Lincoln splits doubleheader to end season

On Senior Day, it was only fitting the Lincoln baseball team provided a few fireworks.

The Blue Tigers got the day off to a rousing start, exploding for 15 hits in a 14-4 win over Northeastern State in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader.

While things didn’t end so well — the visitors from Tahlequah, Okla., took the second game by a 12-6 margin — there was still plenty to celebrate at Lincoln Field.

In the opener, the Blue Tigers followed up a 1-2-3 opening inning by scoring all of their runs in the next four frames.

And perhaps more importantly, they twice rallied from deficits.

Down 1-0 after the top of the second, the Blue Tigers came back in the bottom half to take a 3-1 edge.

Then after giving up three runs in the top of the third, Lincoln got four in the bottom of that frame.

“The last six games or so, the bats have gotten better,” Lincoln coach Jim Dapkus said. “We came pretty close to sweeping Truman (last Wednesday), then we came out and had this game. It’s way too late for us to find a groove, but to the kids’ credit, we haven’t caved in. We’ve still battled.”

The Blue Tigers got their first runs of the second on a two-RBI single by Colby Shepherd — part of a 3-for-3 game with five RBI — and a sacrifice fly from Caleb Kemna.

In the third, the damage was done by RBI doubles by Brad Wright and Logan Smith, an RBI single by Shepherd and an RBI groundout by Isaac Cater.

Coincidentally, Dapkus said Cater might be the key to the recent influx of offense for the Blue Tigers.

“We ended up putting Cater in the DH spot a while ago,” Dapkus said. “We really thought we’d be more speed-oriented, but after about 25 or 30 games, I was like, ‘It’s just not working.’

“So we went to Isaac, who maybe slows down the lineup a little bit, but gives us another bat in the middle of the order. For having to sit for the first half of the year and not playing a lot, when he got his opportunity, he was ready (6-for-13 with four RBI in his last five games).”

The Blue Tigers got four more runs in the fourth on an RBI single by Cater, a bases-loaded walk by Shepherd and a two-run home run by Jonathan Grishman. He also had a huge game for the Blue Tigers, going 4-for-5 with two RBI.

Lincoln’s final three runs came in the fifth when Wright drove in one on a fielder’s choice and Shepherd plated the other with a single.

Cater ended up with two hits and two RBI, Clint Cashen had a pair of hits and Smith and Kemna had one hit and one RBI apiece.

Joe Jungmeyer (2-2) got the win with some stellar relief of starter Scott Jones. After Jones went just 2 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits and seven walks, Jungmeyer shut down the RiverHawks. Over the last 4 2/3, he gave up just two hits while walking two and striking out two.

It was the second straight strong outing for Jungmeyer, who threw a complete-game two-hitter in an 18-0 win against Truman.

“We try to use Joe as an example with some of our other guys: Joe doesn’t really light up the radar, but Joe’s got the ability to throw some offspeed pitches ... and that makes his fastball a little faster,” Dapkus said. “Pitching, hitting, defense, it’s all about confidence, and Joe’s been on a nice little roll.”

In the second game, Northeastern State got out to an 11-0 lead after three innings while the Blue Tigers didn’t get their first hit until there was one out in the fifth inning.

The Blue Tigers cut the lead to 11-2 in that inning on an RBI double by Cater and an RBI single by Shepherd.

After Northeastern State got one run in the top of the sixth, Lincoln closed out the scoring with four in the bottom half when Grishman smacked a two-run triple and Cashen followed with a two-run home run.

Shepherd (two hits and one RBI) and Kemna (two hits) were the only Blue Tigers with multiple hits in the contest.

Darren Lasley (0-2) started and took the loss, giving up eight earned runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.

Nathan Lueckenhoff followed and gave up three earned runs on four hits and one walk in 2/3 of an inning.

The Blue Tigers got two strong efforts after that. Jacob Busch allowed just one earned run on one hit in 3 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked two. Cashen finished up with 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit while striking out two.

Dapkus said he was very pleased with his team’s defense on the day, as the Blue Tigers had just two errors in 16 innings while making several stellar plays.

“I don’t know what’s happened with our defense, but all of a sudden, we’ve started making all of the plays,” he said. “Caleb (Kemna) has been on an absolute roll (at shortstop) — he’s fielded everything.”

The teams were slated to play a single nine-inning game today, as it could have affected the RiverHawks’ chances of making the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association postseason tournament. But after the second-game win and some other results around the league assured Northeastern of a spot, the coaches decided to cancel the final game.

Still, it made for some tough game management during Sunday’s action.

“It was a weird way of doing it,” Dapkus said. “We were not only trying to win this game, but at the same time, knowing we might have another game, we were going to try to keep back a (pitcher) or two you might like to use.”

Northeastern State improved to 27-21 overall and 25-20 in the MIAA, while Lincoln’s season comes to an end at 7-33 and 6-29.

It was the final contest for 11 Lincoln seniors — Shepherd, Smith, Cashen, Kemna, Cater, Grishman, Lasley, Ryan Rohmiller, Blake Jones, Cody Huff and Andrew St. Pierre.

“When we put things together, we showed we can compete with everybody,” Dapkus said. “We were just lacking in some areas.

“With a big senior class, there’s going to be a big turnover. This is a great group of guys, I wish they would have had a better season. But it was nice to see them having some success here at the end.”

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