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Lincoln making some noise



9-run first inning powers Lincoln to 17-2 win over Wilson, first-place PIL tie with Grant

By Billy Gates | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
on May 10, 2017 10:23 PM, updated May 11, 2017 4:26 AM

HILLSBORO -- One pitch doesn't make a baseball game, but it can sure change one.

A dropped foul-tip on the third strike extended a two-out at-bat for Lincoln's Brandon Leitgeb and eventually led to a nine-run explosion in the first inning for the Cardinals in a 17-2 romp over Wilson on Wednesday at Ron Tonkin Field.

Lincoln went through the batting order plus five more hitters to open the game, and the scoring was punctuated by a Gabe Skoro two-run homer.

Wilson opened the pivotal three-game series with a 7-6 win Tuesday at home, and those two clubs, plus Grant, entered Wednesday's play tied atop the PIL standings at 13-2. The Cardinals settled the score in emphatic fashion and are now tied with just Grant with one game to go.

"We were looking for a response, and we got one," Lincoln coach CJ Watson said. "The guys don't take losing lightly. When they lose one, they get a chip on their shoulder."

Wilson pitcher Noah Keough recorded two quick outs to start the first inning. In six pitches, he struck out Lincoln leadoff hitter Matt Easton and coaxed Skoro into a groundout. Things looked fantastic for the Trojans before the most subtle of miscues turned into mayhem.

The foul-tip squirted out of Wilson catcher Carson Krake's glove, but Krake tried his best to sell the play. He quickly scooped it up and held his glove up as if he caught it, then ran straight for the dugout. It almost worked.

After the home plate umpire initially ruled it a clean catch and a strikeout to end the inning, Watson asked for an appeal as both teams hustled off the field.

The field umpire, who had the best look at the play, immediately came in signaling a dropped foul-tip. The call was correctly changed to a foul ball, and Leitgeb's plate appearance was restored.

Leitgeb worked a 10-pitch at-bat into a walk, and after Wilson was one pitch from being out of the inning unharmed, Lincoln's offense roared.

Sophomore Nick Ostmo lined a two-run triple to the right field corner, sophomore Myles Parkel scored Ostmo with a single to right and freshman Jake Leitgeb's soft liner that fit snuggly inside the foul line turned into a two-run double.

All of a sudden, Lincoln had a 5-0 lead and had batted around. And the Cardinals weren't done.

Easton hit a single in his second at-bat to score two, and that set the stage for Skoro's blast. Skoro swung at a Keough offering about chest-high, but put the barrel on the elevated fastball and physics took care of the rest. It landed in the bullpen beyond left field, then bounced onto the grass berm that come June 20 will be full of Hillsboro Hops fans.

Keough didn't make it out of the first inning, and Petie Wogan came in and put out the fire. Wogan stranded the bases loaded after Parkel flied out to center.

Lincoln scored in every inning except the sixth and put up five runs in the third inning for good measure. Coming off Tuesday's loss, in which Wilson rallied in the final inning to win, Watson said the Cardinals played team baseball and applied just about everything the coaching staff preaches about offense.

"Every at-bat was for everyone else in the dugout, not for the individual," Watson said. "Guy after guy came up, and it was just contagious."

For Lincoln, Skoro went 3 for 5 with a home run, a triple and two RBIs. Zach Ross and Baxter Halligan each went 3 for 4, and Leitgeb was 2 for 4, as was Parkel. 

Lincoln starting pitcher Jon Fortner's five innings, albeit overshadowed a bit by the outburst at the plate, were tremendous. Fortner allowed two hits with eight strikeouts and a walk in 77 pitches.

The Trojans scored single runs in the sixth and seventh. Alex Sabo hit a triple to lead off the sixth, and he scored on a Sammy DeVol groundout. After Clay Hunter singled in the seventh, he scored on a passed ball two batters later.

Leeper finished 2 for 3 with a double. Sabo's triple was the other extra-base hit for Wilson.

What a difference a day makes

DeVol hit a sacrifice fly to deep right field to score Alex Taff in the bottom of the seventh to cap a come-from-behind win for Wilson on Tuesday at Clopton Field.

The Cardinals led 3-0 after their half of the third inning, but the Trojans fought back to tie the score on a Garrett Leeper two-run single and Keough touched home on a wild pitch.

Wilson took the lead in the fourth on a Lincoln error, but the Cardinals regained the lead, 6-5, in the seventh on a Brandon Leitgeb double.

"We were very resilient, and that's what did it for us," Wilson coach Jeremy Shetler said. "Our pitcher, Cade Conklin, was pretty comfortable on the mound and did what he needed to."

Conklin scattered nine hits in a complete game performance with five strikeouts and a walk. Three of the six runs he allowed were earned, and Wilson made nice defensive plays behind him to get out of jams.

In the first inning, Conklin struck out Halligan, and then Krake cut down Leitgeb trying to steal second for a double play to end Lincoln's threat. Krake threw out Nolan Ostmo trying to steal in the sixth to end the inning, as well.

Sabo went 3 for 5 with a double and DeVol was 2 for 3. Leeper finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs for Wilson.

For Lincoln, Leitgeb was 3 for 4 with three RBIs and Skoro was 2 for 3 with two RBIs.

Both teams will make the postseason regardless of Friday's rubber match at Wilson, but Lincoln can tie Grant for first place in the standings with a win, assuming Grant beats last-place Franklin on Friday. Lincoln beat Grant in both meetings this season, so the Cardinals have the tiebreaker over the Generals. Grant clobbered Franklin 32-0 in the second game of their series Wednesday.

If the Trojans beat Lincoln, they'll not just win the series but will most likely give Grant the PIL title outright. A win would also help move up Wilson's OSAA ranking from where it was Thursday at No. 19.