Clicking on all aspects, Lancers beat TJ to win region title

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May 19—Linganore's softball team calls two of its players, juniors Camryn MacKay and Devyn McFarland, "the twins."

How come?

"We played together since we were like 4," MacKay said.

And those two spent Wednesday doing whatever they could to ensure they'd play together at least one more time this spring with the Lancers.

MacKay threw an abbreviated shutout against a tough Thomas Johnson lineup and belted a leadoff double in the first inning, setting the tone for a Linganore offense that clubbed 10 hits — including four for extra bases — in the first two innings.

And McFarland, a second baseman, was involved in two of three inning-ending double plays the Lancers made in the first three innings to snuff out potential TJ rallies.

Clicking in every facet of the game from the start, the Lancers rolled to a 10-0 win over the visiting Patriots in the Class 3A West Region I final, which ended after five innings because of the mercy rule.

The Lancers (16-5) advance to the state quarterfinals, where they will host Wilde Lake on Friday. It's Linganore's eighth regional crown, with the last one coming in 2019.

"We haven't won regionals since my freshman year," Linganore senior catcher Delaney Ridgell said. "So it's kind of like a flashback."

There was another flashback that motivated Lancers like Ridgell. In last year's regional final, TJ used a suicide squeeze in the eighth inning to beat Linganore.

"It was heartbreaking because we went into extra innings," Ridgell said. "So it was very inspiring to come back out and win."

Ridgell, one of the most prolific hitters in a hard-hitting lineup, plated the game's first two runs with an opposite-field triple that landed just beyond the reach of the running right fielder's outstretched glove.

The Lancers sent nine batters to the plate in the first, scoring five runs on five hits. Claire Thomas and No. 8 batter Emily Ausherman, who singled, also had RBIs.

The Lancers pounded out five more hits in the fourth, when Gracie Wilson's RBI triple and Thomas' RBI double fueled a four-run rally.

Eight Linganore players had at least one hit. Kelli Durbin had three hits, Wilson had two hits, and Thomas had two RBIs.

"Ever since we split with them regular season, we've been talking about there's a really good chance we're going to see them again," said Linganore coach Andrea Poffinberger, whose team lost 14-4 when these teams last met on April 27. "So we know what we need to do, we know what we want to do, now we just have to execute.

"And, I mean, they came out on fire," she said. "It helps when you go up five in the first inning. And defensively, they were on fire today."

Thomas, Linganore's third baseman, brought the top of the first inning to a sudden halt. Snagging Andrea Larson's grounder with two on and one out. Thomas stepped on third to force out the lead runner, then fired to first to nab Larson.

"My defense showed up for sure," said MacKay, who scattered five hits. "If they got hits here and there, double plays came in clutch."

With one out and a runner on first in the second, McFarland fielded a hopper, tagged the runner between first and second and threw to first to complete another inning-ending double play.

McFarland, called "small but mighty" by Poffinberger, wasn't done. With one out and a runner on first in the third, she made a running catch on a fly ball near first base, then stepped on the bag to double up the runner.

"I saw her in the corner of my eye, and I was just focusing on getting her out and trusting my techniques," McFarland said. "She could've avoided my tag, so I just went for the base."

While TJ's lineup showed it was fully capable of making contact against a quality pitcher like MacKay, who finished with one strikeout, double plays took their toll on a team forced to dig out of a five-run hole.

"It's the way it goes sometimes," Patriots coach Paul Jennings said. "One of them was bad base running on our part, the other two were good defensive plays."

TJ finishes with a 16-5 record.

"A really great group I had this year," Jennings said. "Having Briyana Wright come in [from Heritage High School in Virginia] and just be an absolute stud at shortstop and at the top of the lineup, that was a godsend for us. And Andrea [Larson] and Sydney [Gonciarz] as my battery, I've coached them since they were 10 or 11 years old."

Meanwhile, Linganore heads into the state quarterfinals after a dominant showing against a quality TJ team.

"It feels like we're in a good spot for Friday," Poffinberger said. "So we'll go to work tomorrow."