LINCOLN — One by one, Division I squads are coming for Lincoln High, all of them mounting serious challenges.
On Thursday, it was East Providence’s turn to put Lincoln through its paces. The Townies did not back down in the slightest, moving to within a run after scoring three times against Lions ace pitcher Lindsay Mayer in the sixth inning.
With the tension mounting at Saylesville Elementary School’s Sullivan Field, the defending state champion Lions once again demonstrated that no matter that the the gap between themselves and the rest of the field is narrowing, it’s going to take a supreme effort from an opponent to put an end to a winning streak that now sits at 27 consecutive games.
When the smoke cleared and Mayer recorded a strikeout that ended this nailbiting contest with E.P. having the tying run at first base, Lincoln could finally exhale. A 4-3 triumph marked the second time this week that the Lions prevailed in a one-run affair.
Despite the positive outcome, the postgame speech that took place in left field and involved head coach Dick Ryan and his players proved lengthy. For a team that has come to define perfection, Lincoln was in need of a confidence boost.
“Most people don’t complain when they’re 5-0; it doesn’t sound good,” stated Ryan. “The girls were a little bit down. We’ve won 27 games in a row, but they’re tough on themselves.”
The Lincoln players may be their own harshest critics, but the fact that they’ve been involved in more close shaves than 10-run mercy rule triumphs demonstrates that unlike a year ago, the rest of the state is vastly improved. East Providence sported a 4-1 record entering Thursday. Had a couple of breaks gone the Townies’ way, Rob Traverse & Co. would have emerged as the toast of the softball community.
Alas, the Lions demonstrated championship mettle at key moments. With the bases chock full of Townies and two down in the fourth inning, Mayer recorded a swinging strikeout. Outfielders Adriana Toro, who finished with two hits, and Casie Beauchemin came through with key defensive plays that went a long way in preventing East Providence from leapfrogging its opponent on the scoreboard.
Toro and Emily Bouthillette got Lincoln off on the right foot, the pair stroking back-to-back RBI doubles in the first inning. The lead grew to 3-0 in the third inning after Mayer connected for a solo home run. The fourth and final run came an inning later when Mayer singled home Kellyn Dyer.
Starring at a 4-0 deficit with the state’s premier pitcher on the mound, East Providence did not flinch, particularly in the wake of letting a key scoring opportunity slip through its grasp. A two-base throwing error by the Lions aided the Townies’ three-run uprising in the sixth, a frame that also saw sophomore Taylor Medeiros connect for a RBI hit.
“That was anybody’s game going into the last inning,” Ryan noted.
Stated Traverse, “They’re a complete team and you’ve got to have your ‘A’ game in order to beat them. I’m encouraged, but they’ve got a lot of answers and they made all the key plays.”
Mayer wasn’t her usual dominant self – she walked an uncharacteristic six Townies. From her coach’s vantage point, there’s a perfectly sound reason why the University of Virginia-bound product was slightly askew.
“Lindsay’s a little tight right now; her shoulder hasn’t loosened up yet,” noted Ryan. “I give her credit; she’s always battling right to the end.”
After the teams went through the postgame handshake line, Traverse made sure to pull Mayer aside.
“I love that she’s unflappable and stoic,” the Townie mentor said. “It’s not all that great to be on the other side of it, but she’s fun to watch as she goes about her business. She has natural ability.”