Winners not usual suspects
Prep Watch • Benson, Lincoln prove to be PIL baseball upstarts
In a league dominated by Wilson and Grant, two baseball wannabes have pulled off big victories. Benson broke through last week with a 2-0 win over Grant. Wednesday, Lincoln hung with Wilson and then pulled away in the latter innings for a 15-1 stunner.
'Wins against Grant don't happen often for Benson,' says Tech's first-year coach, Jackson Gillett. 'That was huge.'
But so was the Techmen's comeback win over Lincoln two weeks ago. Benson trailed by four runs going into the sixth inning but scored three in the sixth and, with two out and nobody on in the seventh, tallied three more times to walk away a 13-11 winner.
Against Grant, senior pitcher Jayson Hall put together a sterling start. In their final at-bat against Lincoln, the Nos. 6 through 8 hitters loaded the bases with singles and the next batter doubled.
'I just had to convince our kids that if they want to hit the ball, they have to swing and not take pitches,' Gillett says. 'See fastball, hit fastball.'
Going into Thursday, Wilson (7-2) and Grant (4-3) were still leading the way in the PIL 6A, with Benson (3-4), Lincoln (2-4) and Franklin (1-4) all eyeing the third state playoff spot.
Gillett has made it clear that surpassing last year's 4-12 league record is not enough for Benson.
'I'm trying to instill in our players and our coaching staff that failure to make the playoffs is unacceptable,' he says.
Benson is 2-1 against Lincoln with one game remaining in the season series. Benson and Franklin will meet four times, starting April 28.
Senior Jake Chrest is among the Techmen playing out of position 'so we can get our best players on the field,' Gillett says. Chrest made the move from shortstop to second base to help the team. 'And from what I've seen,' Gillett notes, 'he's been the best second baseman in the league. He's done everything from hit home runs to lay down sacrifice bunts, turned about five double plays and played some great defense.'
Lincoln trailed Wilson 1-0 after four innings before exploding. First-year Cardinal coach Michael Todd says his team's four-run seventh in a 10-5 loss Tuesday to Wilson supplied some momentum.
'We have enough talent to compete,' Todd says. 'Our biggest battle is believing that we can.