Arielle Matthews leading young Lincoln softball team in fourth year on varsity
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
Nobody would have blamed Railsplitters senior third baseman Arielle Matthews for sitting out the nightcap Thursday night. She had played Game 1 with a bad case of the flu, and it was obvious she wasn’t herself.
But her coach wasn’t surprised that he had to practically pry her off the field for game two.
“She didn’t want to come out of that second game,” Lincoln coach Wes Strickland said. “I made her, I made her come out. I told her ‘I’ll let you hit, but I’m not going to let you play defense.’ She’s got a fever, chills.
“She’s just a gamer, never wants to quit.”
Matthews, in her fourth year as a varsity player, is one of only three seniors on the team, and has been around as long as anyone. She’s seen the ups and downs, from a record-setting 20-win season two years ago to two other down years.
This year, she’s the leadoff hitter and unquestioned leader of a young team that’s competing night-in-and night out in the SEC White.
“I think (we are) coming together as a team and working together,” Matthews said.
And if the team is coming together, it’s in no small part due to Matthews’ leadership.
“She’s the leader of this team, she has been since she was in 10th grade,” Strickland said. “She motivates all the girls, focused and driven. She’s never content.”
Matthews’ bat hasn’t hurt, either. Her .503 batting average leads the team, as do her 19 RBIs and five home runs. She has struck out only four times in 63 plate appearances.
And her glove isn’t bad either. With Matthews and sophomore shortstop Fallon Cole, the Railsplitters have a strong left side of the infield that has 11 errors in 100 chances.
“Our defense is really good,” Matthews said. “We’ve been playing harder teams that we normally wouldn’t be able to keep up with, and we’ve been doing really well.”
Throwing left-handed, Matthews is hardly a typical pick to hold third base. But Strickland said the speed on her throws across the diamond more than make up for the fact that she has to make an extra turn every time to do it.
“Usually you don’t have a lefty playing third. So we’ve got a lefty playing third who gets the job done. She’s got a cannon for an arm,” Strickland said.
Against Skyline Monday, Matthews went 3-for-6 with six RBIs, a triple, a home run and sacrifice fly.
It was one of her biggest hitting days of the year. But it wasn’t enough.
“She’s not happy with her performance,” Strickland said. “Her expectations for success is way above everyone else. She’s never content, she always wants to be better.”