After opening the game’s scoring with an RBI double from senior Marcus Blacksher, Marshall High School appeared to have the momentum to become the first B Division team to defeat an A Division foe in the Academic Athletic Association playoffs.
But it was a familiar hurdle that haunted the Phoenix after taking the lead, as Marshall committed five errors that resulted in eight unearned runs in a 9-2 loss to Lincoln High School on Tuesday at West Sunset Playground.
“I hate that the season is over. We had a good run,” said Marshall coach Gerald Rankin. “We were nervous and it was a big game. None of these guys have played in a big game before, but I’m so proud of these kids.”
The errors were certainly the difference, but to Lincoln’s credit, the Mustangs capitalized on nearly every one, including a four-run second inning that snatched the lead away from Marshall.
With two outs, a Phoenix error extended the second inning and Lincoln made them pay with a two-run single from Jeremiah Naraja and a two-run triple from Carlos Loeza.
“Marshall dominated their division, so we weren’t going to take them lightly,” said Lincoln coach Eric Calloway. “We barely got in [to the playoffs], so we needed to come out with great energy. Once we got ahead and got that confidence, we were ready to roll.”
Loeza, Lincoln’s starting pitcher, was effective, striking out seven in four innings to collect the win. The left-hander allowed just two hits and the single run in the first, which was unearned, before being pulled after the fourth with the Mustangs in command with an 8-1 lead.
Marshall’s starter, sophomore Aumen Holliday, struggled with command at times, but struck out five in three innings of work and was plagued by the Marshall errors that charged him five unearned runs.
The Mustangs advance to face top-seeded and league-undefeated Washington on Thursday in the AAA semifinals.
The Eagles swept Lincoln in the regular season but the games were far from similar. The first was a 4-3 loss, where Lincoln brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but the second was a 10-0 rout that was ended in the sixth due to the mercy rule.
“We’re not going to hold anything back,” Calloway said. “We’ve got our confidence rolling and we accept the challenge. We have nothing to lose. They’ve had our number this season, but this is the one game that counts.”
For Marshall, its season ends, but the future is still bright with nine underclassmen returning, including Holliday, who appears to have the makings of an AAA ace.
“The other schools are starting to respect us a little bit, and that’s all I wanted,” Rankin said. “We’ll be back. We’re just beginning.”
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