by Aaron Burns
DENVER – The Class 2A state baseball playoffs weren’t as kind as conference play to East Lincoln High this season.
East Lincoln (22-5) turned the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference slate into a cakewalk. The Mustangs went 14-0 in SPC games, but the playoffs proved to be an entirely different matter.
East Davidson High knocked off the Mustangs 2-0 on May 18 in the third round of the state playoffs, ending one of the best seasons in East Lincoln history.
“We had some opportunities, but we couldn’t make it happen,” East Lincoln coach Chris Matile said.
A high-powered offense full of hitters was East Lincoln’s strength all season. But against East Davidson, the Mustangs’ bats quieted down.
“Our guys just hit it right at them,” Matile said. “Danny (Sullivan) hit a deep one into the outfield that their outfielder was able to run down, and that robbed us of a run.”
East Davidson’s Avery Bowles struck out four batters in five innings to take the win for the Eagles.
Ethan Jones paced East Lincoln with two hits.
The Mustangs collected seven hits as a team – including doubles from Cam Carter and Addison Parrish – but couldn’t score any runs against the Eagles on a night where defense was the difference. Sullivan’s deep fly ball would have scored Parrish had it not been caught.
East Lincoln committed just one error – which didn’t lead to a run – but the two runs they allowed were too many.
The loss also marked the first time all season that East Lincoln was shut out and just the second time it scored less than two runs.
“When we had chances, (East Davidson) just made plays,” Matile said.
East Lincoln’s late-season run of nine straight wins came despite losing two of their key players, Darin Salter and Jake Helms, to injuries. The factthat the Mustangs were able to keep winning is a credit to the team’s depth, Matile said.
“Guys stepped up in their absence,” Matile said. “We knew (the conference title battle) was going to be a tight race. North Lincoln made a run. West Lincoln was good. There were a couple of teams rebuilding but there were several that were good. We just managed to put ourselves in a position to make it happen.”
The 14-0 run en route to the SPC title marked East Lincoln’s first undefeated season in conference play since 1976. It was also the first time in Matile’s eight years of coaching that one of his teams had a spotless record in league games.
“I’m definitely happy with the season we had,” Matile said. “We tied the number of wins our 2009 team got. We won the conference. We had a great group of kids. Even outside of baseball they were great.
“I’m excited for next year.”