DANVILLE – The Danville baseball team thwarted Lincoln County’s hopes for a second straight district upset, keeping a firm grip on the 45th District Tournament title with an 8-1 win Wednesday night in the championship game at Boyle County High School.
Lincoln knocked off favored Boyle County in the quarterfinal round with an 8-6 upset victory but the Bat Patriots could not hold off the Admirals as they collected their eighth consecutive district title.
Lincoln coach Brad McNew just shook his head after Danville’s offensive surge.
“One day everything goes your way, and the next day it doesn’t,” he said, comparing the finals to Lincoln’s big semifinal win over Boyle. “But that’s baseball and that’s pretty much what happened. Today, things went Danville’s way.”
Williams led off the fourth inning for Danville with a double to left center then Sebastian tagged an RBI double to get the scoring started. Danville had runners on first and third after Max Meckes reached on an error but Sebastian came home when Lincoln misplayed a grounder off Andrew Lasure. Rhodes Bell moved runners around with a shot to right field, driving in Meckes to make it 5-0. Dowell Harmon was hit by a pitch to load up the bases when Hunter Terry hit a blooper to right. Mason Stamm, courtesy runner for Lasure, and Bell scored on the bloop shot to give Danville the 7-0 lead.
Lincoln’s Tyler Holbrook, one of four Patriot pitchers to see action Wednesday, faced 11 Admiral batters before getting out of the fourth with two infield flys and a ground out.
Danville coach Paul Morse said the five-run fourth was just the Admirals responding to a challenge.
“I’d kind of gotten on them early because we left maybe six, seven guys on the first three innings,” he said. “Brad (McNew) was going with the scenario of changing pitchers as much as he could to keep us off balance and I think it kept us from getting clutch hits, so we were on them pretty hard about stepping up and getting a hit with some runners in scoring position. We had a few guys that did that that inning and it gave us that cushion we needed.”
Holding Danville to a 2-0 ballgame through three innings had McNew optimistic about Lincoln’s chances of a comeback. After the five-run fourth, McNew wasn’t as confident.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping them off balance until that inning. That inning they really strung the hits together and we got behind. When it’s 2-0 it looks pretty good. When it gets to 7-0, it changes the complexion of the game,” he said. “And we didn’t help ourselves. We left a lot of runners on base. You’ve got to score those runners when they’re sitting there.”
Winning pitcher Austin Baxter (7-3) was stingy with the hits, giving up just three hits, one run and two walks while striking out nine Lincoln batters.
“He did a great job,” Morse said. “He and Rob Caudill have led that rotation all year long and have pitched against some really tough competition and held their own. We expected him to come out and throw the strikes and I’m proud that he executed it.”
Lincoln threatened to make a dent in Baxter’s runs-allowed statistic, and the Admiral lead, in both the fourth and fifth innings.
Lincoln had Ryne Otto on second and Tre` Owens on third with one out in the fourth only to have Baxter get out of the jam with two strikeouts.
In the fifth, Nick Smith, who doubled to lead off the inning, was on third and Zach Brown was at first after a walk. After a Boone Baird strikeout, Lincoln was looking to score as Tanner Leigh lofted a short bunt.
But Danville third baseman Rob Caudill cut Lincoln off with his own double play, hustling toward home plate and stretching out his glove for the out, then sprinting back to tag third before Smith could get back on base.
“We had our opportunities. It just didn’t work out,” McNew said.
While Danville claimed the winners’ trophy, Lincoln still can find satisfaction in the fact that the Patriots are still playing. The last time Lincoln made it through the first round of district was in 2006. As district runner-up, the Patriots were guaranteed a working holiday with the 12th Region Tournament set to get under way on Memorial Day at Southwestern.
“We’ve improved a lot because these guys believe that baseball is important to them. That’s why we beat Boyle County. That’s why we are still playing,” said McNew. “These guys have laid a foundation and, hopefully, we can continue to improve. We want to play in the regional tournament every year.”
Buck Volk started on the mound for the Patriots in the district final. Michael Wilcher came on in the second inning, Holbrook worked part of the fourth before being relieved by Dylan King and Zach Brown came on in the sixth.
Danville adds district title count with win over Lincoln
DANVILLE¿S Max Meckes manages to get back to first base before Lincoln¿s Ben Mullins can glove the throw from pitcher Buck Volk in the first inning of the 45th District final. (Photo by Nancy Leedy)