BEREA – A good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel kept the lights burning late at Madison Southern High School Monday as Lincoln County and Union County duked it out in the Eagle Classic.
After being held to just one run apiece through seven innings, both the Lincoln and Union offenses came alive in the eighth inning, plating three runs. But it wasn’t until the top of the ninth that Lincoln got the edge it needed, with Tanner Leigh hitting a sacrifice fly to give the Bat Patriots a 5-4 win.
Dylan King (2-for-4) led off the ninth with a single to centerfield, moved to second on a perfect Boone Baird bunt single and took third on a bunt out by Michael Wilcher. Then Leigh followed with the sacrifice fly to left field to put the Bat Patriots up one run.
Lincoln closer Nolan Sanders sealed the win in the bottom of the ninth by retiring the Union batters in order.
“It was an excellent game,” Lincoln coach Brad McNew said. “We did the little things and that was big. Dylan gets a hit and then Boone and Mike back-to-back bunts. If they don’t get those bunts, we’re not winning that ballgame. You get the bunts down then we come through with the fly ball to score the run. That’s the little things that have got to happen for us to become a great ball club.”
King’s single, the two bunts and Leigh’s wallop to left field only slightly tarnished the brilliance of the pitching battle waged throughout the game.
Lincoln’s ace Zach Brown and Union’s top hurler Blaine Alvey allowed only one run apiece in the first seven innings, with Brown, who gave up one run in the first, pitching six consecutive scoreless innings and Alvey denying Lincoln through its first five at-bats.
“Zach Brown, once again, he got us there,” said McNew. “We’re not even in that situation if he doesn’t pitch the way he does because that’s a great baseball team across the field from us tonight. All compliments to them (Union Braves). They are a great team.”
“I keep telling our pitchers ‘Just give us a chance to win.’ And he dueled. That was a good guy across the way. (Alvey’s) a good arm. He’s a senior, college-armed pitcher.”
Alvey gave up one run off two hits, with one walk and nine strikeouts. Brown allowed one run off seven hits, with one intentional walk and four strikeouts.
Union (9-2) led for most of the game, with Alvey tagging an RBI-single to left in the bottom of the first inning to drive in Shawn Williamson.
Lincoln (5-3) evened the score at 1-all in the top of the sixth when Wilcher scored on a Union throwing error. Wilcher, who singled to center to reach and moved to second on a Leigh bunt, got the green light to go home from McNew after Brave third baseman Kyle Griffin underthrew first baseman Sam Greenwell on a Ryne Otto ground ball.
The score remained deadlocked until the eighth inning when the two offenses cranked out six runs.It appeared that Lincoln might have the game in hand in the top of the eighth after scoring three runs off reliever Kyle Griffin.
Chase Pemberton connected for an RBI-triple to left to plate both Leigh and Sanders then he added his own score off a wild pitch to Nick Smith to make it 4-1.
However, Union answered with its own three-run effort in the bottom of the inning, with Micah Brown, Heath Onan and Nolan Cowan each getting a hit and a run off Smith, who came on in the eighth.
Three runs was all Smith and the Lincoln defense allowed, though, stranding two Braves on base with a force out and a ground out.Lincoln had the opportunity to build on its 5-4 lead in the ninth with Baird, John Day and Otto all on base with two outs but Griffin got Vinny Morris to fly out to end the inning.
“We got the win and that’s what matters,” said McNew. “This morning we had a little downside (4-2 loss to Western Hills) but we responded well here. We got down and responded. We got up, then they tied it back up. Then we finally got the win. We’re starting to get on an even keel. Hopefully that’s a sign of a good baseball team coming along here.”
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Lincoln 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 1- 5 7 2
Union 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0- 4 10 2
LINCOLN – Zach Brown, Nick Smith (8), Nolan Sanders (9) and Vinny Morris; UNION – Sam Greenwell, Kyle Griffin (8) and Shawn Williamson.2B – Nolan Cowan (UC), Tyler Bebout (UC); 3B – Chase Pemberton (LC).