MIDDLE POINT — From an 0-3 start to the final four.
With Landon Price anchoring the pitching staff and a core of solid players, the Lancers were predicted to make it back to state after finishing as Division IV runner-ups last season.
But after dropping its first three games of the year, many might have wondered if this year’s team was up to the challenge and pressure of making a return trip to state. Those doubts quickly began to disappear as the Lancers, behind senior leadership, solid pitching from guys not named Price, and some timely hitting, put together 11-game and seven-game winning streaks during the season and entered the playoffs ready for the postseason run.
Lincolnview opened the playoffs with a 2-1 win against Spencerville, then a 7-4 victory against Perry followed by a 6-3 triumph over Lima Central Catholic. The Lancers then bumped off league opponent Leipsic in the regional semifinals and followed it up with a 6-3 win against Antwerp to earn its second consecutive trip to Akron.
Lincolnview (23-6) faces Tiffin Calvert at Canal Park in Akron at 1 p.m. Thursday.
“Back in March we sat down in our lecture hall and we came up with our team goals and we had the kids come up to the white board one at a time and write down their varsity goals and that was one of them that they put back on there and near the top was a state championship,” Lancer head coach Eric Fishpaw said. “I feel we are very comfortable with one another and have good team chemistry just like we did last year.
“We started the season 0-3 and had some young guys filling roles from lost seniors and they were getting adjusted to the varsity level. But our seniors this year (Price, Carson Fox and Cole Binkley) did a good job taking them under their wing and making them feel comfortable, getting them in good situations and, of course, the middle of the season they started getting comfortable at the varsity level and started really taking off. We have a good lineup one through nine.”
Fishpaw points to the the team’s poise and confidence growing throughout the season that had the Lancers believing they could win whether they were 10 runs up or 10 runs down.
Senior leadership was a key.
The trio of seniors were Price, Carson Fox and Cole Binkley.
“He (Price) is heading to Ohio State and named the Division IV player of the year by the Ohio High School Baseball Coaches Association. He is a very good leader on and off the field and is very vocal. Our second guy, Carson Fox, our catcher, was named second team all-Ohio and has committed to Ohio Wesleyan to play next year. He has done a great job. Both those guys and Cole Binkley are all batting over .450. They are seeing the ball well and we are getting a lot of run production out of the top of our lineup and they have been great for us.”
Hitting has been a major reason for the Lancers’ success, and it showed in the postseason. Fishpaw said the team had 23 hits in its two regional contests said the team is seeing the ball well.
For the season, the Lancers hit .324.
Fishpaw has seen contributions from everyone in the lineup and seen players like Brandon Renner, in the nine hole, Austin Bockrath, third baseman and Evan Miller, second baseman, all grow throughout the year.
“They are really hitting their stride at the right time,” Fishpaw said.
Dane Ebel has impressed this season especially on the mound. This season Ebel went 6-0 and showed how effective he is in the regional semifinal when he limited Leipsic to six hits, struck out 1o and gave up one run in seven innings of work. For the season he had 110 strikeouts and 20 walks.
Price put in another dominating season. The senior standout went 9-0 and struck out 130 this year, including a strong outing in the regional final where he held Antwerp hitless for six frames and fanned 15.
“Dane does a tremendous job,” Fishpaw said. “His mental toughness on the mound is probably the best attribute that he has so those together have done a great job and those two combined have struck out like 252 batters which is phenomenal. We are excited to go down to Akron with those two guys and hopefully get to play on Saturday, the last day of the season.”
Fishpaw said making it last year will help with the jitters as well as understanding what it is going to take to bring home the first place trophy.
“Our community is super excited. Our softball team had a great season and we had some state qualifiers in track, and I think we are going to have a huge crowd,” Fishpaw said. “We are just going down there and tell the guys this is a different stadium but the same approach. We are going to go out there and pump the strike zone. Our pitchers and catchers are working well together and we are going to try and score first. We are going to try and extend our lead if we are fortunate enough to get a lead, and we are going to play loose and enjoy the moment.”