The Lincoln County Cardinals are rapidly approaching the mid-point of the regular American Legion baseball season and, with the playoffs looming, hope to increase the depth of their pitching rotation and capitalize on batters who are getting hot at the right time.
East Lincoln product Danny Sullivan, who routinely held the designated hitter spot on the Mustangs’ lineup, leads the Cardinals with a .379 batting average with 11 hits in 29 at-bats and it also on top of the roster with seven RBIs. Addison Parrish, Jacob Hoover and Jake Cochrane are all batting .300 or better, and Cochrane is second in RBIs, with six so far this season.
Cochrane also leads the team with three home runs — power hitting that came as a surprise to Lincoln County head coach Bruce Bolick.
“I didn’t know he could hit like that, he’s a solid hitter,” Bolick said. “He’s a lot like Parrish, he’s going to put the bat on the ball and drive it.”
Bolick said he was also impressed with Cochrane’s offensive production.
“He has punch in his bat,” Bolick said. “He’s a talented kid, and I think he’s going to play better when he’s playing four days a week.”
Lincolnton High School’s Jacob Hoover has the most hits on the team, with 15 in 41 at-bats for a .367 average, and is nearing his stellar .400 batting average from last year’s American Legion season.
Bolick said he hopes another East Lincoln athlete, lead-off batter and center fielder Clay Hodges, will make an impact on the Cardinals’ opponents.
“If we can get him on base he’s a disturbance,” Bolick said. “We’d like to use him like the high school did — get him on base a lot and disrupt the defense. He draws quite a few throws when he’s on base, and we’re just trying to get line-drive groundballs and base-on-balls out of him.”
It hasn’t been an easy run through the first half of the season for Lincoln County. The Cardinals have a 3-9 overall record, and are hovering at .500 with a 2-4 Area IV division record, which leaves them tied with Kings Mountain Post 155 at sixth place in the eight-team standings. They’ve won two of their last four games after a four-game losing streak, and defeated an unbeaten Hickory team 8-7 on Friday.
“Early on we played some good competition,” Bolick said. “We played Caldwell County three times and Cherryville twice, and those are pretty good teams. And we were still short of pitching.”
The Cardinals added Dylan Thompson back into the pitching rotation as a reliever against Hickory on Saturday after the right-hander recovered from an elbow injury.
“We were missing him,” Bolick said. “He’s finally gotten into shape to pitch and he looked great against Hickory. He looked like he did against Shelby in the first round of the playoffs last year.”
Bolick has consistently cited the Cardinals’ need for longer outings from their starting pitchers, in an effort to lighten the overall load upon the rotation. That may include adding Parrish to the rotation, after he finished his junior season at East Lincoln with a 4-0 record and a 1.23 ERA on the mound.
“We plan to throw him some too, we haven’t worked him in as much as we’d like to so far,” Bolick said. “We’ve built up the number of pitches or innings that our pitchers are throwing. They’ve raised it up a couple of innings, which helps the bullpen. If you’re only getting three or four innings out of your pitchers you’re probably using three pitchers a night. We’re not that deep, but we need to get some good innings out of our starters.”
Lincoln County has been getting many of its outs from short stop Randal Ortiz, a first-year player with Bolick.
“He’s an excellent fielder,” Bolick said. “Short stop the position I played myself, and you have to make the routine play. He’s a good athlete, but you can’t bobble it or knock the ball down like you do at third or second, you have to make the play in one complete motion. You have to have good, steady hands. He has a nice pair of hands and good feet too, he’s been a big asset to us.”
The Cardinals begin a four-game stretch at home against Mint Hill on Friday, play two games on the road, and then are back at home for three games before closing the regular season at Caldwell County.