PREPS: Not again -- Lincoln comes up short in second round
HILLSBORO — The senior-led Lincoln High baseball team was set up for a deep postseason run.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, their last baseball experience was all too familiar.
Lake Oswego used timely hitting and solid pitching to beat Lincoln 3-2 in eight innings Wednesday at Ron Tonkin Field.
It's the fourth year in a row the Cardinals' season has ended in the second round of the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A playoffs.
"It was a weird game and just didn't go our way," Lincoln coach C.J. Watson said. "I really was expecting to coach on Friday. These guys had really high expectations coming into this year, so this one stings quite a bit."
Lake Oswego (13-18) will go to Beaverton for a 5 p.m. Friday quarterfinal.
Lincoln, the Portland Interscholastic League co-champion, finished 18-10.
The Cardinals twice battled back Wednesday from a one-run deficit, including in the bottom of the seventh. But a double by Lake Oswego sophomore Alex Giroux with two out in the top of the eighth made the difference.
Lake Oswego junior Jake Dukart, pitching for the third time this season, worked out of bases-loaded jams in the first, third and fifth innings. The run he allowed was unearned after a dropped fly ball.
Watson was impressed with Dukart's toughness when the heat was on.
"He just bared down and went into bulldog mode. He was pretty good," Watson said. "The kid's going to go on to play either football or baseball at the next level, and he's going to do a darn good job of it.
"He got to 99 pitches in the fifth, so we did a good job of making it tough on him at times. We just didn't get that one knock we were looking for that really would have broke it open."
Gabe Skoro, a University of Portland baseball commit, went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two runs for Lincoln. The rest of the Cardinals combined for four hits.
Dukart capped his big day by scoring the go-ahead run for the Lakers in the eighth. He walked for the third time, stole second and came home Giroux's double.
That was the sixth Lakers hit off Lincoln senior Jon Fortner, who struck out nine in his third career playoff start. He allowed two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings.
Lake Oswego senior Colin Mitchell, who struck out five in three innings, pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth to secure the win and send Lincoln to its fourth one-run playoff loss in the last five seasons.
For Watson, who has coached the Cardinals for three seasons, the disappointment was familiar — and especially sharp knowing this was the end for seniors who have played varsity baseball for each of those seasons.
"Each year it's been kind of on the offense," Watson said of coming up short again in the second round. "This year more than any we had more opportunities, so this one's going to sting for a while."
Lake Oswego took a 1-0 lead in the first on singles from Giroux and Dawson Jarmillo. Giroux scored from second on a Lincoln throwing error after the Lakers' Jackson Laurent grounded into a fielder's choice.
Lincoln tied the score in the fifth. Skoro hit a ball into center field and wound up on third when it was dropped. Brandon Leitgeb, who is headed to the University of Washington to play baseball, then drove the next pitch to left-center for a ground-rule double. A hit batter and a walk loaded the bases with one out, but in Dukart's final inning on the mound a strikeout and pop up ended the threat.
The Lakers retook the lead in the sixth — despite one tremendous defensive play to start the inning.
Lake Oswego's Matthew Sebolsky hit the ball to deep left field but was thrown out at home on a perfect relay throw from Lincoln shortstop Nolan Ostmo.
Dukart then walked, stole second and scored on a bloop hit by Jarmillo that bounced just inside the left-field line behind third base.
The Cardinals kept their season alive in the seventh.
Skoro led off with a double. Mitchell struck out the next two Cards, but Nick Ostmo singled to left past a diving Dukart at shortstop to score Skoro from second, and Ostmo took second on the throw. Lake Oswego intentionally walked Myles Parkel, but Zach Ross lined out to center, and the game headed to an extra inning.
For Lake Oswego, a team with only four seniors, Wednesday's win continued a surge from a 1-8 start to the season.
"We were struggling at the beginning of the year to get the practice time that we needed," Lakers coach Jake Anders said. "We made a commitment when we got home from spring break that we were going to really focus on our practice plans and how we were practicing.
"I give the kids all the credit. At 1-8 they could have folded and gave up the season, but they just battled the whole time."
Dukart personified that each time the Cardinals threatened. The heart of the LO defense at shortstop, Dukart pitched only twice in league play, a decision made because of injuries to other Laker pitchers, according to Anders.
"To take him out of shortstop is something you don't really want to do," Anders said. "But we progressed him slowly (as a pitcher)."
The Lake Oswego coach said both Dukart and Mitchell executed their pitches.
"Guys got ahead (in the count), and we were able to not let them square up too many balls," Anders said.
And a team with several sophomores in its lineup did not flinch in a tense game.
"We've been playing in those situations a lot lately," Anders said, "so (playoff presure) has not had such a dramatic effect in the kids' performance."