Lincoln County baseball coach Raymond Wadsworth calls senior pitcher Hunter Wilkin his workhorse.
The plan Saturday in the Class 2A state tournament final against Needles was to get the game to the late innings so his ace can finish the job.
The plan worked, and the Lynx won back-to-back state titles for the first time in 24 years. Wilkin, nicknamed “Kersh” after Los Angeles Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw, pitched 2⅔ innings in his final game, as Lincoln County turned back Needles, 6-2 at The Meadows.
“Hunter has worked his butt off to get himself in championship form,” said Wadsworth. “He simply wants the baseball at the key moments. I’m so happy, its just a surreal moment knowing what these kids have accomplished.”
Due to pitch counts, Wilkin had just 36 pitches to work with. The senior made the most of them, allowing one hit and struck out three while facing just 11 batters. Alex Vincent came on and struck out Reid Shaver for the final out.
Lincoln County starter Kevin Mathews got the ball to Wilkin by allowing just a pair of unearned runs in his four innings of work. Mathews struck out two and walked one, but did just enough to keep the Mustangs off balance.
“In big games, it’s the seniors that need to step up and lead,” said Wadsworth. “This team has a great group of seniors that lead the way.”
Those seniors — Wilkin, Mathews, Aaron Cheeney and Cody Thornock — are major reasons why the Lynx are state champs again.
Lincoln County (25-3) got on the board quickly as McKinley O’Connor’s single brought home Kobe Walker, who singled with two outs to start the Lynx rally.
The Lynx pushed the lead to four in the third, as Lincoln County got hits from Walker and Kamdon Lewis but also took advantage of three Needles throwing errors. Vincent, Walker and Lewis scored the Lynx runs, and Lincoln County led 4-0.
Needles (19-11) had its best inning of the day in the fourth, as Jayden Yeager singled and Dylan Hetrick singled. After a force out, Dillon Darrow reached on an infield hit and Yeager scored on a throwing error. Courtesy runner Jessie Zamora scored moments later on a Walker throwing error, and the Mustangs were within two.
But Lincoln County answered in its half of the fourth, putting two runs of its own. Vincent’s RBI single coupled with two more Mustang errors pushed the Lynx lead to four once again.
“Winning this title is a big achievement,” said Wadsworth. “Its a total team effort and I couldn’t be more proud. It certainly has been a special season, one certainly to be proud.”
All 13 hits in the game were singles. Walker had two hits to lead the Lynx while Yeager was 2-for-3 for the Mustangs.