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Cougars top Indians for sectional title

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

SHINNSTON -- Wes Osbourn and his Lincoln teammates put the day's earlier loss behind them. There was no time to dwell on the Cougars' 13-5 setback to Bridgeport in the completion of a game halted by rain Friday.

Just hours after finishing that lopsided loss which stretched out two agonizing days, Class AA No. 3 Lincoln moved another step forward to its goal of a state tournament berth, defeating the Indians, 9-6, for the Region II Section 1 championship at Lincoln High School.

The Cougars (23-3) face Grafton (7-9) in the Region II semifinal at 6:30 p.m. at Frank Loria Memorial Field.

"We knew we had to bounce back," Osbourn said. "We just went out and played. If you lose, you're done. This is tight bunch of seniors and we knew what we had to do."

The game marked Lincoln's fourth victory over Bridgeport this season. The loss ended the No. 6 Indians' season at 21-11. It was the first time since 1989 Bridgeport failed to advance out of its sectional tournament.

"I'm still proud of the season these boys had," Shields said. "We had a bunch of young kids and ran into a senior-laden team.

"It's tough not making it out of the section, but they did a superb job this season."

Osbourn, who was 7-0 during the regular season, improved to 2-0 in the sectional tournament. The senior tossed a complete game, allowing six hits while striking out 11 and walking just two.

Osbourn overcame a potentially bad start after the Lincoln had grabbed a 6-0 lead in the first inning. Bridgeport rallied for four runs in the top of the second highlighted by Chris Carey's RBI single and three Lincoln errors in the infield.

From there, however, the Indians wouldn't get another hit until Carey led off the fifth with a single.

"It was sort of like we breathed a little bit of life back into them," Lincoln coach Tom Hunter said. "We made a few errors on plays we usually make, but the kids stayed focused and it was a pretty tight game after that."

Lincoln sent 11 batters to the plate in the first. Eric Hardesty led off the game with a home run to center and drove in another run on a single giving the Cougars a 6-0 lead.

Sophomore reliever Tommy Baker began the second for Bridgeport and gave up just one hit heading into the bottom of the sixth. Kyle Hurst was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Osbourn followed with a single up the middle to score two runs. Two batters later, Levi Maxwell gave the Cougars a 9-4 lead when his ground out to second scored pinch hitter Ryan Demarco.

"It seemed like we were able to get guys on, but we never got that one big hit we needed," Hunter said. "I'll give (Baker) credit. He did a good job and had us off balance for a few innings."

The Indians stranded nine runners and scored twice in the seventh at an attempt at a rally. Aaron Gallagher's RBI single scored Jamin McCue, and Christian Marsh followed with a sacrifice fly to left to score Andrew Spatafore. Osbourn then got the final batter to ground to shortstop Zak Bart, who threw to second for a force and the final out.

"I wanted to get the win and I wanted to do it myself (in the seventh)," Osbourn said. "I told coach (Hunter) I could go.

"Now we've got Grafton, and there's no way you can overlook anyone in the tournament. We'll be focused and ready to play."

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at mnutter@exponent-telegram.com