When discussing the Southern Piedmont baseball title, most pundits and fans are quick to mention North Lincoln and West Lincoln. But fail to mention East Lincoln.
First-year head coach Chris Matile, 29, would have it no other way. After coaching nearly all freshmen to a 4-16 record at Freedom High School in Prince William County, Matile inherited a talented Mustangs club that could easily play itself into contention for the conference title.
East is 2-1 on the season after a 14-6 win over West Caldwell and beating Newton last Friday 9-0.
While a 10-0 drubbing at the hands of 3A Ashbrook sounds bad, itâ€™s not when you consider senior Mitchell Lynch helped hold the game scoreless through five innings.
Against the Green Wave, Lynch worked three innings, struck out six, allowing no hits or runs.
In the first win of the Matile era, over the Warriors of West Caldwell, senior Nick Harmon threw three innings, had two strikeouts, allowed no walks and gave up two earned runs.
Lynch paced the Mustangs, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored, while fellow senior standout Grayson Schram went 2-for-5 with three RBIs. Bradley Morris contributed with a 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs.
Matile was extremely pleased with his seniorsâ€™ leadership by example.
â€œWeâ€™re hoping for them to do that all year. Weâ€™re going to need them to do that to compete in the conference,â€ he said. â€œWe reduced our errors, took a good approach at the plate and ended out with a victory,â€ he added.
Versus the Red Devils, Schram threw four innings, struck out five batters, allowed two walks and one hit for the win. Junior Jake Black played the role of hero at the plate went with a grand slam in the second inning to give the Mustangs a 6-0 lead and leaving his new coach impressed in the process.
â€œHeâ€™s just been tremendous. Heâ€™s very coachable, changed positions from the infield out to centerfield. At the plate, heâ€™s made a lot of changes and heâ€™s doing a great job with them,â€ Matile said.
Three freshmen starters also contributed heavily in the win as Randy Beard went 1-for-2 with two RBIs, R.J. Colichio who went 1-for-3 with one RBI and Aaron Dishman 1-for-2 with one RBI. Clint Hyde went 1-for-2 RBI and two runs scored.
â€œI told them you can play like freshmen in practice, but once the season actually got started theyâ€™re going to have to step up. We have three freshmen and a host of sophomores on the team,â€ Matile said of his rookies.
Part of what has eased the freshmenâ€™s transition to the varsity game has been the support theyâ€™ve received from the teamâ€™s veteran players.
â€œMy seniors have done a great job encouraging them and being morale-boosters for them and just helping them with onfield decisions that I canâ€™t necessarily blurt out right away,â€ Matile said.
The Mustangs will host Forestview in a JV/varsity doubleheader tonight.
by John Mark Brooks