didn’t hit. We hit balls right at people and didn’t get a key hit. You have to be lucky,” Donna Tofft said. “Shelby (Jones) hit one off the third baseman’s foot and it bounced right to shortstop and she threw Shelby out. We hit it right at people and they beat us. We made some adjustments late and we put the bat to the ball . . . But we were not very good.” Lincoln had a chance to score in the first inning. Sharp led off with a single and, following an out, Stephanie Tofft was walked intentionally. The inning ended with a strikeout and a fly out to left. “You don’t wait around. The longer you wait around the (other) team gets a little more confident,” Donna Tofft said. “If we had scored the first run I think we would have been fine. Our forte has been coming up with the big hit here and there. And we just didn’t get it. “It wasn’t for a lack of trying. We just hit a team on a roll and they came back and beat East Union and then lost to Bear River and then beat Oakdale and East Union again,” Tofft said. “I’m not sure it makes it hurt any less . . . only one team can go away happy.” Center’s sixth-inning rally included three hits and all three runs were earned. “We got beat by a team that had a little more motivation. You are the underdog and there are no expectations,” Tofft said. “We’ve learned two lessons. “You can’t take anybody in league for granted (Lincoln lost to Mesa Verde last year and finished one game back of first place in the PVL) and we learned that last year. And this year we learned that you can’t take the first game of the playoffs for granted. And hopefully that will bode well for next year.” Lincoln, which has not won a section title since 1992, claimed its first league title since 2000 this season.