After working through a couple of struggles and a mound visit from Lincoln Saltdogs pitching coach Dan Reichert, Lincoln's starting pitcher Joe Bircher found his groove on the Haymarket Park mound Tuesday.
Ultimately Bircher and the Saltdogs suffered a 2-0 loss, but Bircher's performance did wonders for the Saltdogs heading into Wednesday's doubleheader.
The 6-foot-4 bearded wonder from Omaha threw 152 pitches and struck out five while allowing just two runs over the course of nine innings on the mound.
“I wanted to take him out after seven (innings), but he insisted he kept going,” Saltdogs manager Bobby Brown said. “He said 'I feel great, we have 18 innings (Wednesday), I feel great; there is no reason to take me out unless you want to.' We trusted him and he gave us a great chance to win the game and we just couldn't get him the hit that we needed to give him the win.”
Bircher's outing saved the bullpen arms for Wednesday's scheduled doubleheader, where the Saltdogs play a nine-inning, 11 a.m. game before playing another nine-inning game at 6:45 p.m. against the T-Bones.
In his final inning on the mound, the Omaha Roncalli product struck out two T-Bones to finish the night strong, and keeping Lincoln within two runs of the T-Bones.
“We are in good shape with all our pitchers,” Brown said after Bircher's performance. “We have 18 innings tomorrow and hats off to Birch. He gave us a chance to win and it's just one of those days where (Kansas City's) guy threw really well too.”
Bircher's counterpart Tommy Collier was just as good for the T-Bones, going seven innings and striking out nine while allowing just one walk.
Collier ended the third inning with a double play and went on to strike out five of the next six Saltdogs he faced.
“(Collier) is a Double-A all-star two years in a row, and you tip your cap to him,” Brown said. “He was 93-94 (mph) with a good breaking ball, good change up plus command. He just made pitches when he had to and has great stuff, a good résumé and like I said, you just tip your cap to that guy.”
Kansas City's damage offensively came early off Bircher after the Lincoln starter gave up a solo home run to Mason Davis in the third. Davis also scored the T-Bones insurance run in the fifth off an Noah Perio RBI.
Lincoln and Kansas City finish the series Wednesday with the scheduled doubleheader. The Saltdogs are 1-9 against the T-Bones this season.