LISBON FALLS – Winthrop coach Marc Fortin had an inkling Friday wouldn’t be his team’s day when the Ramblers allowed Lisbon starter Kyle Neagle to escape from a bases- loaded, none-out jam with just one run in the first inning..

The way Neagle started pitching and Lisbon started fielding after that, the inkling gradually became painfully obvious.

Neagle shut down Winthrop after that first inning, and with a spot in the Mountain Valley Conference title game on the line, Lisbon did all the things it needed to to to pull out a 3-1 win.

“When we only got one run in the first inning with the bases loaded, I knew that wasn’t a very good omen,” Fortin said. “I thought we hit the ball harder than they did, but they made every play. Kudos to them. They played a good defensive game.”

“We were a little bit tight in that first inning, but getting out of that with just the one run, I think the boys were like ‘OK, now we’re ready to play,'” said Lisbon coach Randy Ridley. “Kyle struggled in that inning, but the rest of the game, he was pretty fluid.”

The Greyhounds will face Mountain Valley in the conference title game Tuesday. Both Lisbon and Winthrop finished the season 12-2, and the Ramblers have likely clinched home field through the early rounds in the Western Class C playoffs. Lisbon can probably count on hosting at least one game in Western B.

Neagle (five hits, four Ks, five walks in seven innings) needed 32 pitches to get out of the pivotal first. He walked Rusty Schmelzer to start the game. Schmelzer stole second, then Tyler Cobb hit a pop fly into no-man’s land between three fielders down the left field line. David Ricker then beat out a high chopper to short that scored Schmelzer.

A walk to Kyle Plossay loaded the bases, but then Neagle got Forrest Dwyer to pop out to short, fanned Jake Steele looking and got Jordan Conant to hit a soft liner to first.

“I didn’t have a high leg kick in the first inning, and it was making me throw high,” Neagle said. “I struggled with that for probably the first three or four innings, then I started to focus on that and it helped me out.”

Neagle tied the game in the bottom of the first with an RBI single after Devan Knight led off with a triple against Plossay (six innings, six hits, four walks). Joe Stevens scored what proved to the winning run in the second on Marcus Bubar’s ground ball to second. The Greyhounds added insurance in the fourth on an errant throw to second base on a double-play attempt.

“We got some timely hitting and capitalized on a couple of small mistakes they made,” Ridley said. “That’s what this team has been doing all year.”

Neagle was able to get a key double play in the fourth, catching Bryan Lawson’s bunt attempt, then doubling-up Jordan Conant at first to erase his leadoff single. David Yaede made a fine leaping catch in left to rob Ricker of extra bases in the fifth. Knight similarly victimized Conant in the fifth, recovering in time on a ball hit over his head in straightaway center to run it down and make a tumbling catch.

“They saved my butt,” Neagle said. “I’m really lucky to have had those fielders behind me today.”

Winthrop got the tying run to the plate in the seventh when pinch-hitter Kory Child doubled with one out, but Neagle slammed the door on the top of the Rambler order with fly outs to center and right.

“It’s time to start thinking about the playoffs. I think we’ll be going in No. 1,” said Fortin. “We’ll be home until we get to the neutral site (in the regional final). We get a bye in the first round. Those are all good things. Hopefully we’re learning something by playing these quality B teams.”


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