DENVER – The Lincoln Charter Eagles and North Lincoln Knights advanced to the West Regional Final of the 1A and 2A state baseball playoffs, respectively, in 2018. The season ended in heartbreak for each side, however, as both were eliminated in the final round before the state championship game.
The Eagles return the bulk of their roster that came up just short of a state championship last season, and head coach Scott Clark said he noticed a little extra motivation among his players during offseason workouts.
“The guys are hyper-focused going into this season, and they’re champing at the bit to get going,” Clark said. “We had great turnouts all offseason, and everybody was in there working hard. They’ve always been a dedicated group, but they’re really striving for more this year. They want to do everything they can to make another run at a state championship, so they’ve been putting in the work every day.”
Lincoln Charter lost five seniors from last year’s team to graduation, but only one of them – Jackson Farnsworth – played in more than half of their games. While Farnsworth’s .381 batting average and team-best 26 RBIs won’t be easy to replace, this year’s senior class features an ace on the mound in Ryan Restino and six others who posted a batting average at or above .300 last season.
“Our biggest strength is definitely our depth,” Clark said. “We’ve got 12 seniors and six juniors, so we’re a very veteran group. Last year, we ran into some injuries down the stretch that affected us a little bit, but we did a good job of rallying behind those guys and some of our younger guys were able to gain some good experience. This year, everybody is ready to fill in and push each other, so that depth pushes our starters to keep getting better. We’ve got a lot of confidence in each other, and we know if someone isn’t getting it done we’ve got another guy ready to fill in and pick them up.”
Lincoln Charter’s rotation will feature three left-handed pitchers this season, which Clark said is the most since he took over as head coach. The staff will be led by Restino, a 6-foot lefty who posted a 9-2 record on the mound with a miniscule 0.66 ERA in 74 innings across 13 appearances as a junior in 2018.
Unlike Lincoln Charter, the Knights lost a good bit of their production from last year’s squad that won 25 games and the South Fork 2A conference championship. North Lincoln will have to replace 10 seniors who played regularly, including eight who were everyday starters.
“We’ve had this situation a couple of times before in the past, where we graduated a number of our top players,” North Lincoln head coach Jon Carpenter said. “In the past, the following season has always been one of those rebuilding years, but I expect this year to be different. We’ve gotten an influx of talent over the past three or four years, and we’ve been working with those kids to get them ready for this year. We’re hopefully at the point where we’ve got the depth needed within the program to sustain good year after good year, so we still have high expectations.”
Pitching has always been North Lincoln’s bread and butter, and Carpenter expects that will be the strength of this year’s team as well. The Knights posted a team earned-run average under 2 last season, and several members of that staff are back this year.
The top of the rotation will likely feature seniors Joey Cobb and Josh Allen, as well as junior Jake Soorus. Cobb is the most experienced after tossing 43.1 innings across 12 appearances last season, but Allen and Soorus were also impressive in limited innings in 2018.