SHINNSTON -- Lincoln's 4-1 start is hardly unexpected.
The Cougars feature two of the state's premier pitchers in seniors Wes Osbourn and Levi Maxwell and a potent offense which is backing them with 9.4 runs per game.
Head coach Tommy Hunter believes his team may have strengthened another part of his team's game with a subtle move made last week.
Hunter inserted senior Zak Bart in at shortstop and moved Seth Williams into centerfield. So far, the switch has worked.
In the three games since the move, Lincoln has made just two errors in the field.
"We felt like it made us stronger up the middle everywhere," Hunter said. "Zak and (second baseman) Kyle Hurst have made some nice plays for us, and Seth is very rangy out there.
"At times, we'll have him, Wes and (left fielder) Eric Hardesty out there. That's a pretty quick outfield. They're all doing pretty well with it so far."
The defensive move also paid off on offense.
The Cougars went 3-0 last week, winning all three games by the 10-run mercy rule.
"It's still early, and a lot of things can happen," Hunter said. "We're swinging the bats well so far, but we've got some tough games coming up. It's nice to be 4-1, but we have to continue to improve."
n INDIANS READY FOR DEBUT: High school baseball is officially entering its third week of the 2003 season but Bridgeport has still yet to play a game.
The Indians first scheduled contest is Thursday when they visit Lewis County (0-1).
Bridgeport is led by seniors Brandon Brumage (.406, 15 RBIs in 2002) and Jason Glisson (.386).
n WHEN THEY'RE GOOD, THEY'RE GOOD ...: Robert C. Byrd is 1-2 with its lone victory coming against Ritchie County. In that game, the Eagles committed just one error. In their two losses, they combined for 14 errors.
n SWINGING FOR THE FENCES: Through five games, Lincoln has hit 11 home runs. Osbourn leads the team with three, while teammates Brandon Bice, Eric Hardesty, Seth Williams and Jason Richardson each have two.
As a team, Lincoln has a slugging percentage of .463.
n MCDONALD'S CLASSIC FIELD ANNOUNCED: Bridgeport will once again host the McDonald's Classic beginning April 25.
Along with area teams Bridgeport, Robert C. Byrd, Liberty and Notre Dame, the field will include Shady Spring, Pendleton County, East Fairmont and Elkins.
Frank Loria Field, Liberty and Bridgeport will be used during the three-day event.
n TOUCH 'EM ALL: A roundup of some of the top baseball and softball performances of the week -- Lincoln's Wes Osbourn drove in nine runs, hit two home runs and on the mound, struck out 17 batters and allowed just two hits in eight innings ... Robert C. Byrd's Chris Lake pitched a complete game four hitter and fanned nine in a win over Ritchie County ... Notre Dame's Jon Thomas struck out nine and allowed just two hits in six innings in a victory over Doddridge County ... Lincoln's Levi Maxwell pitched four innings, fanning nine and giving up just one hit in a win over South Harrison ... Bridgeport's Ashley McCauley went 3-for-3 with a double, four runs and four stolen bases in a win over Preston ... Teammate April Potts tossed a no-hitter against South Harrison ... Grafton's Erinn Gallaher struck out 18 in a victory over Doddridge County ... Lincoln's Rachel Stout and Miranda Harmer combined on a no-hitter against Doddridge County.
n DON'T MISS: Notre Dame visits Lincoln Wednesday. The Cougars follow that with a game Thursday at rival Liberty. Two-time defending Class AA champ, Winfield, will be in Clarksburg this weekend. The Generals play Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Friday and then have a noon doubleheader with Liberty Saturday.
In softball action, Lewis County, fresh off its championship at the Ponytail Classic in Fayetteville, hosts Bridgeport at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in a battle of two Big 10 heavyweights.
Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com