Lincoln prepared to make run in postseason
by Erich Hilkert
LINCOLN—The Lincoln Lady Bears softball team got off to a slow start to their season, but the team is headed to Tuscaloosa for the North-Central Regional with some momentum. The team is slated to play Saint Clair County today at 3:30 p.m.

“I think the further in the season we get, the stronger the team bond we have,” head coach Jessica Dorough said. “I feel like they’re working together more than they were at the first of the season, which is why I think that they have done so well towards the end of the season. I just hope we build on that for this next tournament and maybe we can make it to the State Tournament, which would be awesome.”

Kierra Groce, who has played pitcher, center field and shortstop this season, said a lot of the credit goes to Coach Dorough.

“I’m very proud of Mrs. Dorough actually, because she was very determined to help her team get better,” Groce said. “She did all she could and I understand she has a lot on her plate, so it’s hard. I think we just did a good job, and the seniors did a good job of coming together and believing in each other.”

For most of the team, this will be their first trip to Regionals.

“In my four years of being at Lincoln, we’ve never made it,” Dorough said. “So, this is our first year to go. I think this is the first year that my seniors are getting to go to Regionals. I’m super excited for them. I, as an athlete, got to go to this and it’s an awesome feeling to get to go and get to compete with some of the best schools in the state. I really do feel like I’ve got a good bunch of girls and I feel like they can go there and compete.”

Senior catcher Brandy Decker believes the team finally played as a whole this season.

“I think this year me and the rest of the girls that I’ve been playing with for so long, we finally connected,” she said. “We’ve come closer together and we’ve all started to want to win and do good together. That’s what I like: that I’ve been able to connect with them.”

Groce said part of the team’s success can be attributing to setting goals before the season. The team has continued working hard even after achieving those goals.

“Our goal was to make it to Regionals and also do good in the area tournament and that’s what we did,” Groce said. “We’ve been practicing, working hard. We’ve been trying to encourage each other because that’s the only way you can get through it. We’ve been doing extra stuff, as far as practices, hitting cages and all that stuff.”

Senior pitcher Heather Proctor likes what she has seen of the team as of late.

“I’m very pleased at how we’ve played,” Proctor said. “I know we had a hard time against Heflin, but I think it will be easier and better and when we get there I think everybody is going to be ready to play. I think it will be great. I’m glad we made it my senior year, finally.”

Proctor said being familiar with their Regional opponent should be helpful.

“We’ve actually played them recently one time and they beat us, but that was one of our rough games,” Proctor said. “But I think if we come out and everybody plays, we can beat them easily.”

Groce said the seniors on the team played a key role in the team’s success in the area tournament.

“I feel like in the area tournament the seniors really stepped up and that’s what helped us. A lot of the younger girls, when they make a mistake, you need a senior to help you. I really wanted to make Regionals for my seniors, because this is Lincoln’s first year making it in a long time. It’s just exciting, because we finally made it.”

Being close with a supportive bunch of senior players is a comfort for Groce. She was forthcoming in admitting that there will be nerves, and Groce is a player who has been to Regionals before so she would know.

“I think having the support will help me,” Groce said. “I will be nervous. Last year, actually I pitched at Regionals both games. I was very nervous and this year I will be too. But having Heather (Procor) will also help out a lot. That’s another thing this year: I haven’t really been pitching; Heather has. So, it’s really been a relief on me. I just have enjoyed watching her because I really look up to her and when she’s on the mound she does her job.”

Proctor gets excited to pitch in big-game situations.

“It’s a big responsibility, but to me, I love it,” Proctor said. “Getting up there and striking out big hitters for my team, it feels great just doing that.”

Lincoln takes on St.Clair County today at 3:30 p.m. in Tuscaloosa.
© 2013