These Lincoln Saltdogs Know How to Hunt: Lincoln Line
Entering the final seven games of the season, the Lincoln Saltdogs find themselves on the outside looking in. A sweep at the hands of the Wichita Wingnuts opened the door for the Gary Southshore RailCats to retake first place, and put the team from Nebraska into second place in the Central Division. Now the team finds itself having to chase Gary once again if they are going to win the division and advance to the playoffs. Not a problem though, because these Lincoln Saltdogs know how to hunt to get what they want.
It is not like Lincoln has not had to battle back to take the lead before. When the month of August began they trailed the RailCats by five games. Gary was on a roll, and looked like they had things in control. They even looked like they were ready to make a statement when the Saltdogs came to Indiana for a four-game series. It was the perfect opportunity to cage those ‘Dogs and put some serious distance between the two.
Those “Dogs” had a whole different vision they were chasing however. They swept Gary, winning two one-run games and two two-run ones to cut a five-game deficit into just one little game separating the two teams. In four days they made up four games in the standings, and the next night the two teams were tied. It was a great turnaround for the team from Lincoln.
Now the Saltdogs find themselves in a similar situation. They enter the last week of the season down by one game again, and they need to win virtually every game now, because there are no more tomorrow’s for them. Every game needs to be played like the playoffs are beginning today. There is no doubt that the team is up to the task.
The major difference between now and three weeks ago is that they do not face the RailCats at all. These two teams are done facing each other for the year, so Lincoln’s path to the playoffs goes through two “Siouxs,” the Sioux Falls Canaries and the Sioux City Explorers.
The Saltdogs have faced the Canaries just four times this season, all at home, which was August 7-10. Lincoln took three of four in the series, winning two slugfests, and splitting back-to-back shutouts in the other two contests. Against the Explorers, the Saltdogs have split their four games, all in Sioux City. The two teams split back-to-back 3-o shutouts to begin the series, and then Lincoln won 8-7 before falling 7-1 in the final game of the series.
Gary has played considerably more games against the Explorers so far this season. They are just 6-8 against Sioux City, and surprisingly have lost all six games at home. These three games are in Sioux City however, where the RailCats are 6-2 this year, but they have lost the last two there, which was July 23-24. They then finish the season against the North Division Champion Winnipeg Goldeyes in Canada. These two teams played a home-and-home series in July where the RailCats won two of three in both series.
It is not an easy route for the Lincoln Saltdogs down the stretch, but they are not afraid to get in the fray and battle for what they want. Their destiny is not completely in their hands, as they trail the Gary Southshore RailCats by one game in the standings. All they can do is just win, and let the rest take care of itself. A victory over Sioux Falls helped to spring the team into first place earlier this month. These ‘Dogs have to hope that a victory tonight will help to put them right back into that position again.
By Robert Pannier
Senior Baseball Editor
Member of the IBWAA