Prep Baseball: Brown, Lincoln down Casey 6-1
Lincoln County pitcher Zach Brown delivers during the Patriots¿ 6-1 win over Casey County on Monday. Brown earned a complete-game win, allowing just one run off five hits. (Nancy Leedy)
Lincoln had a 2-1 lead before erupting in its final at-bat. Eight Patriot batters came to the plate in the seventh, five got on base and four scored to pad their lead.
“It was way too close for comfort going into that final at-bat,” Lincoln coach Brad McNew said. “It’s early in the year, and we’re definitely not swinging the bats the way we need to be right now. We’ve got to make adjustments at the plate coming back to bat and it took us a while to do that. We did finally make the adjustment and good things happened.”
Nolan Sanders, who was batting for an injured Ryne Otto, got the seventh inning started with a one-out single down the third base line. Sanders moved around to second base, then after a strikeout, he was headed for home off a Chase Pemberton RBI double to right field.
Nick Smith followed with an RBI single to centerfield to score Pemberton and he was driven in by a Dylan King RBI triple to deep center. King almost had an inside-the-park home run but tripped at second base before moving on to third. He did make it home, however, when Boone Baird hit to third to widen the gap to five runs.
“I felt really great coming into the seventh and it 2-1,” Casey coach Greg Hammond said. I thought we really had a shot at winning the ballgame. But we missed a few here and there and they made some great plays. They hit the ball well there in the last inning and opened it up.”
Hammond, who had started Chris Lee on the mound and put Alex Atwood on in relief in the fourth, called on Matthew Sharp to pitch the seventh.
“He was switching arms and he kept it a little off-balance on us,” McNew said of Sharp. “We just had guys that had good at-bats there at the end ... and that’s what you’ve got to have. Up until that point we hadn’t found holes where the fielders weren’t, we’d always been hitting it to people.”
It wasn’t the offense alone that helped push Lincoln (1-1) past Casey (0-1). The Patriots packed a potent defense throughout the game, led by junior Zach Brown, who pitched a complete game, scattering five hits and giving up one run with six strikeouts.
“(The seventh) made it a lot easier on Zach, and he was able to pound the strike zone a little more at the end of the game,” McNew said. “He put us on his back today and said, ‘Here we go.’ That was a big step for him. He wanted to keep going. He didn’t get nervous. He kept throwing strikes, letting our defense play. He gave us a chance to win. He threw it great.”
Brown faced the minimum number of batters in the first, sixth and seventh innings and just four in both the third and fourth. Casey got nine runners on and had four left on, including loaded bases in the third.
“They did well, and not just batting. They didn’t give us many bases” Hammond said of the Lincoln defense. “Early in the game they fielded some balls that probably should have been base hits. So (I’ve) got to commend their fielders for that.”
The only Rebel to score was Atwood, whom Brown hit with a pitch to start the second inning. Atwood stole second, then scored on a Sharp RBI double to centerfield to even the game at 1-all.
Casey’s biggest threat to steal the lead away from Lincoln came in the bottom of the fifth. Hunter Christian led off the inning with a single, Jordan Sallee reached on an error, and after a strikeout, Logan Weddle hit to center. Christian tried to come home on the Weddle hit but was tagged out by Lincoln catcher Vinny Morris. The Rebels were loaded up after Brown walked Daniel Bastin, but Brown got out of the inning unscathed by fanning Tyler Hayes for the final out.
“I was real proud of the kids for the effort they gave,” Hammond said. “We’re in the ballgame all the way up to the last inning. We just still need to be mentally tougher when things start to go not quite our way. But we’re getting there, and I have faith that this team is going to do good things throughout the year.”
Lincoln never trailed in the game, scoring one run in both the first and fourth innings. John Day scored the first run on a Morris single, and pinch-runner Logan Young made it 2-1 in the fourth inning when he scored on a Michael Wilcher bunt.
Lee allowed two runs off five hits in his three innings up for Casey, with three strikeouts. Atwood gave up two hits.
Lincoln County 100 100 4 — 6 11 1
Casey County 010 000 0 — 1 5 1
Zach Brown and Vinny Morris. Chris Lee, Alex Atwood (4), Matthew Sharp (7) and Hunter Christian. W—Brown. L—Lee 2B—Sharp (CC), Chase Pemberton (LC); 3B—Dylan King (LC).