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LINCOLN â€“ The more things change for the Lincoln High softball team, the more they stay the same.
Gone are the days when head coach Dick Ryan can sit back and watch his squad pile up the runs and achieve mercy-rule status in the blink of an eye. This yearâ€™s Lincoln edition is conditioned to win low-scoring, fist-clenching affairs that largely hinge on the effectiveness of Lindsay Mayer and her powerful right arm.
Itâ€™s a role that suits the senior and University of Virginia-bound product just fine. Itâ€™s also fair to say that Mayer kept up her end of the bargain on Thursday afternoon in top-seeded Lincolnâ€™s Division I single-elimination contest against No. 16 Barrington.
As usual, Mayer dominated the opposition. As usual, the Lions prevailed, this time over a 3-0 count at Saylesville Elementary Schoolâ€™s Sullivan Field. Mayer struck out 12 and ended up retiring 15 in a row to conclude matters.
â€śLast yearâ€™s team was loaded with offense,â€ť Ryan pointed out. â€śThis yearâ€™s team is mostly defense and Lindsay, whoâ€™s doing her job.â€ť
Added Mayer, â€śI just think [pitching with limited run support] makes me want to throw harder, but outside of pitching, I also focus on my hitting too and try to do the best that I can.â€ť
Now winners of 39 straight contests, Lincoln will continue its quest for a second consecutive state championship this Sunday at home against either No. 8 Chariho or ninth seeded Bay View. The Chargers and Bengals play Saturday, with Sundayâ€™s game serving as the opener for the double-elimination format.
To everyone who thought that a Barrington squad that went 2-14 during the regular season had a snowballâ€™s chance of providing mighty Lincoln with a stern test, it actually happened. Facing a pitcher in the Eaglesâ€™ Josie Gitlin, who relies on guile to flummox hitters, the Lions managed just one hit through three innings, an infield single by Mayer in the bottom of the first.
â€śSome people probably thought that this was going to be a long day for Barrington, but youâ€™ve got to give them credit,â€ť said Ryan.
Lincolnâ€™s bats started to solve Gitlin in the fourth inning. A leadoff double by Adriana Toro was nearly squandered as the next two batters were retired. With the count 3-2 on Stacy Mayer, the catcher roped a sharp single to center field that chased home Toro.
Not wasting any time, Alyssa Schermerhorn jumped all over the first pitch from Gitlin and lined it down the third-base line for a double that placed runners on second and third.
Up stepped junior Lauren Hervieux, who delivered a game-tying single in Mondayâ€™s regular-season finale against Coventry. Against Barrington, the left fielder blooped a high popup just out of the reach of Eagles shortstop Bridget Palm. The well-placed single plated Stacy Mayer and Schermerhorn and extended Lincolnâ€™s advantage to three runs.
â€śSheâ€™s been getting some clutch hits,â€ť noted Ryan about Hervieux. â€śSheâ€™s been doing a good job and has been a pleasant surprise.â€ť
Pitching with the lead for the first time on the day, Lindsay Mayer went about the task of negating any hope of Barrington pulling off what would have been a monumental upset. She finished off the fifth inning with a change-up that Barringtonâ€™s Emma Merlino was tardy on. Mayer again relied on the offspeed pitch to pick up a strikeout, this time coming in the seventh inning.
â€śI said in the dugout that we could win with one run,â€ť said Mayer. â€śAs long as we get something on the board, Iâ€™ll do my best to keep them from scoring.â€ť
Truer words were never spoken by someone who is well-versed in holding the opposing team at bay.