Youth serves Lincoln Charter baseball team well
DENVER – Jeff McCrary’s Lincoln Charter baseball team set a simple goal for the 2012 season: win the Piedmont Charter Athletic Conference title.
The Eagles nearly earned the PCAC crown and a Class 1A state playoff berth in 2011, but the team – full of underclassmen – fell just short.
“We made sure we got it this time,”
McCrary said. “We started off hot, got cold, then got hot again. The team came together, worked hard and started playing well.”
Sophomore Christian Hilty and juniors David Scoggins and Hunter Dodson helped the Eagles clinch the championship when they led Lincoln Charter to a 6-3 win over Mint Hill Queen’s Grant on May 4.
“We should’ve won it last year,” Scoggins said. “We had most of our guys coming back (this season) and some good freshmen coming up so we really felt like we had a good shot to win it.”
“It was awesome,” Dodson said. “It felt great when that game was over and we knew we had it.”
McCrary called the victory the Eagles’ best performance all season, lofty praise for a team who won six games by nine or more runs.
“I had guys bleeding, I had guys going the whole game giving it everything they had,” McCrary said. “And (Queen’s Grant) is a lot bigger team, size-wise, than us. But we had several guys who just didn’t give up.
“David pitched well, Christian hit a home run and Hunter went 2-for-2. I can’t say enough for how well all the kids played. Nate Liska did a great job as well.”
The win earned Lincoln Charter a wild card bid to the Class 1A playoffs, where the Eagles fell to West Wilkes High 7-4 on May 11. The postseason bid, though short, was icing on the cake of a season Hilty called a success.
“We did what we wanted to do,” Hilty said. “We wanted the conference title and a trip to the playoffs and that’s what we got.”
The Eagles showed their potential early in the season. A 12-2 season-opening win over West Mecklenburg on Feb. 27 and a 9-6 victory over North Lincoln on March 1 pushed the Eagles’ record to 2-0. It upped players’ expectations. After all, this was the same team who started the 2011 season 6-0.
But a cold streak followed the North Lincoln game. The Eagles lost three of their next four contests. There weren’t many positive thoughts entering Eagles players’ minds when PCAC play began on March 16 against Pine Lake Prep.
Hilty – a transfer from East Lincoln High, a consistent Class 2A contender– didn’t know how his new team would react to a losing streak. He soon found out there was no need to worry.
Lincoln Charter handled the Pride 13-1. The Community School of Davidson couldn’t muster a single run in a 9-0 Eagles victory on March 20.
Again the Eagles got momentum on their side, but they squandered it in a 10-9 loss to Queen’s Grant on March 27.
“That did it,” McCrary said. “If losing a couple games before that wasn’t a wake-up call, losing that game did the trick.”
It was the Eagles’ only loss in PCAC play all season. Lincoln Charter breezed through its next three games. The Eagles beat SouthLake Christian, Community School of Davidson and Pine Lake Prep by a combined 46-8.
McCrary said that what set the Eagles apart from last year, in addition to bringing in Hilty, was experience – and a balanced lineup that hit .340 as a team.
“We’re solid just about one through nine in our order,” McCrary said. “We don’t have a lot of power as a team, but guys always made good contact and got on base. That won us a lot of games.”
Scoggins led the Eagles with a .471 batting average and a team-best 21 RBIs, while Hilty (.455, 16) and Dodson (.413, 13) finished close behind.
Hilty’s team-low 3.50 earned run average as a pitcher spoke volumes of his versatility.
“Adding Christian to the lineup gave us another good pitcher that we needed and a good bat too,” Scoggins said.
Hilty said he was just one of several big contributors for the Eagles. If they’re going to defend their title next year, it will take an even more impressive season.
“We’re confident,” Hilty said. “We know what it takes to do it now. And we’ll get ready to do it all again next year.”