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LINCOLN â€” Euphoria quickly gave way to frustration Thursday afternoon at rainy Chet Nichols Field.
Lincoln, which rallied for three runs in the home portion of the seventh inning to tie the game at 3-3 against visiting Toll Gate, watched as the Titans pushed across an unearned run in the top of the eighth to secure a 4-3 verdict.
Trouble brewed almost immediately in the extra frame, as Lincoln starter Joe Yankee surrendered a walk to the first hitter. A sacrifice bunt pushed Jason Shushtari to second with R.J. Mann due up next for Toll Gate. Mann, the teamâ€™s No. 7 hitter, delivered what proved to be backbreaker for Lincoln.
A soft single to centerfield was preserved â€“ at least for the moment â€“ as Kyle Jackson made an athletic play to hold Mann to one base. Seeing that Shushtari was breaking for third base after initially seeing whether the ball would be caught, Jackson quickly got to his feet to unleash a throw toward third.
The toss proved to be errant, which in turn, allowed Shushtari to scamper to the plate.
The Lions did place the tying run in scoring position after John Guarino drew a walk and Justin Conti bunted him to second. Toll Gate reliever Jacob Cardiff, however, got Jeff Sheehan and Jackson to fly out to preserve the win for Ryan Charette, who tossed 7 1/3 innings.
The loss put the breaks on Lincolnâ€™s three-game winning streak. Yankee pitched all eight innings, recording seven strikeouts while tossing 123 pitches. At the plate, the senior delivered a booming two-run triple that got the Lions on the scoreboard in the seventh after trailing 3-0.
â€śItâ€™s not even a question of taking Joe out,â€ť said Lincoln first-year head coach Andy Hallam. â€śHeâ€™s one of the heart-and-soul pieces and has been a real good example for the younger kids in terms of dealing with adversity both on the mound and in the batterâ€™s box.â€ť
Lincoln catcher Steve McManus followed Yankeeâ€™s three-bagger with a double in the left-centerfield gap, the game-tying knock coming on a 3-1 count. It represented one of the few hits the Lions (4-5, Division I-North) were able to muster with runners in scoring position, as the home team twice wound up stranding runners on second and third.
Talking about his clubâ€™s rally after being held off the scoreboard for six innings, Hallam remarked, â€śWhat weâ€™re trying to preach is resiliency, especially with the younger kids. We use the metaphor of a boxing match in that youâ€™re going to get punched throughout the game, but are you going to absorb the knockout blow?
â€śI thought we were on our way to delivering a knockout blow, but thatâ€™s the way the ball bounces sometimes.â€ť
For the longest time it seemed the unearned run the Titans (5-4, I-Central) scored in the third inning would hold up. Then came the seventh, which saw Toll Gate tack on two more runs. A bloop single by Joe Martinez plated one run, with catcher Ben Mann recording a straight steal of home that made it 3-1.
Jake Petrin and Sam Brito each collected two hits for Lincoln, which turns the page to find that a four-game week beckons. The busy stretch commences Monday with a trip to Tiverton, followed by the first home game under the lights, set for Wednesday against East Greenwich. Lincoln will then jump back into divisional play with a road contest at Mount St. Charles next Friday, followed by a non-leaguer at home Saturday night against Woonsocket.