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LINCOLN --- With a 5-0 shutout against the Smithfield Sentinels Friday, the Lincoln Lions improved their record to 14-0 and clinched the Northern Division.
Including yesterdayâ€™s game, the Lions have only played in five games that were decided by five or fewer runs, one of which came against Smithfield on April 4. During that game, Lincoln came away with a 3-2 win.
Coach Dick Ryan thought that the grit his squad showed against a Smithfield team that always gives Lincoln a close match was a good sign.
â€śWe showed a lot of hustle today,â€ť Ryan said. â€śWeâ€™ve played great all year, but as a result, havenâ€™t been in a lot of close ball games. They were really scrappy, but I thought we played well today.â€ť
Another positive that Ryan took away from the game was the skill some of his younger players showed. The Lions played without their starting third baseman and starting catcher, but Ryan thought their replacements did a great job of filling in the gap.
It didnâ€™t take long for the Lions to strike, their first two runs came in the first inning. Freshman right fielder and senior center fielder Emma Hart singled and Lindsay Mayer forced a walk. Smithfield then retired two straight batters and with two outs, freshman first baseman Alyssa Schermerhorn hit a single to score two.
A wild pitch in the third scored Toro and made the Lincoln lead 3-0.
Lincoln added two more runs in the fifth to bring its lead to 5-0. With the bases loaded, freshman Stacey Mayer hit a single to drive in one and the next batter, Schermerhorn singled as well, scoring one.
Mayer pitched the complete game shutout for Lincoln, giving up just three hits and striking out 11 batters. Mayer did hit three batters, however, and walked two more.
But given her success all year, the issues in control were not cause for alarm for Ryan, who attributed the wild pitches to a new pitch that Mayer was experimenting with, but said later on in the game, he had her go back to what she knows how to do.
â€śSheâ€™s the best pitcher in the state,â€ť Ryan said after the game. â€śWe were working on her screwball and a few just got away from her. Sheâ€™s the best player in Rhode Island and Iâ€™m not worried about her.â€ť
Senior Alexa Shilko pitched six innings for Smithfield, giving up five runs and got the loss for the Sentinels.
Toro went 4-4 on the day with three singles and a double for Lincoln. As a testament to the hitters behind her, she scored three out of the four times. Toro now has 28 hits in her last 14 games and has a hit in each of her last four at bats.
With the division already clinched, the Lions look to end the year strong and give themselves momentum as the playoffs draw near. They have four games remaining against Coventry, Cumberland, LaSalle and Mount St. Charles. Only the game against LaSalle is on the road.
Earlier this season, Lincoln beat Cumberland 11-0 in Cumberland, beat LaSalle 3-0 at home and beat Mount St. Charles 5-1 at Mount.