MIDDLE POINT — Lincolnview is looking to check one more thing off its goal’s list and that is a state title.
Prior to the season, the Lancers got together for their annual preseason get-together to discuss what they want to accomplish for the season and this year, with a solid nucleus of seniors, juniors and underclassmen, the players put on their list a state title.
“We do team goals every year,” Lincolnview head coach Eric Fishpaw said. “We have an overnighter at the school where we spend a night, make our goals and have team building, and it was abbreviated this year due to COVID. We put our goals on the white board and each player comes up and does it. We as coaches don’t do it. This is their team and it is what they want to accomplish and we constantly put them on our bulletin board in the dugout every week to constantly remind them and show them where we are at weekly with those goals so we don’t lose track of what we want to do.”
Making state is a lofty goal and Fishpaw said he felt it was attainable with the talent this team had assembled, even though there was no season last year to truly gauge maturity and growth of the players after a full year off.
The Lancers returned four players who received Northwest Conference accolades of some sort in 2019 with seniors Collin Overholt and Creed Jessee and juniors Landon Price and Cole Binkley. Others to be counted on included junior Carson Fox and sophomores Dane Ebel and Jared Kesler.
“When they put high achievements up there like they do we hold them to that when it comes to practices and we have reminders and say to the guys you put state champions on your goals so we need to work a little harder today,” Fishpaw said. “I am very proud of them and we just have one more goal to check off on our list.”
With outstanding pitching, solid defense and consistent hitting the wins and goals soon began coming.
The Lancers secured an outright NWC title with an 8-0 record. Check.
Next up was the postseason and the Lancers continued their winning ways. Lincolnview opened with a 9-2 against Perry to secure a sectional title. Check.
In the districts, the Lancers cruised to a 17-0 win against Crestview and then survived a 1-0, 11 inning, marathon affair with St. Henry to snare the district title. Check.
In the regionals, Lincolnview stopped Antwerp 7-2 and the blanked Leipsic 5-0. Check.
“We had multiple goals and that was going to district, going to regionals and all that and we are just checking them off the list at this point and we have two more to do,” Jessee said. “Ever since we were little we have been pretty good and we know how to win. We haven’t really had to work from behind in the tournament but we know how to and we just really know how to win.”
Jessee adds that this is extra special because of the season that was lost last year.
Pitching, defense and selflessness
As the scores indicate, the pitching of Price and Overholt carried Lincolnview. Three shutouts in five games.
For the season, Price went 10-1 with an ERA of .190. The Ohio State committed lefty had 143 strikeouts and walked eight in 73.2 innings of work.
Overholt went 8-1 on the year with a 1.27 ERA. The senior righthander fanned 61 and walked six in 49.1 innings of work.
“Pitching is definitely the backbone of our program,” Fishpaw said. “We have two outstanding pitchers in Landon Price and Collin Overholt this season. They are really 1A and 1B and both of them have given us phenomenal outings all year long and we feel when they are on the mound they give us a really good chance to win.”
But it is more than just pitching for Lincolnview.
Offensively, the Lancers depend on timely hitting and doing what’s best for the team. Lincolnview had only two home runs on the year. Price is leading the team in hits with 45 and batting .479. Overholt has 42 and is hitting .447 for the year. Ebel has a .361 batting average and 33 hits on the year and leads to the team in RBI with 30.
As a team, the Lancers are hitting .320.
Defensively, the Lancers have a fielding percentage of .943.
“Our pitchers have a lot of faith in our defense to make plays whether it is ground balls, flyballs,” Fishpaw said. “Offensively we have been looking for the big hit in the middle to the bottom of the order, and we have been getting that. Our top four have been pretty consistent all season long and finding offensively consistency has been a goal of ours all season long and we think we are hitting our stride at the right time.”
In addition to the hitting of Price, Overholt, Ebel and Carson Fox, players like Cole Binkley, Caden Hanf, Brandon Renner, Clayton Leeth and Jessee have all contributed at the plate with clutch hits, sacrifices or with their gloves.
Fishpaw adds that Fox has been exceptional behind the plate when he is catching for Overholt.
But it is more than just the team’s on-the-field efforts that makes this team special.
“There is a lot of selflessness,” Fishpaw said. “Everybody is all for the team. There is no worrying about stats anymore. After a certain point and when you get to the postseason, the stats are out the window. They just show a lot of love for each other,, and they just hang out with each other. We have had team meals where we go swimming and enjoy some dinner. They are a tight-knit group and enjoy being around each other.”
Jessee echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“We hang out a lot,” Jessee said. “All of us. It is just a brotherhood and making a run like his is just fun.”
As the Lancers prepare for state it is business as usual. Lincolnview will face Lucasville Valley (20-11) in the state semifinals at Canal Park in Akron at 10 a.m. Saturday. Like the Lancers, it has been four decades plus since the Indians have won a regional title and it came back in 1977.
Lucasville Valley defeated Berlin Hiland 5-2 Saturday to secure a spot in the final four. The Indians rode the arm of sophomore Carter Nickel who fanned seven and surrendered eight hits in the complete game win.
“Just a lot of reps. Reps, reps, reps,” Fishpaw said about preparing for Lucasville Valley. “We try figure out the opposing pitcher, righthander, lefthander and try to drill those things in batting practice.”
Fishpaw added that they have obtained a video of Lucasville Valley’s win against Berlin Hiland and will study it to see what they can find in terms of what to expect, but the Lancer head coach said the focus is on what his squad can do and keep doing the things that makes this team a state contender.
“I think we have to play confident,” Fishpaw said. “We have to trust our defense and continue to pound the strike zone and be selfless at the plate. If you are asked to lie down a sacrifice bunt and to give yourself up for the team. That is what it is going to take to move on to the next game.”
Jessee added that while it is great to make it to this point, the state title is the final goal to accomplish.
“We are not just happy to be there,” Jessee said. “We have two more games to win so we are not done. I think we need to be locked in when we are hitting and get bunts down when we need to and move runners.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.