Special to LTN
VALE — West Lincoln coach Allan Chapman has been saying it for a while now.
Since his team’s lopsided loss to East Lincoln on March 27, the Rebels have been playing good baseball — real good baseball.
On Friday night in the first round of the 2A state playoffs, West Lincoln did what good teams do come playoff time — it made big plays in all the key moments to pull away from Trinity, 8-3, and advance to Tuesday’s second round game against East Davidson at home.
After starting the season 6-6, the Rebels have won 12 of their last 15 games.
The first big play came in the top of the second inning. Already with a run in and 2-0 lead, the Bulldogs (12-14) had runners at first and second with two outs. David Newcomer belted a single to center field that Dalton Towery (2-4, RBI, run) scooped up and fired a one-hop throw to catcher Derrick Braun who tagged out Chase Clark for the inning’s final out.
“Dalton’s throw I thought was one of the bigger plays because they had their best player coming to the plate (Collin Rosenbaum) — we hadn’t gotten him out yet and we ended up (intentionally) walking him another time later,” Chapman said. “But that was real, real important. It put them up and then we came in and had a good inning.”
Krishna Rana singled home pinch runner Ethan Bumgarner and Nick Fisher to pull the Rebels (18-9) even, 2-2, in the bottom of the second inning. After Houston Gilmore lined a single to right, D.J. Dellinger lined a double to left center just beyond a diving Clark to give the Rebels a 4-2 lead they never surrendered. Chandler Jenkins (2-4, two RBIs) lined a two-out single to score Dellinger and give the Rebels a 5-2 cushion.
“I knew it was 2-0,” Dellinger said of the count against Trinity starter Dylan Seay. “He was behind so I was looking fastball and that’s what I got and took advantage of it. That got us going that inning and we didn’t look back from there.”
Despite West Lincoln’s second inning eruption, Trinity bounced back in the third. Rosenbaum singled and reached third on Matt McQuaige’s double. Rebels’ starter Cameron High struck out Matt Jackson, but the ball bounced away and Jackson reached first and Rosenbaum scored to cut the lead to 5-3.
With no outs and runners on the corners, Chapman paid High a visit.
“I went out and talked to him and said we just have to give up one here and make sure we don’t let them tie the game or get the lead,” Chapman said.
High responded with an infield popup and strikeout and, with runners on second and third, induced an inning-ending groundout to shortstop Brett Huff (2-3, two runs).
“We were just planning on giving up that one run and it turned out they didn’t score,” High said. “We were going to give up that run and try to get a double play and it just worked out in our favor.”
From that point, High shut down the Bulldogs. He set them down in order in the fifth and sixth and tried to finish in the seventh before surrendering a leadoff single to Newcomer. Jenkins relieved him and promptly got Rosenbaum to hit into a 6-4-3 double play and ended the game with a McQuaige line out to Gilmore at first.
High gave up six hits — five in the first three innings — walked four and struck out four in picking up the win. He also was 2 for 3 with a double and RBI at the plate.
“He gets stronger,” Chapman said of High’s performance. “He likes to be out there at the end of the game and unfortunately his pitch count got up pretty high so we went ahead and got him out, but I thought he threw really good.”