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RALEIGH- As usual, pitching and defense should be featured as the top fast-pitch teams in the state prepare for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championships this weekend.
The top four teams in each classification have qualified for the double-elimination tournaments at the Walnut Creek Softball Complex. All four of the championships are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
The opening rounds pair Eastern representatives against Eastern representatives and West against West.
This will mark the 13th annual fast pitch championships and the 33rd year for NCHSAA softball. The Raleigh Sports Consortium and the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau are among the host city sponsors.
Here is a look at each of the four championships:
Class 4-A: Two-time defending state champion Matthews David Butler (25-0) has another powerhouse and will take on North Davidson (25-3) on the opening day of play.
Butler is led by Taylor White (.443) and Constance Orr (4 HR, .417) at the plate, and Orr also sports a 19-0 pitching mark with 197 strikeouts in 119 innings while walking only 16 and an ERA of 0.00. North Davidson will counter with Tisha Mahon (.557), the Player of the Year in the Central Piedmont Conference, and Hannah Alexander (14-1, 0.58 ERA), who was Pitcher of the Year in the CPC.
The other 4-A matchup will send Durham Riverside (20-2) against Apex Middle Creek (22-2). Riverside is led by a quartet of seniors, which includes Christie Thomas (.446, 7-3 pitching record with 1.51 ERA) and Jenn Ladd (.373, 14-0 with 0.28 ERA; 176 strikeouts and 19 walks in 100 innings). Middle Creek’s freshman standout Krystal Coleman is batting .470 and lefty pitcher Beth Anne Kleekamp is 11-1 on the mound with an 0.30 ERA to go with a .390 batting average.
Class 3-A: Southwestern Randolph (22-2) will play the Sugar Jets of Enka (20-3) in one opener. The Sugar Jets were third in the Mountain Athletic Conference but won the league tournament and have outscored their opposition 32-1 in state playoff action. Jamie Burwell (12-2, 0.75 ERA) has signed to play with UNC-Pembroke and Ashley McCurry is batting a whopping .489.
Southwestern, the 2007 3-A state champ, is led by Anna Maness (16-2 on mound, one of top hitters) and Cynthia Hayes.
Winterville South Central (22-2) meets Erwin Triton (21-5) in the other Friday opener. Triton makes its first trip to Walnut Creek in school history, led by sophomore pitcher Candice Faircloth, Cape Fear Valley Conference Player of the year and part of a young team that starts four freshmen and two sophomores. South Central’s Caitlin Wainwright (21-1, 0.35 ERA) has 238 strikeouts in 158 innings of work.
Class 2-A: Unbeaten Central Davidson (29-0) goes for its second straight state crown, starting against Canton Pisgah (21-5). Chelsea Leonard is a dominant player for Central, sporting a .432 batting average and 26-0 mound mark with a microscopic 0.08 ERA and a whopping 395 strikeouts in 169 innings. Pisgah has an outstanding player of its own in Taylor Willis (.392 batting average, 16-4 on mound with 0.52 ERA).
South Lenoir (19-4) meets West Stokes (19-8) in the other 2-A opener Friday. South Lenoir’s Lady Blue Devils are in the final four for the second time in three years, anchored by East Central Conference Player of the Year Kayla Cole (.451, 20-4 on mound, 0.62 ERA, 218 strikeouts in 134 innings). West Stokes sports its conference’s last two Players of the Year in the North State Conference, including Brandi Holmes from last year and Sam Wilson this year (.452).
Class 1-A: There will be a new champion in this classification since two-time winner Pender did not make it back to Walnut Creek. The opening matchups send East Surry (27-2) against Swain (25-2) and
Manteo (18-6) against East Carteret (22-1).
East Surry, the 2005 state champ, has advanced to this level three of the last four years and six times since 1999 while winning three straight conference titles and six straight league tournament crowns. East will face a Swain County team at Walnut Creek for the third straight year and riding a 16-game winning streak with a school record 25 wins. Kayla Myers is batting an amazing .644 and Lauren Maennle is at .500, while Kristen Cook is 17-0 on the mound.
Kristen Garner (.481) and Kimmie Simons (.406) lead the East Carteret Mariners against Manteo, a team paced by conference Player of the Year Mitzy Minton (.364). Bree Tillett (12-2, 1.20 ERA) is Manteo’s top pitcher.
NORTH CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
2008 STATE FAST PITCH SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Walnut Creek Softball Complex, Raleigh
Matthews David Butler (25-0) vs. North Davidson (25-3), Friday at 5 p.m. (Field 8)
Durham Riverside (20-2) vs. Apex Middle Creek (22-2), Friday at 5 p.m. (Field 9)
Winners' bracket final Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 8)
Elimination game Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 9)
Losers' bracket final Saturday at 11 am (Field 4)
Championship game Saturday at 1:30 pm (Field 4); if needed, a second game will follow at 4 pm
Southwestern Randolph (22-2) vs. Enka (20-3), Friday at 5 pm (Field 6)
Winterville South Central (22-2) vs. Erwin Triton (21-5), Friday at 5 pm (Field 7)
Winners' bracket final Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 6)
Elimination game Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 7)
Losers' bracket final Saturday at 11 am (Field 3)
Championship game Saturday at 1:30 pm (Field 3); if needed, a second game will follow at 4 pm
Central Davidson (29-0) vs. Canton Pisgah (21-5), Friday at 5 pm (Field 3)
South Lenoir (19-4) vs. West Stokes (19-8), Friday at 5 pm (Field 4)
Winners' bracket final Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 3)
Elimination game Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 4)
Losers' bracket final Saturday at 11 am (Field 2)
Championship game Saturday at 1:30 pm (Field 2); if needed, a second game will follow at 4 pm
East Surry (27-2) vs. Swain (25-2). Friday at 5 pm (Field 1)
Manteo (18-6) vs. East Carteret (22-1), Friday at 5 pm (Field 2)
Winners' bracket final Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 1)
Elimination game Friday at 7:30 pm (Field 2)
Losers' bracket final Saturday at 11 am (Field 1)
Championship game Saturday at 1:30 pm (Field 1); if needed, a second game will follow at 4 pm