Armed with three senior pitchers and playoff experience, Sacred Heart picked up their second Kaysinger Baseball Tournament championship last Thursday with a 14-5 victory over the Northwest Mustangs.
The Mustangs upset No. 2 seeded Lincoln – a team also boasting three senior pitchers with tournament innings – to meet Sacred Heart in the title game.
Tuesday at home the Cardinals, celebrating senior night, rebuked the conference hierarchy established by last week’s tournament with a 5-3 victory over the Gremlins.
“We really keyed in on their mistakes,” Lincoln starter Corbin Mertgen said. He allowed five hits in six innings and struck out four to earn the win.
Mason Sanders and Connor Spunaugle reached on consecutive errors in the first inning, and both scored on a Heath Renno single.
The Gremlins answered in the second inning with a pair of runs to tie. Brenden Volcko led off the inning with a single and Chance Spangler reached on Lincoln’s lone error of the night.
Sacred Heart committed three errors in the loss, each of which produced Cardinal runs. Gremlin head coach Jaric Reid said the team played timid.
“They made plays and we didn’t,” Reid said. “That was pretty uncharacteristic of us.”
With runners on the corners in the third, Sanders broke early on a steal of second base. Chance Spangler’s pickoff to first glanced off the first baseman’s glove, and Dominic Simmons scored from third.
Spunaugle picked up an RBI strikeout on a dropped third strike in the fifth to make the Lincoln lead 5-2.
If Sacred Heart was going to make a comeback, it was going to be in the sixth. The Gremlins opened the inning with three straight singles, the third off the bat of Volcko to score Nick Cashman.
Mertgen nipped the Gremlin streak in the bud, retiring the next three batters, striking out two. He said fastball command was important in the sixth inning’s potentially high-leverage situation.
“I just had to maintain my fastball,” Mertgen said. “You’ve just got to keep throwing it and they’ll swing through it eventually.”
Spunaugle allowed a 2-out single, but recorded the save in Lincoln’s first win over Sacred Heart since 2009.
Lincoln head coach Will Lynde said the losing streak was not a point of concern for the team.
“We just needed to come out and play well after a disappointing week last week and not getting to that championship game,” Linde said. “(Sacred Heart) won it, and we see where we’re at compared to a real good team.”
Mertgen said he was excited to beat Sacred Heart for the first time in his high school career.
“It feels really, really good,” Mertgen said. “Especially on senior night. That’s the best.”
Lincoln (19-2) host Wheatland at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2