Baseball: Lincolnview takes big step toward NWC title

MIDDLE POINT — On the fourth try, Lincolnview’s baseball team found the big inning it was looking for.

The Lancers’ 5-0 win over Leipsic on Friday in a matchup of the last two teams still unbeaten in Northwest Conference games was laden with NWC championship implications.

A win by Leipsic would have allowed the Vikings, who also currently lead the Putnam County League, to become the NWC champion.

Lincolnview’s victory meant that if it could get a win on Saturday morning over Ada, the NWC’s last-place team, it would win the NWC title for the fourth time in a row.

Lincolnview (15-6, 7-0 NWC) struck early on Friday, getting a run in the bottom of the first inning on a leadoff triple by Chayse Overholt and a single by Jack Dunlap.

With the dominant performance turned in by senior right-hander Luke Bollenbacher, that first-inning score would have been enough to get the win.

Bollenbacher allowed only two hits — a first-inning single by Tommy Offenbacher and a sixth-inning single by Quin Schroeder. He struck out nine, didn’t walk a batter and the Lancers’ defense was flawless behind him.

Obviously, Lincolnview wanted more than just that one run. But it got only one hit in the next three innings before a four-run outburst in the fifth inning put it solidly in control of the game.

“We met in front of the dugout before the fifth inning and I said, ‘Guys, we’re doing everything right. We’re hitting the ball hard, we’re just not finding gaps. I feel like this is going to be our inning to break through.’ And we did with that four spot,” Lincolnview coach Eric Fishpaw said.

Lincolnview started that inning with a walk to Holden Price and a single by Dunlap. After the next two batters were retired, Aiden Hardesty launched a double over the centerfielder’s head to score Price and pinch-runner Gavin Evans for a 3-0 lead.

“I just saw two guys on base with two outs and I took my chance at it. I was confident when I went up to the plate. I was looking for a fastball down the middle and that’s what he threw,” Hardesty said.

Lincolnview made it 4-0 when Cal Evans, running for Hardesty, scored on an error. Bollenbacher, who went 2 for 3 at the plate, singled to score Reide Jackson to give Lincolnview a five-run lead.

Leipsic had a runner on base in each of the last two innings but neither one got beyond first base as Bollenbacher got the complete game win.

Bollenbacher said, “My fastball wasn’t quite there 100 percent but my off speeds did it for me tonight. I’ve pitched pretty well but this was a pretty big game and this was definitely the best one. It’s a team sport and we all contributed.”

Leipsic dropped to 18-2 overall and 7-1 in the NWC.

Lincolnview 5, Leipsic 0

Score by innings:

Leipsic 000 000 0 — 0 2 3

Lincolnview 100 040 x — 5 7 0

WP — Luke Bollenbacher (9 strikeouts, 0 walks); LP — Tommy Bollenbacher (4 strikeouts, 3 walks)

2B — Aiden Hardesty (Lincolnview)

Records: Lincolnview 15-6, 7-0 Northwest Conference; Leipsic 18-2, 7-1 Northwest Conference)