MARION — Linn-Mar Coach Chad Lechner didn’t hand out any pats on the back or kicks to the behind.
After a disappointing loss to Cedar Rapids Washington, he emphasized the positive, highlighting what the Lions had done well. His players responded in impressive fashion.
The Lions ripped 16 hits in a 17-2 win in four innings over the Warriors, splitting a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader last night at Lowe Park at Oak Ridge Middle School. Washington won the opener, 7-3.
“We’re searching for things to build on with kind of a young team,” Lechner said. “I was commending them that even when we got down, and there were things you can’t control as a player, we still played focused on defense and didn’t make errors. That’s what we tried to build on.”
The Lions (7-13, 12-17 MVC) wasted little time elevating their offense, sending 12 batters to the plate in seven-run first. They had more hits and runs and just as many base runners in their first at-bat of the second as they did the entire first.
They have lived and die by their first inning performance. They thrive with good starts.
“We came out with fire and did well,” Linn-Mar Ryan Wyant said. “It seems like every time we come out the first inning and do well we are good the whole game.”
Linn-Mar produced similar numbers with a seven-run second, making the scoreboard resemble one for a football game. They had 13 batters have six hits, including a two-run double from Wyant, who had two hits and three RBIs. The first nine batters reached base, including four straight singles to open the inning.
The Lions feed off each other when the offense is clicking.
“It feels good,” said Wyant, who also had two hits in the opener. “It seems like it’s been that way all season.”
The game ended with three runs in the fourth when Jordan Sillman raced home to put the 15-run mercy rule in effect. Jackson Jacobs, Adam Bradley and Adam Stolley each had two hits in the nightcap. Jacobs had two RBIs and had an RBI double in the first game.
The Lions were more patient in the second game, applying a lesson from their coaches.
“Their approaches were great the second game,” Lechner said. “The kids weren’t out on their front foot. They were letting the ball get deeper and not trying to do too much.”
They had a balance attack. Every Linn-Mar starter had at least one hit. The bottom of the order produced as well. No. 8 batter Taylor Yoke and the ninth batter Andrew Gassman combined for four hits and five RBIs.
“We know from the No. 8 and No. 9 spot we’re going to see a lot of good pitches to hit,” said Gassman, who drove in three runs. “We found a lot of good pitches. We knocked a lot of runners in.”
Inconsistency has been a trait of the Lions. A dominant win could be a catalyst for more stable performances in the final weeks of the regular season. They will work to improve it.
“Coach has talked about being consistent all year and working on it,” Gassman said. “We just need to get better.”
The tables were turned on Washington (7-11, 7-15) in the nightcap, allowing the first four batters on and a big inning early. Once the wave of momentum rolled against the Warriors there was no one to stem it from the opening error.
The task is tougher with a young team that hadn’t been in that situation this season.
“It snowballed from there,” Washington Coach Scott Brune said of the first inning. “We need guys to step up and make a play instead of everyone hanging their heads when we get down a couple runs. We need someone to make a play to get out of an inning so we can get back and score some runs ourselves.”
The Warriors received a solid performance from Chris Harrington on the mound in game one. Harrington threw a complete game, scattering six hits and walking two.
“He battled and attacked the hitters,” Brune said. “He kept them off-balance and we made plays defensively.”
Washington spotted him a 3-0 lead without a hit in the first inning, tallying four walks and hits batsman. Washington’s Trey Leonard broke open the game with a two-run triple in the four-run fourth.
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