• Photo Showcase: Nebraska state baseball, May 12
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LINCOLN — Lincoln East proved Saturday there isn't a big difference between the No. 1 seed and the No. 8 seed at the state baseball tournament.
Omaha Creighton Prep found that out the hard way.
The Spartans (18-13) defeated the top-seeded and top-ranked Junior Jays 7-5 in nine innings in a first-round tournament game at Sherman Field. Lincoln East, the lowest seed in the eight-team Class A field, advances to a 10 a.m. winners bracket game against Millard North on Monday at Haymarket Park.
Prep (29-4) will try to stave off elimination in a 4 p.m. losers bracket game against Lincoln Southwest on Monday at Sherman Field.
The Spartans never trailed and took advantage of five Junior Jays errors to spring the upset. They almost let the win slip away in the bottom of the seventh when Prep scored twice to tie the game and had another runner thrown out at home.
“It was a pretty impressive win, to beat a team like Prep,'' Lincoln East coach Mike Sterns said. “There are no easy outs in our lineup, and I think that was pretty evident today.''
The Spartans led 3-1, but Prep rallied to score twice in the bottom of the sixth to tie it. Lincoln East went back on top 5-3 in the top of the seventh, but the Junior Jays got an RBI single from Cale Dineen and a run-scoring double from Kevin Connolly in the bottom half to make it 5-5.
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On Connolly's double to right-center field, Jon Hechtner raced home with the tying run. But the Spartans cut down Dineen at home on a relay play from right fielder Hank Neal to shortstop Shane Watteyne to catcher Austin Gibson.
“They made a great play on that one,” Junior Jays coach Pat Mooney said. “If Kevin's double bounces off the fence just a little bit differently, we score that run and win the game.''
The score stayed tied until the ninth when the Spartans scored twice to take the lead for good. A two-out, two-run single by Josh Pella off Prep reliever Dineen proved to be the difference.
“I put a good swing on the ball in the seventh inning, but hit it right at the second baseman,'' Pella said. “I was just trying to hit it hard again.''
Then it was up to Spartans reliever Jake Hohensee to close it out, and he retired Prep in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win — a victory that avenged two regular-season losses against the Junior Jays.
“I'm glad we've got a day off before our next game,'' Sterns said. “This was a huge win for us, but we've still got a long way to go in the tournament.''
Lincoln East (18-13) ................ 101 001 202—7 10 3
Om. Creighton Prep (29-4) ........ 000 012 200—5 8 5
W: Hohensee. L: Dineen. 2B: CP, Dineen, Connolly.
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