The East Lincoln Mustangs beat the South Point Red Raiders 6-5 Thursday.
The win was significant because it allows the Mustangs to hold onto third place in the Big South 3A heading into their second cycle of conference games.
Seth Alexander (2-1) earned the win for East Lincoln, working one and two-thirds with two strikeouts.
Mitchell Lynch pitched four and a third, struck out four and gave up two hits in getting a no-decision.
With the bases loaded and the score tied at four in the bottom of the fifth inning, Schram hit a two-RBI single into left field putting the Mustangs ahead.
Schram also picked up his fourth save of the season, working one inning, not surrendering a hit.
â€œHe proved his worth twice tonight. The first time with the base hit and the second time coming in with two men on, in the seventh, with no outs and getting the save,â€ Mustangsâ€™ head coach Matt Neville said.
Leading hitters for the Mustangs were: Jesse Guice who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, Schram who went 1-for-3 with two RBIs, a walk and a stolen base.
Lynch went 1-for-2 with a walk and a RBI. Alexander was 0-for-1 with a sacrifice- RBI and was hit by a pitch.
Neville was particularly pleased with the win because the Big South is only allowed three 3A State Playoff berths this season. By winning, the Mustangs currently hold the No. 3 slot.
â€œTonight was the biggest victory of the year. It was the most important. It allowed us to hold onto the third playoff berth,â€ he said.
â€œIf we wouldâ€™ve lost this game, South Point wouldâ€™ve had it,â€ Neville added.
The win was also significant in helping Alexander gain more confidence on the mound, after a solid showing at the Easter Tournament.
â€œWeâ€™ve been trying to rehab him and work him back into the mix. Itâ€™s just been a slow process for us, but we know heâ€™s going to pay big dividends before this season ends. Tonight, was an example of how big he can be to our team,â€ Neville said.
â€œThey (Mitchell, Seth and Greyson) pitched gritty and they pitched with guts,â€ Neville said.
East Lincoln, who went 6-18 last season, is 10-6 and 5-2 this year.
The turnaround, in Nevilleâ€™s eyes, stems primarily from all 14 players playing together on an East Lincoln Optimist team during the summer.
â€œWe were able to define roles, set expectations and season goals. We became a team this summer and thatâ€™s carried over into this season,â€ Neville said.
Another benefit of the extra time together was it sped up the maturation process for some of Nevilleâ€™s young players.
â€œOur young guys were able to grow up and our younger athletes knew they had to play a grade older. Our ninth graders had to play like tenth graders, our tenth graders had to play like eleventh and our eleventh graders had to play like seniors. And our seniors had to lead the way,â€ Neville said.
While the coach is clearly aware his team is only halfway to their goal of reaching the state playoffs, heâ€™s happy with the undeniable progress theyâ€™ve made.
â€œWe had goals we wanted to achieve that we set after our summer season and I think itâ€™s a huge accomplishment 99 percent of the time, weâ€™ve been able to perform at the level we wanted to,â€ he said.
Junior southpaw Mitchell Lynch is the teamâ€™s ace with a 5-2 record on the season.
While Lynch is not overpowering, itâ€™s his location and consistency that makes him hard to hit.
â€œHeâ€™s very crafty. Heâ€™s got three pitches and can throw them all for a strike, so the hitter can never settle in and know whatâ€™s coming, so that works in his advantage,â€ Neville said.
The teamâ€™s overall leader is another junior: Greyson Schram. Schram currently leads the team and BS 3A with a .470 batting average and 23 RBIs. Heâ€™s also the team leader in saves with four.
Neville believes his success is just the tip of the iceberg of what Schram will accomplish in his career.
â€œHeâ€™s done a great job. With his ability, he can maintain this level throughout the course of the year. I think heâ€™s capable of bigger things and that heâ€™s a definite prospect for college,â€ he said.
Junior T.J. Chapman is second on the team batting at a .367 clip. He also has two homeruns and is third on the Mustangs with 17 RBIs. Sophomore Jesse Cadenhead, with a batting average of .325, is second on the team with 19 RBIs.
Perhaps, the biggest surprise for the green and orange is the emergence of freshman leadoff hitter Jesse Guice, who is also batting over .300 and has been a legitimate threat on the bases.
â€œHeâ€™s at the top of our conference in batting average and heâ€™s been a great surprise,â€ Neville said.
South Point 300 100 1â€”5 4 3
East Lincoln 031 020 xâ€”6 6 6
by John Mark Brooks