Champs! Lincoln wins first baseball state title – Tallahassee Democrat – Tallahassee.com
Lincoln senior shortstop Jesse Hall talks about the Trojans’ 17-game win streak, team bond and goal to win a state championship this week.
Just when you thought Austin Pollock couldn’t do any more to help his Lincoln baseball team, the senior found a way.
A day after pitching the Trojans into the FHSAA Class 8A state championship game, Pollock made his presence felt Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers with his bat.
Pollock’s two-run home run in the top of fourth inning reversed an early deficit on account of a nervous first inning.
The Trojans loosened up after the FSU signee, batting left-handed, belted a high fastball deep over the fence in right for his first and only home run this season.
“He smoked it,” first-year Lincoln coach Mike Gauger said. “He just always seems to rise up. He really, really saved the best for last and showed his skill set and what a gamer he is. He rose to the occasion.”
After that moment, Lincoln did what it had done for every game for the last seven weeks.
Lincoln pulled away for a 5-1 win over Oviedo Hagerty and, behind a complete-game four-hitter by senior pitcher Zach Taylor, won its first state championship in program history.
The Trojans (26-6) ended their historic season on a 19-game win streak and became Tallahassee’s first public school to win a state title since Godby in 2001.
North Florida Christian won the Class 3A crown in 2014.
“It feels great,” Gauger said. “It’s just surreal. I’m speechless.
“We were definitely nervous. Shoot, I’m a 40-year-old man and I was nervous as all get out. But they settled down and did what they’ve done all year, fight and grind it out.”
Lincoln added two more runs in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Josiah Miller and a passed ball, then the Trojans added an insurance run in the top of the seventh courtesy of two-out singles by Shaun Randolph (2 for 3) and Jesse Hall and another Hagerty passed ball.
The runs benefited Taylor, who finished off his senior year undefeated at 9-0. Until back-to-back two-out singles in the bottom of the seventh, Taylor had allowed just a single in the second inning and a single in the fourth. He struck out six batters and didn’t walk any.
And his defense began to make plays when there was contact.
This was at stark contrast to the first inning when senior second baseman Connor Burk uncharacteristically made two errors, leading to a run when catcher Dallen Leach allowed two pitches to get under him.
But Lincoln calmed down in the fourth, following up Pollock’s blast with crucial groundouts and a run-saving play at the plate after the Huskies’ first two runners got on.
By game’s end, the Trojans were as sharp as they’d been all season, and Burk was able to rectify his mistakes with grounders in the fifth and sixth innings.
“We just had to relax and get through the initial jitters,” Gauger said. “They were a very good team. Their pitcher pitched well and kept us off balance, sort of like yesterday. Thankfully, we were able to come up with a couple key hits at the right time.”
Taylor, who held Hagerty’s best hitter Brian Ellis hitless (0 for 3), struck out Stephen Markowitz to end the game with Ellis in the on-deck circle as the potential tying run.
“Zach stepped up big time,” Gauger said. “It was a complete and total effort for all our seniors. He kept the ball down in the zone. After not pitching for a month, it could have turned for the worst in the first. But he battled through, and then we helped him out with his late-game jitters.”
Gauger, who came over from alma mater Wakulla after a 12-year career there, was in awe with what his players accomplished.
For him. For themselves. For Lincoln.
“It’s amazing,” Gauger said. “It really was a dream season. Everybody who coaches high schools sports, to be there at the end trying to win it all is the destination.
“These guys were able to accomplish that dream.”
Lincoln 5, Hagerty 1
Lincoln 000 220 1 – 5 5 3
Hagerty 100 000 0 – 1 4 1
WP: Zach Taylor (9-0; 7 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 4 H, 6 K, 0 BB)
LP: Austin Abbe (3-1; 6.2 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 K, 2 BB)
Lincoln: Austin Pollock 1-3, 2 RBI, R, HR; Jesse Hall 1-4, R; Josiah Miller 1-4, RBI; Shaun Randolph 2-3, R; Jordan Ulee 0-3, R, SB
Hagerty: Britt Crawford 1-3; Vaughn Grissom 1-3; Zak Grabbe 1-3; Vincent Phillips 1-3; Brian Ellis 0-3, R
Records: Lincoln (26-6), Hagery (26-10)