Lincoln outduels ISA to reach final

Lincoln ended International Studies Academy’s season with an 8-4 win Wednesday in the San Francisco Section softball semifinals at Parkside Field. The Mustangs (22-4) advance to face Lowell in Friday’s 3:30 p.m. section championship game at Lang Field.

It was the fourth time Lincoln faced ISA this year and it was their fourth hard-fought victory over the Cobras (11-10).

“We’ve played them for 28 innings this year and we were behind most of those innings,” Mustangs coach Kevin Grayson said.

ISA grabbed an early lead with three runs in the top of the first and a Courtney Buster home run in the top of the fourth.

“I’d rather have a lead,” Grayson said of the game-opening deficit. “But they never get their heads down and that’s what it took to stay in this game. You grind it out. That’s what you have to do against a good team and [ISA is] a good team.”

Lincoln kept its heads up and rallied in the bottom of the fourth to score five runs on one hit, three walks, four ISA errors and two passed balls that led to runs.

According to Grayson, the passed balls made a big difference in changing the momentum of the inning and the game.

“That’s happened to us before,” Grayson said. “I know that’s hard to do if you haven’t practiced that and to do it during a game with the pressure. … All the runners that score were looking for that.”

Including the five-run fourth, Buster allowed eight runs on 10 hits, walked 10 and struck out three.

Lincoln senior Christine Collins allowed four runs on nine hits, one home run with two walks and eight strikeouts. Collins, who works with Jack Wolf — the same pitching coach as Buster and many of the top pitchers in the Academic Athletic Association — stayed in her rhythm. She credited her infield for playing helping control ISA’s hitters, who she admitted have challenged the Mustangs at each meeting this season.

“We both just bring our game to play each other,” Collins said. “That’s how it always happens with ISA.”

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