LINCOLN -- Gentry (3-1) held off a 3-run Lincoln rally in the sixth inning to hand the Wolves a 7-4 nonconference baseball loss on Monday, March 6.
Gentry assistant baseball coach Josh Blew said building a 3-1 early lead was important in being able to hold on for the win.
"Our guys responded really, really well though whenever we got put in the same exact spot.They kind of came back up on us. They gave us a good adversity look that we haven't seen this year yet, and to build up to district, regional and state tournaments that's what you need to get your team better," Blew said.
A 5-1 Pioneer lead all but vanished as Lincoln accomplished some two-out damage.
Kase Ingram walked, then moved to second on Gauge Davis' single into center field. Freshman Kayden Job went down swinging for the second out but, with Jace Birkes batting, a "passed-ball" enabled the runner to advance, posturing two Wolves in scoring position.
Birkes reached a full count and calmly took ball four on a 3-1 pitch to load the bases. Traegan Pathkiller came up and battled his way into a 3-2 count before bashing a bases-clearing double that pulled the Wolves within a run at 5-4.
Gentry reliever Hayden Henry flirted with disaster. He fell behind 2-0 and just missed the batter, who turned to avoid the pitch, bringing head coach Michael Mullen out to the mound. Mullen declined to comment after the game but whatever he said to Henry, along with the confidence he showed by leaving him in, worked out with Henry escaping further damage with a strike-out.
"That's the opposite of what you want. You want to get ahead in the count, especially in high school baseball. When the count goes 3-0 usually that guys ends up on base or scoring, but Hayden Henry, he's a resilient guy. He did a really good job at center field for us, made a really good play, a diving play that saved a lot of extra bases for them," Blew said. "Then he comes up on the pump and does a good job coming back from being in tough spots."
Isaak Crittenden led off the seventh by singling and beating a throw to second when Pat Beeler hit into a fielder's choice. That became critical in the Pioneers adding a pair of insurance runs. Lincoln didn't help themselves with a dropped strike three, allowing Drew Nash to get aboard and load the bases.
Houston Nance produced a quality at-bat, with two runs scoring on separate passed balls before striking out. Bennett Roberts was hit by a pitch, but the Wolves threw him out trying to steal second and went into their last at-bat trailing 7-4.
The Pioneers staffed the mound by committee, with starter Crittenden working off a 50-pitch count in order to retain his services for a Friday game. Gentry took a 2-1 lead at the end of the first inning and tacked on another run in the second. In the third inning, Crittenden handed a 3-1 lead to Henry, who had just made a diving catch in the outfield to get Lincoln's leadoff man out.
Henry issued a pair of walks, sandwiched around Drew Moore's double into left center, but got out of a bases-loaded jam with back-to-back strikeouts, both on three pitches.
Lincoln starter Drew Moore beaned Gentry's leadoff batter in the top of the fourth before inducing a fly out and striking out Jared James on a called strike three to keep the margin at two runs.
Gentry added an insurance run in the top of the fifth against Pathkiller, who walked Riggs Harper. A throwing error allowed Harper to advance to second and he stole third, then scored on Crittenden's sacrifice fly to put the visitors up 4-1. Pathkiller got Beeler to hit a flyball into left center, then struck out Nash. The pitch was dropped but Nash had barely taken a few steps toward first when he was tagged out by the Wolves' catcher.
Lincoln got a runner on when Kellar Price drew a walk in the bottom of the fifth but couldn't move him around the bases.
Roberts reached on an error, going all the way to second with one out in the top of the sixth. Briar Mayberry beat a throw to first to record an infield single and James walked to load the bases for the Pioneers.
Pathkiller remained steady although he gave up a run on Brayden Feathers' groundout. With a runner at second, Pathiller eased out of the inning by getting Harper to hit a pop fly into shallow right center.
Harper pitched the seventh and got Gentry to within two outs of a win by fanning the first man he faced.
Harrison Coker-Gage walked and Lincoln got new life when the next batter doubled. Harper negated the threat with a strikeout, followed by inducing a groundout to second base to end the game.