In the big picture, Thursday’s baseball showdown between visiting Lincoln and North Florida Christian was exactly what both teams needed.
The heralded Eagles, ranked 24th nationally in the Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason Top 25, discovered their offense and combined it with timely pitching.
The young Trojans, who start four sophomores, learned they can compete but it also takes sound defense to make a complete game.
NFC overcame a shaky start and held on late to beat Lincoln 7-5 before a standing-room only crowd.
Each team had nine hits, but the Trojans were unable to overcome three throwing errors that led to five unearned runs.
Lincoln had the go-ahead run the plate twice in the top of the seventh, but NFC reliever Cole Sands ended it with a pair of strikeouts to notch the win.
“We are getting better, but we still have a ways to go,” said NFC coach Mike Posey, whose team was limited to one hit in a 1-0 defeat at Chiles in its season opener last Friday.
“The key is we’re learning.”
Lincoln coach Joe Vallese, whose team held on to beat city rival Leon 9-8 on Wednesday, also credited his team’s tenacity. Logan Smith’s RBI single in the seventh pulled the Trojans within a pair.
“They (Eagles) put pressure on you and you have to make the plays,” Vallese said.
“I thought we had a good approach and that is a playoff team. You have to tip your cap, but it’s good knowing you are in the game and you had a chance.”
It was an entertaining game that featured plenty of action from start to finish.
NFC Jacob Dulworth’s home run to left field to lead off the sixth inning snapped a 4-4 tie.
The Eagles added two more runs in the frame with the help of two bunts, a Lincoln throwing error and MT Minacci’s second run-scoring single of the game.
“We had a much more sound approach at the plate,” said Minacci, a Florida State signee. “We weren’t trying to do too much, it was more stringing hits together and putting pressure on the defense.”
Starting left-handed pitchers Drew Faintich of NFC and Tyler Holton of Lincoln were solid following a lengthy first inning that saw the duo combine for more than 60 pitches and allow five runs.
Lincoln scored three runs with two outs in the top of the first, punctuated by Smith’s two-run single.
NFC answered with a pair in the bottom of the frame. Railey led off with a double and raced home on Manacci’s single. Manacci later scored when Cole Sands was hit by a pitch with bases loaded.
“After that first inning, I settled down and got into a rhythm and just focused on pitching,” Faintich said.
Railey and Cole Sands each contributed a double and scored in the game for the Eagles. Collin Harvell’s two-out single in the third pushed NFC in front 4-3.
Brayson Smith had two singles and two RBIs for Lincoln. Senior catcher Gage West, also an FSU signee, had two hits, including a home run to right field that tied it at 4-4 in the fifth inning.