Sydney Griffin was a freshman when she helped the Lincoln High School softball team win a share of the Tri-Eastern Conference title.
Now a junior, she teamed with a current freshman Thursday night to ensure the Golden Eagles kept their spot atop the TEC standings.
Griffin pitched a complete game, limiting Hagerstown to just an infield single and striking out 14 Tigers, as Lincoln improved to 3-0 in the TEC with a 9-4 victory over their Western Wayne County foes.
Freshman Kerrigan Neff went 3-for-4 with a game-tying, inside-the-park, three-run home run, an infield single and an RBI triple as the Golden Eagles (17-3, 3-0) rallied from an early 4-1 deficit.
“It takes all the pressure off when your team’s got your back and they’re there to pick you up,” Griffin said.
” … Kerrigan’s a beast. She always comes through. She’s a nice asset to have, and it’s awesome that she’s a freshman.”
Lincoln and Union County went 6-1 in 2012 to share the TEC title. Hagerstown was the team responsible for ending Lincoln’s hopes of a repeat in 2013, when the Tigers handed the Golden Eagles their second loss of the year, 3-0.
But a determined Lincoln squad, led by hungry seniors Haley Hall, Tayler Pennington and Kristen Meal, overcame a big second inning by pushing four runs across in the third to regain momentum.
“The heart of a champion,” Lincoln coach Scott Griffin said. “I know that term’s overused, but I think this team has it.”
Lincoln struck first, when Griffin walked and stole a pair of bases before scoring on an error in the first.
The Tigers (10-10, 3-2) pushed four runs across in the top of the second when Morgan Masters reached on an infield single, Megan Johnson was hit by a pitch and Anna Oakes walked to load the bases with nobody out.
Sydney Griffin struck out two batters, but Cara Brown worked a bases-loaded walk to force in a tying run, then Gabby Willis reached on an error, allowing Johnson, Oakes and Brown to score.
“First three innings, we battled right there,” first-year Hagerstown coach Kevin Rogers said. “Kept their pitcher on her heels. We were following the game plan 100 percent, then (Lincoln) got a couple runs off a couple timely hits. They put the bat on the ball, and that’s what we always talk about, put the bat on the ball, you never know where it’s going to fall.”
Lincoln strung together four straight hits in the bottom of the third. Meal singled, but was caught stealing, before Hall and Griffin followed with back-to-back singles.
Then, Neff poked a ball just inside the right-field foul line. It rolled all the way to the corner, allowing Hall, courtesy runner Cassie Mattingly and Neff all to score. Pennington doubled and Brooke Crouch tripled later in the inning to put the Golden Eagles ahead 5-4.
Neff singled and scored on an error in the fifth inning. Griffin drilled a two-run triple in the sixth inning, and Neff added her RBI triple for the final score.
“(Neff) had a big game,” Coach Griffin said. “She’s been a little down on herself. She started the year out real hot and stroking the ball well, then that wasn’t happening for her and this was a big game for her.”
Meanwhile, Sydney Griffin had settled down after a shaky second inning. She walked Linsey Farr to start the third, before retiring 15 straight batters to end the game.
Masters had the lone Hagerstown hit, while Neff had three for the Golden Eagles and Griffin and Pennington each added two. Hall, Crouch, Karlee Shank and Dakota Harrison each had one.
Brytni Dale struck out four for Hagerstown, walking one and hitting two, while Amanda Thackrey had plenty of impressive plays at third base, fielding six ground balls.
The Golden Eagles set up a TEC showdown Tuesday at Liberty.
Union County is the only other TEC unbeaten remaining and the Patriots have claims to TEC titles every year between 2005-2010 and 2012-13. They shared the title with Lincoln in both 2005 and 2012.
“I think we have a strong spot in the conference and we get past Union County, I think this team can go pretty far,” Sydney Griffin said.