The Lincoln Blue Tigers offense has been scuffling of late and taking on the defending national champion and eighth-ranked Rogers State Hillcats made it no easier Saturday at Vogel Field.
Lincoln was blanked twice offensively and fell to run-rule losses of 12-0 and 17-0 against Rogers State.
“When you step in the box, you got to be ready to hit, especially against the elite pitchers in our conference,” Lincoln coach Jason Ollison said. “… That’s an adjustment we started to make, but it’s something we have to do from the very beginning.”
Saturday marked the fourth time in a row the Blue Tigers have been shut out on offense and seventh time in the past eight games.
But with a young roster, Ollison still believes his team will adjust to the high-level pitching they have seen of late.
“Hitting is contagious,” he said. “As soon as we get a couple of these girls to put barrels on the ball and find holes, we will be just fine. … We are facing better pitching, too. We are conference games now, so we are not seeing people’s Nos. 3, 4 or 5 pitcher, we are seeing team’s Nos. 1 and 2. We will get better.”
Rogers State got to Lincoln starting pitcher Ashton Stalling early in Game 1.
Chelsea Spain led off the game with a single to left field and scored two batters later on a deep double to left-center field by Brigett Morales. The Hillcats added a second run in the first after Callie Yellin grounded a ball to shortstop with runners on the corners and one out and narrowly beat the return throw to first base to make the score 2-0.
Beth Denney extended Rogers State’s lead to 3-0 in the top of the second with a solo home run to left field with one out and forced Ollison to make a call to the bullpen for Jordan Galliher.
Galliher kept the Blue Tigers in the game for the next few innings, as she held the Hillcats off the board until the fifth inning.
“When she’s on, she’s a good, good pitcher for us,” Ollison said. “She was getting spin on the ball really well, hitting spots well and doing a pretty good job.”
Rogers State got to Galliher in the fifth with three runs and the Blue Tigers went back to Stalling in the circle for the sixth to save Galliher for today’s doubleheader against Northeastern State.
The Hillcats poured on six runs in the sixth to set up the run-rule final after six.
Qwynn Marquez, Leah Wagner and Stalling each collected a hit in Game 1 to account for Lincoln’s three hits.
Rogers State took advantage of free bases early in Game 2 to jump out to a massive lead.
With Joss Marriott in the circle, the Hillcats drew four walks and were hit by three pitches in the first inning, which led to eight first-inning runs for Rogers State on just three hits.
The Hillcats added four more runs off Marriott. She finished with 13 earned runs allowed on seven hits, six walks and four hit batsmen in two innings.
Outside of the hit batters, the Blue Tigers felt like Marriott was hitting spots like they wanted her to.
“She was hitting spots, she was throwing the ball right where we wanted to throw it,” Ollison said. “Most teams chase those balls, pop them up or beat them into the ground to grab outs. But the defending national champions have a lot of girls that won’t do that.”
Lincoln turned the ball over to outfielder Emma Rakes in the third.
Rakes, who hadn’t pitched since her time at Camdenton High School, was able to get through the final three innings by allowing just four runs on six hits with no walks.
“When I mentioned it to her, her eyes just lit up,” Ollison said. “It was a good deal and I thought she did a great job. She did exactly what need, let them put it in play, let our defense get some work and save our arms.”
The Blue Tigers ended with three hits again in Game 2, as Emily Williams led the way by going 2-for-2 and Myah Dwyer added a single.
Rogers State (25-6, 4-4 MIAA) hit seven home runs on the day, as Paxton Donaldson, Morales, Ashtyn Barrett, Beth Denney, MaKayla Jackson, Abbey Rogers and Samantha Farris all clubbed homers.
Lincoln (4-22, 1-9 MIAA) will look to bounce back at noon today when it starts its doubleheader against Northeastern State (18-15, 0-8 MIAA).