The Lincoln softball team demonstrated that good things can happen when the bat is put on a ball.
The thing was, though, the way Sydney Griffin and Lauren Honkomp were pitching, it wasn’t that easy.
Lincoln finally broke through with a four-run sixth inning, taking advantage of Centerville miscues, then holding on for a 4-2 victory in the championship of the Wayne County softball tournament.
The Bulldogs made one last charge in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring both of their runs and leaving the tying run on first base, but third baseman Kerrigan Neff caught a soft flare for the final out as the Golden Eagles snagged their second county title in three years.
“This means everything, because I love playing with this team and they really had my back today and that meant a lot,” Griffin said.
But it was Griffin who carried the team on her back during an 11-2 semifinal victory over Hagerstown.
She struck out 22 batters, with one reaching first base on a passed ball. She also hit a three-run home run that game, while Haley Hall added a two-run blast, Tayler Pennington went 4-for-4 with two doubles and Kristen Meal went 3-for-4 with a double.
In the other semifinal, Centerville defeated Northeastern 14-0 in five innings behind six strikeouts from Honkomp as the sophomore limited the Knights to two hits.
Amanda Wilson went 4-for-4 with a double and four RBIs in Centerville’s semifinal win; Alexis Cox had a double and two RBIs; Madison Clark had two hits, a homer and two RBIs; Morgan Pruitt doubled, singled and had an RBI; and Honkomp added a single and an RBI.
And after another offensive explosion in a 15-8 consolation victory for Hagerstown, the offense took a five-inning break.
“In this game, really in both games, I fully expected a pitcher’s duel,” Lincoln coach Scott Griffin said. “They’re good pitchers. They know how to spot the ball; they got good enough speed where not anybody’s going to hit them.”
At first, nobody was.
For five innings, Honkomp kept Lincoln hitless in the title game and she struck out at least a better in every inning, finishing with 10.
On the other side, Griffin yielded just a pair of infield hits in the first six innings, both with shortstop Meal making spectacular plays in the hole, but with Amanda Wilson in the first and Makayla McFarland in the sixth legging them out.
“I just use my arm and I need to work on the whole using my hips and legs to get them out, because it’s frustrating when you stop the ball and you can’t do anything about it,” Meal said.
But both Griffin and Honkomp worked around the early base-runners for five full innings. Griffin had 11 more strikeouts in the final.
Then with one out in the sixth, Meal finally jumped on the first pitch she saw, dropping a single into left field and advancing to second on an error.
Hall followed with an RBI double and Griffin had an RBI single to make it 2-0 Lincoln.
One out later, Alex Cox reached on an error, allowing Griffin to score, and Cox later scored on a third error in the inning.
“It’s awesome, because it’s the last sport I’m ever going to be able to play and this team is great. Personally I love it,” said Hall, who helped the Golden Eagles win the county title as a sophomore. ” … You win county tourney for the very last time, you can say you went out with a bang.”
The first walk of the game did not come until the seventh inning with Centerville’s Alexis Cox working a full count for the free pass. She then stole second, and Kaylin Smith followed with an RBI double to put Centerville on the board. Clark followed with an RBI double of her own and Honkomp was hit by a pitch, bringing McFarland to the plate.
Meal forced Smith out at third, Lincoln’s Alex Cox fielded a groundout for the second out and a short liner went into the glove of Neff to conclude a long day at the ballpark.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, because I was thinking, they got the one run, they don’t have any outs and then there’s two runs coming in that would have tied it,” Pennington said of the seventh. ” … I just was trying to tell everybody, ‘Keep focus, don’t make any errors. We can do this; we got to finish it out.’ We had to stay focused there at the end to get that done.”
Hall had two hits in the title game for Lincoln (10-3), while Meal, Griffin and Karlee Shank each had one.
For Centerville (4-2), Smith, Clark, Wilson and McFarland each had a hit.
“It was a heck of a pitcher’s duel, and they just happened to get a couple opportune hits at the right time,” Centerville coach Avon Miller said. “We tried to make our comeback, (but) we just didn’t get it done.
” … Both teams did an outstanding job, I thought, today. … The girls have nothing to be ashamed of. Today was a good showing for both teams.”