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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.
Admission is ten dollars per day for an all-day pass.
Here is a look at each of the four championships:
Class 4-A: Two of the four teams in the field return, including defending state champion Matthews David Butler (26-0) and North Davidson (29-1), who will collide in an opener between Western representatives.
Amazingly, Butler has outscored its opponents by a whopping 245-6, has shut out its last nine opponents and has not given up an earned run all year. Ashton Ward, MVP of last year’s championships, is one of the top Bulldogs, batting .451 and owning a perfect 23-0 mound mark with an 0.30 ERA and 314 strikeouts in 142 innings.
North Davidson’s Danielle Glosson was the Central Piedmont Conference Pitcher of the Year (29-1, 0.53 ERA, 352 strikeouts in 182 innings) and is also one of four North players batting over .400.
Chapel Hill (23-5) will take on Fayetteville Pine Forest (25-3) in the other 4-A opening game. Chapel Hill enters the finals riding a 15-game winning streak, led by PAC-6 Conference co-Player of the Year Samme Lisowsky (23-4, 0.35 ERA, .333 batting average).
Senior Martika Elmore is the Pine Forest ace pitcher and has allowed just one run and five hits in four games in postseason play. Catcher Paige Faircloth leads Pine Forest at the plate with a .494 average.
Two of the Pine Forest losses were to 3-A finalist Harnett Central.
Southwestern Randolph (26-2) battles two-time defending state champion Kings Mountain (26-1) for the second consecutive year in one opener. The Mountaineers appear to be loaded once again as Morgan Childers (24-2, 0.14 ERA, 343 strikeouts in 149.2 innings) has been her league’s player of the year all four years in high school. Kings Mountain has won 20 straight and has shut out its last 11 opponents.
Southwestern has a core of seniors who have produced a brilliant 97-13 record during their years at the school. Ashley Seawell is batting .543 and Natalie Haithcox .500 with five homers for the Randolph County team, while Anna Maness is the leading pitcher (10-1, 0.29 ERA, 76 strikeouts and seven walks in 80.1 innings)
Harnett Central (29-1) returns to Walnut Creek for the fourth time in five years and will battle Greenville D.H. Conley (25-2). Both teams have been hot, with Harnett Central riding a 28-game win streak and Conley having earned 15 consecutive wins.
Toni Ann Williford of Harnett Central is batting a whopping .535 and Lauren Taylor (26-1, 0.22 ERA, 270 strikeouts in 165 innings) is the mound ace.
Conley’s Lady Vikings are led at the plate by Suzanne Riggs (.452) and Brittany Sutton is 15-0 on the mound (0.52 ERA, 142 strikeouts and just eight walks in 104 innings).
Central Davidson (29-1) is the only returnee from last year’s final four 2-A championship field, which was won by North Pitt, and Central will take on surprising Smoky Mountain (17-11) in one opener.
Smoky lost six of its last eight regular season games but has gotten it together, led by Megan Taylor (.400 batting average, 11-7 with 0.97 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 122 innings).
South Brunswick (24-3) and Bunn (19-7) meet in the other opening game. Bunn’s Lady Cats are back in the final four for the first time since 1996. Ashlea Satterwhite tops Bunn’s offensive attack with a .513 average while Ashley Driver is Bunn’s leading pitcher (14-5, 1.35 ERA, 199 strikeouts in 129.1 innings).
South Brunswick had to rally in its final at-bat to beat South Columbus just to advance to Walnut Creek. South’s Candace Piner is 19-4 on the mound.
Defending 1-A champ Pender (25-2) will start its road toward repeating against Gates County (17-8).
Senior Britney Roper once again paces Pender and was the Most Valuable Player in last year’s championship. Amanda Brown (.412) paces Gates at the plate and Courtney Hobbs (17-8, 137 strikeouts in 116 innings) is the leading pitcher.
Swain County (23-5), the other returning 1-A team from a year ago, will meet North Moore (24-6) in the game featuring Western representatives. The Maroon Devils of Swain have a big bat in Lauren Maennle (.576, four homers) and Sarah Davis is a three-time Smoky Mountain Conference Player of the Year. Davis is hitting .338 with seven homers and is 1-2 on the mound with a 1.39 ERA.
North Moore has a solid nucleus of six seniors, led by Yadkin Valley Player of the Year Allison Braswell (24-6, 0.67 ERA, 251 strikeouts in 185 IP). Jasmine Covington is batting .430.
NORTH CAROLINA HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
2007 STATE FAST PITCH SOFTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS
Walnut Creek Softball Complex, Raleigh--
Chapel Hill (23-5) vs. Fayetteville Pine Forest (25-3), Friday at 5 p.m. (Field 8)
Matthews David Butler (26-0) vs. North Davidson (29-1), 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
Harnett Central (29-1) vs. Greenville D.H. Conley (25-2), Friday at 5 pm (Field 6)
Kings Mountain (26-2) vs. Southwestern Randolph (27-1), 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
South Brunswick (24-3) vs. Bunn (19-7), Friday at 5 pm (Field 3)
Central Davidson (29-1) vs. Smoky Mountain (17-11), 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
Pender (25-2) vs. Gates County (17-8), Friday at 5 pm (Field 1)
Swain County (23-5) vs. North Moore (24-6), 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