The Lincoln County Cardinals closed the regular season with a 14-7 loss to Huntersville on Friday, and now look ahead to their Area IV first-round playoff series against Shelby which begins on Tuesday.
The Cardinals, ranked fifth in the Eastern division, and Shelby, ranked fourth in the Western division, did not meet during the regular season. Lincoln County head coach Bruce Bolick said his team was looking forward to opening the series at Shelby’s Keeter Stadium, home of the American Legion World Series, but will have to prepare to face a “different” style of pitcher.
“Shelby tends to throw a lot of sidearm right-handers,” he said. “You don’t see much of it, but it’s getting to be more prominent. They have a history of having at least one sidearm pitcher.”
Lincoln County faced Shelby in the first round of the playoffs last year, and won the series in an upset. Bolick said he was sure his players were aware of that fact, but that he wasn’t focused on it as a harbinger of things to come.
“It’s pretty much just another game,” he said. “The playoffs are a second season, really. Shelby is kind of like us, it started out kind of slow but finished strong.”
The Cardinals had 13 hits against Huntersville on Friday, but gave up at least two runs in five of the game’s nine innings. Bolick elected to give several members of the team the chance to pitch, in an effort to see who may be able to fit into the rotation during the upcoming best-of-five series. Jacob Hoover, Danny Sullivan, Clayton Dellinger and Randal Ortiz pitched on Friday, while Jake Cochrane started the game.
“Our plan was to use everyone who hasn’t pitched much,” Bolick said, “because we’re going to need them in the playoffs.”
Sullivan led the Cardinals at the plate at 3-5 with an RBI. Hoover went 3-4 with two RBIs, Clay Hodges went 2-5 and Ortiz hit 2-5.
Bolick said he was happy in a number of ways with the way the team looked as they enter the postseason.
“I like the way our pitchers have built up their innings,” he said. “They’ve gotten to where they can pitch beyond four or five innings, and that’s a big positive for us. We’re being aggressive at the plate, but we’re being a little more patient. We’re not jumping on the first pitch like we used to and we’re not hitting as many fly balls.”