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Posted on Fri, May 10, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Lincoln softball building program through youth movement and seeing progress

By Kyle Austin

The Lincoln softball team pummeled Skyline Monday in a home doubleheader, and everyone at Lincoln was happy about that.

But it was the series before that coach Wes Strickland and his players were even more pleased with: four days earlier, the team had traveled to Tecumseh and lost a pair of 3-1 games.

In the first one, two runs were given up on an error, and in the second Lincoln lost despite outhitting the Indians.



Record: 10-9

Upcoming competitions: Monday, May 13 vs. Chelsea, 4 p.m., 6 p.m.; Thursday, May 16 at Adrian, 4 p.m., 6 p.m.

Top athletes: Senior Arielle Matthews leads the team with a .509 average. She also leads the team with 19 RBI. Emily Eickhoff is hitting .471 with 11 RBIs, and has a 1.62 ERA in 60 innings.

On a roll: Heading into Wednesday, Eickhoff had given up just one earned run in her last four starts. She got touched up for six runs against both Dexter and Saline, but only eight were earned.

Mixing it up: The Splitters have a power pitcher in Eickhoff and an offspeed pitcher in freshman Brooke Snyder. In the second two doubleheaders this week, Strickland went against conventional wisdom and threw Snyder first. It worked against Dexter, as Lincoln won game two. Not so much against Saline.

Still playing: In addition to spending the last five years as Lincoln’s coach, Strickland has spent 30 years as an adult league player, winning six state titles and one world title.

Quote: “We’re getting better and better, and I’m actually very happy with the way we’re performing.” -- Coach Wes Strickland

And while those contests didn’t do anything for Lincoln’s record, it did plenty for the program’s psyche to compete well against one of the league’s perennial powers. Strickland calls it the proudest moment of the year.

“It used to be when we got on this field and played a Tecumseh or a Chelsea or a Bedford, we’d be beat before the game started,” Strickland said.

“Now we’re over that hump. They can go, they can compete with anybody.”

Strickland, in his fifth year guiding Lincoln’s softball team, is building a program at a school without a rich softball history. Two years ago, the Railsplitters won 20 games, the most any Lincoln softball team had ever won.

So now, competing night-in and night-out against the best in the league is a measure of progress.

“Those teams used to pummel us,” senior third baseman Arielle Matthews said. “We used to get mercied. So for us to lose 4-1 (sic), that’s a big deal.”

Lincoln is 10-9 on the year, and its current status could be seen through its three doubleheaders on the week.

After beating Skyline, the team went on the road and split with Dexter, a 15-5 team, in a pair of makeup games. But on Thursday, against the best team in the area, Lincoln lost 9-0 and 6-0 to Saline.

At one game over .500 Lincoln may have a tough time setting another wins record. But according to Strickland, this year’s team is better than the 2011 version.

Two years ago, Lincoln did well largely on the back of a standout pitcher, Devin Williams. It also benefitted from a weak non-conference schedule.

This year, the team is more well-rounded and the schedule is beefed up.

“Now we’re playing the South Lyons, and the upper schools, is what I’m trying to do,” Strickland said.

And this year’s squad is more set up for the future. After setting the wins mark in 2011, the team had a mass exodus and took a step back with a younger team last year. This year’s team is also young, with only three seniors -- Matthews, first baseman Kaylor Fosdick and outfielder Raven Lee.

The team’s No. 2 pitcher is a freshman, Brooke Snyder, who had a 3.39 earned run average. Lincoln also starts a freshman at second base in Alexandria Glazier, and four other sophomores.

“I am basically putting on that field what most JV teams do,” Strickland said.

But those young players now all play travel ball, as do 20 eighth-graders at Lincoln Middle School, at Strickland's insistence.

So while games like Thursday night's aren’t going Lincoln’s way, the proof of progress is there.

“We’re getting better and better, and I’m actually very happy with the way we’re performing,” Strickland said.

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.