Lincoln strands baserunners, falls to UCM

Adam Stegeman of Lincoln watches the ball after connecting on a swing during Saturday’s action against Central Missouri at Lincoln Field.

Adam Stegeman of Lincoln watches the ball after connecting on a swing during Saturday’s action against Central Missouri at Lincoln Field. Photo by Kris Wilson.

Lincoln didn’t do itself any favors.

The Blue Tigers combined to commit five errors and stranded nine baserunners on the day as No. 28 Central Missouri swept a Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association doubleheader, 14-3 and 6-4, on Saturday at Lincoln Field.

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“We’re giving them too much and they’re not giving us nearly as much,” Lincoln coach Jim Dapkus said.

That might have been an understatement after all five of Lincoln’s errors came with two outs, leading to 11 unearned runs for the Mules (21-9, 18-5 MIAA).

“It’s a momentum shift for the other team,” said Ben Stewart, who was 4-for-7 with an RBI. “It just kind of gets you down after that keeps happening and happening. Before you know it, you’re out of the game.”

The Blue Tigers learned that lesson early on.

Game 1 starting pitcher John Bisges was one out away from getting out of the top of the first without allowing any damage, but Lincoln committed back-to-back errors, which led to a five-run inning for Central Missouri. The Mules were in control the rest of the game.

“It’s tough — especially with two outs,” Dapkus said. “As soon as that ball is hit, you have the mindset of ‘OK, the inning is over,’ then you look over and the ball is rolling around somewhere and guys are taking extra bases.”

A similar situation happened to the Blue Tigers (1-22, 0-19 MIAA) in the nightcap.

Central Missouri executed a squeeze bunt to take a 1-0 lead with one out in the top of the fourth and the Mules added three more unearned runs following a Lincoln error with two outs.

“We’re playing good enough that we might have beaten some teams, but these guys are just too good,” Dapkus said. “We’ve just got to fine-tune and almost play a perfect game defensively and just limit their bases as much as possible.”

Central Missouri, which is on a seven-game winning streak, outhit Lincoln 15-3 in Game 1, but the Blue Tigers held a 9-7 advantage against the Mules in Game 2.

It didn’t matter. Lincoln stranded six base runners — four that were in scoring position with less than two outs — in the nightcap.

“As limited as we are offensively, we can not have second and third with one out and not score,” Dapkus said. “We’ve got to find some ways to score some runs.”

Central Missouri starting pitcher Kyle Gehrs was unhittable through the first six innings in Game 1, but Gatlin Wiggans spoiled the no-hit bid with an infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh. That sparked back-to-back hits by Stewart and Josh Kennedy and the Blue Tigers were able to scratch across three runs in the frame.

Gehrs’ performance was still dominant. The left-hander allowed three runs on three hits and one walk while striking out 11 in six innings of work.

“(Gehrs) was just doing a great job spotting up,” said Kennedy, who was 3-for-7 with two RBI. “He didn’t hardly give us anything over the plate to hit.”

Central Missouri scored at least one run in the second, third and fourth innings before Gus Goodnight shut the Mules down in the final two frames in the opener. The freshman right-hander allowed one earned run on four hits in four innings out of the bullpen.

In his first start of the season, Bisges allowed 13 runs (six earned) on 11 hits and four walks, while striking out two in three innings.

“We really had the mindset that we were just going to let him pitch a little bit just to get his strength up,” Dapkus said. “He’s slowly but surely coming back from an injury and we might have left him in a little too long. But still, the damage was done in terms of just not being able to get out of that first inning.”

Things were a little better for the Blue Tigers in the nightcap.

Central Missouri led 5-0 entering the bottom of the fifth, but Lincoln was able to scratch across a run when Wiggans led off the frame with a single and Christian Bunch followed with an RBI double.

The Mules added another unearned run in the top of the seventh, but Lincoln was still within striking distance when Smith and Bunch connected with back-to-back singles. Kennedy and Stewart drove in consecutive runs to spark a three-run inning, but it wasn’t enough.

“Offensively, we just aren’t completely there,” Dapkus said. “It takes us a while to get going. The first two or three innings we’re not getting anything to get us relaxed a little bit or even get us a lead. We’re just really struggling to get the bats going.”

Joe Jungmeyer took the loss in Game 2 after allowing six runs (two earned) on seven hits and five walks in seven innings. But the right-hander, who has a team-leading 5.71 earned run average, was responsible for stranding eight Central Missouri baserunners in the nightcap.

“It could have been better,” Jungmeyer said of his outing. “I got behind in some counts and I’d much rather pitch ahead (in the count) than behind.”

Bunch was 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Wiggans added two hits to help lead Lincoln.

Helias graduate Brad Wilson was 2-for-7 with two RBI for Central Missouri.

The Blue Tigers will try to end a 12-game losing streak when they take on the Mules in the final game of the series at 1 p.m. today.

“It’s nice going into the fourth game of the series because we’ve got plenty of pitching, so that won’t be a problem,” Dapkus said. “In the past, we’ve been kind of thin on pitching, but we still have three or four fresh arms that we can go to.”

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