AYER -- Prior to the start of Monday's game against league rival Littleton senior softball captain Sydney Brinkerhoff frankly told her coach she wanted to win. The Panthers did just that in extra innings by a score of 9-8.
Brinkerhoff went 2-for-4 with 4 RBI in the win over Littleton.
"We have never really had much success in the years past," Brinkerhoff said. "We always have that bad one-or-two innings where we dig ourselves a hole, and we are not able to catch up."
Brinkerhoff has been part of the Ayer Shirley softball program since she was a freshman. In that time she has played for three coaches. Brinkerhoff is batting .427 this season with 9 RBI. Brinkerhoff started her high school softball career in right field, and she later made the move to third base in her sophomore year under then head coach Dan Civitarese.
"When I was not in right field, I was designated hitting," Brinkerhoff said. "This year under coach Rollins we got new game pants, which is something that other coaches in the past didn't care about. We typically just wore shorts. No one has really cared about our outfits before, now we have warm-up shirts with our names on them, thanks to coach."
Brinkerhoff played in middle school for Terri Rollins on the seventh-and-eighth grade basketball team. It was in that moment that Rollins knew that she had a special type of athlete in her hands.
"As she got older she became an assistant to a captain back then," Rollins said. "In eighth grade you don't actually have captains, but I put her in charge of making sure the younger kids got ready in time for practice -- that's what makes her successful here as a captain, her teammates respect and listen to her. I feel that the older players who have been in the program since they were a freshman have earned the right to be a captain if they're respected as a player and a individual by their peers."
On the field, Brinkerhoff is a hard worker who isn't afraid to get her jersey dirty. Rollins classifies Brinkerhoff as an assertive leader, who has a knack for lifting her younger teammates up after a tough play in the field or a strikeout.
"She gets a little too down on herself when she makes a mistake, but most good players do that," Rollins said. "She gets to the point where she gets so frustrated that she wants to hit something, so I tell her to just hit the ball. Sydney is very aggressive when she makes a mistake, but she turns right around and makes it into a positive."
Brinkerhoff is the treasurer of the National Honor Society, and she is actively involved in the Ayer Shirley youth softball programs, along with her teammates. Brinkerhoff plans to study psychology at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, NH. Colby-Sawyer does not currently offer a varsity softball program, but Brinkerhoff has expressed interest in playing for the club team.
"Colby-Sawyer does not have a varsity team, I actually talked to the financial aid guy there, who just so happened to be the former softball coach," Brinkerhoff said. "They are really big on baseball, and I figured that they would feel the same way about softball."
Rollins thinks the psychology route is a great fit for Brinkerhoff.
"She wants to be a social worker with children," Rollins said. "She would be great with the kids because she can be assertive, but she can kind of be at their level. It's kind of like me with my middle school students, you can be stern with them, but you can also give them respect. I think she could help restart the softball program at Colby-Sawyer, that's how a lot of teams start at college."