Pinch hitting can be one of the hardest tasks in the sporting world. A player asked to pinch hit isn’t used to the speed of the game and they’re often inserted into a high-pressure situation without much feel for the situation.
Pinch hitting can also be one of the most rewarding experiences in all of the sporting world. To come through cold, off the bench, and make a lasting mark on the game is one of the highest highs on the baseball diamond. On Friday evening, Lincoln East’s Jack Larson got to experience the high.
Larson came up in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Spartans tied 3-3 against Archbishop Bergan and runners on second and third. He doesn't quite remember what pitch he got, but it was straight down the middle and he grooved it into center to score both runners. The Spartans tacked on another in the inning on a pinch-hit RBI single from Jeremiah Zimmerman, then held on over the final three outs to claim the Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament crown 6-3 over the Knights.
“I’ve been in slump, I was like 1-for-16, so I thought I better start trying harder,” Larson said. “I just stayed back, which I haven’t been doing lately, and got lucky with a hit up the middle. I just needed something down the middle, so I was happy I got the pitch to hit.”
The game-winning hit was the final blow in an otherwise even game as both starters held their opponents in check, for the most part, over five innings. Bergan plated one in the top of the first and East responded in the bottom of the second with a run. The Knights added two more in the third and the Spartans matched them with two more runs in the bottom of the inning.
The true difference came when the Spartans pulled starter Charlie Mosser after 5.1 innings while Bergan opted to keep starter Dawson Glause in for the sixth inning. East reliever Jett Janssen came in and handled the Knights over the final two innings while the Spartans jumped all over Glause late to earn the conference title.
“Charlie has all the talent in the world and he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached,” East coach Mychal Lanik said. “He’s just a sophomore, so this is a huge start for him. Nowhere to go but up. Jett behind him was nails and I just can’t say enough about our pitching today.”
The Spartans got to the HAC title game after rallying from a 5-4 deficit against North Star for a 6-5 victory in the tournament’s semifinals earlier in the day, while Bergan beat Lincoln Southeast 10-4 in the other semi. Grant Detlefsen went 1-for-3 with a double and scored twice for Southeast.
In the third-place game, Lincoln North Star defeated Lincoln Southeast 17-7. Aiden Bishop went 4-for-5 with three doubles, a triple and five RBIs to lead the Gators. North Star tallied 22 hits as team.