The West Lincoln Optimist 11 and 12-year old girlsâ€™ all-star softball team won the North Carolina State Championship last weekend in Stanfield, N.C.
The Tournament began last Friday and went through Tuesday night. West Lincoln went 4-1 beating Sampson, 7-4, then losing to Dunn 3-0. In the loserâ€™s bracket they defeated Leland 15-5 before beating West Stanley 8-1.
West Lincoln received a bye via a draw due to three teams having a 3-1 record. Then in the finals on Tuesday night they beat South Stanley, the defending state champions 9-2.
The win qualifies them for the Dixie Youth World Series in Alexandria, La. beginning July 30.
The teamâ€™s efforts were aided by strong pitching from Ashley Rhyne and Emily Workman. Rhyne pitched a complete game against West Stanley,while Workman pitched a complete game against South Stanley.
Defensively, Teneil Ingle spearheaded the squadâ€™s efforts. Laura Barrett led them at the plate. Other pitchers were Sadie Saine and Addy Pound.
West Lincoln head coach Nathan Workman believes the girlsâ€™ work ethic is the main reason for their success.
â€œThis is the hardest working group Iâ€™ve ever coached. Laura is an excellent player. Defensively, Teneil didnâ€™t make an error the whole tournament at third base,â€ he said.
â€œAshley, in every game she pitched, had a great game. In the championship game, Emily was totally focused on what she was doing. I think she only walked two batters,â€ Workman said.
Assistant coach Greg Pound felt it was West Lincolnâ€™s heart that carried them to a state championship.
â€œThey really played as a team. They played against some girls that were twice their size, but they stepped up,â€ he said.
Workman feels the magnitude of their accomplishment hasnâ€™t sunk in yet.
â€œI think itâ€™s the first Lincoln County team ever. Itâ€™s a pretty big deal. I donâ€™t think they realize now how big it is until they get down there to the World Series,â€ he said.
West Lincolnâ€™s will open play against the Louisiana state champions on July 31. Workman is not sure what to expect, but he and his team are excited.
â€œWeâ€™re going to go down there and play as hard as we can, keep our minds focused on every game. We donâ€™t have a clue what weâ€™re getting ready to be in for. The way everybody talks to us, itâ€™s going to be a big treat for the girls,â€ he said.
When asked if his team just gelled in time for the state tournament, Workman responded saying they become a cohesive unit well before that.
â€œEver since the first of practice this team has come together. Theyâ€™re strong, keep their mind focused, a good hitting team and defensively theyâ€™re as sound as any team Iâ€™ve ever coached,â€ he said.
West Lincolnâ€™s other assistant coach Rusty Saine has also enjoyed the ride.
â€œItâ€™s been a real pleasure to coach the girls. All the girls had great attitudes, worked really hard and come together as a team,â€ he said.
Having already tasted success and with the World Series looming, one more obstacle stands in front of West Lincoln- money.
Saine feels thatâ€™s the main thing standing in their way.
â€œItâ€™s very important that we get local support through businesses and individuals. If they can donate time or money. Itâ€™s going to cost a lot of money for the girls for not only the team but the parents to make it to Louisiana too.â€
by John Mark Brooks