LINCOLN — The Lincoln Lumber lived up to their nickname — or at least the modern-day aluminum equivalent of it — on Wednesday night while greatly enhancing their chances for an American Legion Zone 1 baseball playoff berth.
Andy Kay, Tyler Tash and Jake Jones each hit a home run, and Lance Bernier broke out of a personal slump with two triples and four RBIs as coach John Montgomery’s club rallied past Hampden-Newport 12-9.
“All year we’ve been scoring a lot of runs, so I don’t think it bothers us to get down early because we know we can score some runs and come back,” said Bernier.
The win improves Lincoln to 8-6, and the Lumber currently reside in fourth place in the zone with just two games remaining in their regular season — a doubleheader at top-ranked Bangor on Thursday.
Six teams qualify for the Zone 1 playoffs, which begin next Thursday at Husson University in Bangor.
“We knew we had to win this game it because it’s going to be tough against Bangor,” said Bernier, “so we looked at this as our first playoff game.
Hampden-Newport, which with Lincoln, Calais and Motor City of Orono are battling for the final three playoff berths behind Bangor, Brewer and the Acadians of Blue Hill, drops to 6-7. The Riverdogs will face second-place Brewer in a doubleheader Saturday before ending its regular season with a nine-inning game against Bangor on Sunday.
Lincoln used a five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth to secure its first lead since the first inning, with Bernier’s second triple in as many innings driving home Ryan Thompson and Dakota Sleeper to highlight the uprising that erased a 9-7 deficit.
“One of the things I’m most proud of with this team is that sometimes we do dig ourselves a hole, but all season long we’ve battled right back through the end of the games and won some games with the big inning,” said Montgomery.
Tash, who relieved starter A.J. Harris on the mound in the third inning, made that late lead stand by shutting out Hampden-Newport scoreless over the final two innings.
“I’m usually a starter, but we have a lot of players whose arms are hurting and I was fresh, so I told coach I wanted to go in if he needed me and he put me in and I just tried to keep the batters off balance,” said Tash. “It took an inning or two, but after a while I got the feel of my pitches.”
Hampden-Newport capitalized on three Lincoln errors to take a 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Lincoln immediately countered in the bottom of the inning. Sleeper hit a leadoff single, stole second and went to third on an errant throw before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Bernier, who himself reached base when his fly ball to left field was dropped.
Kay followed with his team-record eighth home run of the summer, a two-run blast to straightaway center that gave the Lumber a 3-2 lead.
An RBI double by Nolan Turner and back-to-back run-scoring singles by Josh Tardiff and Justin Amoroso gave Hampden-Newport a 5-3 edge in the top of the second, and the Riverdogs maintained the lead behind starter Jared Seamans until Lincoln scored three runs in the fourth, including a leadoff homer by Jones, to forge a 7-7 tie.
Amoroso had an RBI double with two outs in the fifth and scored on an infield single by Ryan Blake to give Hampden-Newport its last lead at 9-7.
“The last two games we’ve played we’ve looked at as big games,” said Sleeper, who singled twice and helped overcome a shaky defensive start by Lincoln with two backhanded stops in the shortstop hole to rob Turner and Alex Cust of hits in the late innings.
“We were hoping to get both of them but then we lost at Calais [10-1 on Tuesday]. So we had to have this one and we got it so we still have a pretty good chance at the playoffs.”