Lincoln County wins AAA title

VIENNA -What’s the best way to make sure your softball team doesn’t suffer a loss?

Don’t allow your opponents to score.

That’s the method Lincoln County employed on Thursday and the result was the Panthers second Class AAA state softball championship in four years.

In a game originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday night -when rain and lightning brought an early halt to the opening-day of the state tournament -Lincoln County opened Thursday morning’s session in the winner’s bracket final against Wheeling Park.

The winner would be assured a berth in the championship game later in the day while the loser would have to fight its way through the losers bracket, never a pleasant thought.

Lincoln County had no such thought. The Panthers rode the four-hit pitching of Brooke West to a 2-0 win over Wheeling Park that assured the Panthers of no worse than second place.

Lincoln plated both of its runs in the fourth inning as Whitney McKay -who had three of the Panthers’ eight hits in the game – and Faith Huffman crossed the plate on RBI hits from Kayla Jeffers and Ashley Hoffman.

That’s all the cushion West would need as she didn’t allow any free passes. Park’s most serious threat came when its first two batters of the game reached base, but West retired the next three to end the inning and the threat, Wheeling’s only serious scoring chance of the game.

Wheeling couldn’t recover from that loss as the Patriots were sent home in the loser’s bracket final, dropping an 8-1 decision to Musselman, which combined six hits with six Wheeling Park errors.

That set up the title game between Lincoln and Musselman and once again West drew the pitching assignment for Lincoln. This time, she surrendered just two hits as the Panthers scored their second 2-0 win of the day.

Lincoln had 10 hits and numerous chances to score, but settled for single runs in the third and fourth innings.

The Panthers, who finished the season 31-8, placed four players on the all-tournament team -West, Megan Tully, Brandy Isaacs and Sarah Barrett. Musselman (26-5) had three selections in Tori Butler, Sabrina Schroades and Taylor Stocks.

The championship was Lincoln County’s second in four years and allowed the team’s three seniors -West, Jeffers and Sarah Pennington -to end their high school careers the same way they began in 2011 -as the Class AAA state champions.