Lincoln baseball struggles with consistency in sweep

The Lincoln Blue Tigers have been searching for consistency all season.

Their most recent outing showed they’re still looking for it.

Lincoln suffered a 7-3 loss to Southwest Baptist University in Game 1 and the Bearcats held on to claim a 12-10 win in the nightcap to sweep the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association baseball doubleheader Friday at Lincoln Field.

“If pitching is clicking, it seems like the hitting isn’t, and vice versa,” Lincoln senior Josh Kennedy said. “We just need to find a way to get all cylinders working the right way.”

Despite coming into Friday’s contest with just two wins, Lincoln (2-38, 0-33 MIAA) did show some fight down the stretch.

The Blue Tigers tallied seven hits and scored five runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but fell just short of completing the comeback.

“At the beginning of the year I thought we could do a little bit of that stuff,” Lincoln coach Jim Dapkus said. “We just have not consistently been able to do it.

“We’ve had times during the year where once there’s a little bit of a rhythm going, we can catch fire for a little bit, but just not consistently through a game.”

Lincoln was only outhit 23-22 on the day, but the Blue Tigers committed four errors and walked 10 batters in 16 innings.

“We’ve been inconsistent all year,” Lincoln senior Ben Stewart said. “It’s just a combination of things. If we put it all together, our season could have been totally different.”

Stewart was 4-for-8 with two RBI, while Kennedy was 2-for-7 and drove in five runs to lead the Blue Tigers at the plate. Logan Smith added four hits and two RBI, while Kaleb Davis added four hits and drove in a run to help pace the offense.

Lincoln outhit Southwest Baptist (26-22, 22-15 MIAA) 18-14 in the nightcap.

“To their credit, with the record as bad as it is, our guys have not quit,” Dapkus said. “They kept playing and we just came up a little short in the second game. The last thing I would want, especially with a big senior class, is that they would roll over and not compete in the games.”

Southwest Baptist broke Game 2 open with six runs in the top of the fourth and the Bearcats added another run in the fifth to take a 9-2 lead.

Lincoln got a run back on a RBI single by Kaleb Davis in the bottom of the sixth and the Blue Tigers added two more runs in the seventh after Stewart and Kennedy tallied back-to-back RBI.

Southwest Baptist had four hits and plated three runs to take a 12-5 lead in the eighth and that proved to be all the run support the Bearcats needed.

“That’s been another bugaboo for us,” Dapkus said. “We’ve had times where we’ve gotten back into games and we go right back out there and kill our momentum by giving them runs back.”

It only took Southwest Baptist two innings to take control in Game 1.

The Bearcats plated three runs — one earned — in the bottom of the second, then tallied five hits in the third to take a 7-0 lead.

“If we limit the damage in some of the innings where we have errors and stuff, it’s a totally different ball game,” Stewart said. “We would probably have 15 wins on the year, maybe more if we did everything right.”

Lincoln reliever Joshua Register did his part, allowing two runs on five hits, while striking out one and walking one in five innings.

“He was able to get his offspeed stuff over today, which he has not been able to do consistently,” Dapkus said. “That game could have gotten out of hand pretty easily for us, but he was able to keep us in it. We just couldn’t make a run at them.”

Southwest Baptist starting pitcher Tim Collins had a lot to do with that. The right-hander threw a complete game, surrendering three runs on four hits and striking out five in seven innings.

Collins retired the first 10 batters he faced, before Gatlin Wiggans singled with one out in the fourth. Kennedy followed with an RBI triple and Smith capped off the inning with an RBI single to cut Lincoln’s deficit to five.

The Blue Tigers didn’t manage another hit and only had one baserunner until Smith led off the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to left.

“You would have thought they probably beat us by 20 runs,” Dapkus said. “They had baserunners all the time, but we were able to get out of some jams.”

Lincoln will conclude the four-game series against the Bearcats today with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.

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