Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rocky Mount wins 3-A baseball crown

Rocky Mount bounced back from a 6-2 loss in Game 2 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A baseball championship series to defeat East Rowan 8-6 in the decisive third game Saturday in Zebulon's Five County Stadium.

Junior center fielder Brian Goodwin, who has verbally committed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was named the tournament MVP. It is the fifth state title and first in 28 years for the Gryphons, who won all four previous ones at the 4-A level.

Rocky Mount (27-6) took a 6-1 lead after two innings and held off East Rowan (29-5). Freshman Benton Moss earned the victory on the mound but needed help from Nick Hahula to finish it.

In other state championship series, Greenville Rose swept Charlotte Ardrey Kell in the 4-A series, also at Five County. Two of the four state titles were won by true eastern N.C. teams.

In the 2-A series, Hillsborough Orange, the East Regional king, swept East Rutherford for its first baseball state championship. Orange rallied for two runs in the seventh to pull out a 3-2 win at UNCG Baseball Stadium in Greensboro.

Cherryville was the lone West Regional king to be crowned state champion as it swept Topsail in the 1-A series, also at UNCG.

In the softball championships at Walnut Creek Softball Complex in Raleigh, South Central defeated Southwestern Randolph 3-0 in the 3-A final. Other finals were Charlotte Butler 5, North Davidson 3 in the 4-A classification; Central Davidson 2, South Lenoir 0 in the 2-A ranks and East Surry defeated Swain County 6-0 in the 1-A championship.

Trojans are Division II national champions

Congratulations to the Mount Olive College baseball team for winning the NCAA Division II baseball championship Saturday.

The No. 1-ranked Trojans scored five runs in the top of the first inning en route to a 6-2 win against No. 4 Ouachita Baptist. Former Wilson Tob Josh Harrison singled in the first of those two runs. Trojans first baseman Erik Lovett played for the Tobs the past two seasons and Jesse Lancaster, son of MOC head coach Carl Lancaster, will join the Tobs this season. Lancaster was selected to the all-tournament team.

Four members of Mount Olive's team have been honored as All-American selections — catcher Jason Sherrer, pitcher Ryan Schect, pitcher Casey Hodges and outfielder Alex Vertcnik.

Mount Olive becomes the first national champion from Conference Carolinas but second in the league's history. Barton College won the Div. II men's basketball championship in 2007 when the league was named Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mount Olive to play for Div. II championship

A little more than 14 months after the Barton College men's basketball team won the first national championship in Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference history, the Mount Olive College baseball team has a chance to be the first Conference Carolinas team to pull off the feat.

The Trojans, ranked No. 1 among NCAA Division II clubs, defeated No. 7 Central Missouri 5-3 on Thursday afternoon to advance to the championship game of the Div. II national tournament. MOC (57-6) will play either No. 2 Sonoma State (Calif.) or No. 4 Ouachita Baptist (Texas) in Saturday's final at 1 p.m. The Trojans defeated Ouachita Baptist in the first game of the tournament.

Members of the Trojans include first baseman Erik Lovett, who played for the Wilson Tobs the past two summers, and outfielder-pitcher Jesse Lancaster, who will play for Wilson this summer.

Conference Carolinas, for those who don't know, is merely the renamed CVAC with all the teams the same.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Golly day! There's no catching the Rhine-O!

Even though it's been two weeks since his Community Christian girls soccer team won the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A state championship, Lady Cyclones head coach Rhine Sharp deserves credit for this amazing bit of footwork.

Shortly after the Lady Cycs defeated Faith Christian on penalty kicks to capture the first state title in school history, Rhine was targeted by a pair of jubilant students toting a water cooler.

But Rhine showed off the moves that made him a standout Fike High School and Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College soccer player some 30 years ago as he avoided the icy bath.

Here's a belated congratulations to Rhine and the Lady Cycs for a great season!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

NCHSAA baseball finals set

In Saturday night's action, East Rowan defeated Belmont South Point 3-2 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A West Regional final to win the best-of-3 series.

In the 2-A West final, East Rutherford beat Ledford 13-4 to win that series.

So the championship series are set in all classifications but not the sites. The NCHSAA should announce Monday or Tuesday who plays where. Five County Stadium in Zebulon is one site but N.C. State University's Doak Field will be used for the NCAA tournamtion sub-regional hosted by the Wolfpack next weekend. So an alternate site must be found.

In any event, here are the matchups:

1-A — Topsail (Coastal Plain Conference No. 1, 22-6) vs. Cherryville (Southern Piedmont No. 1, 22-7)
2-A — Hillsborough Orange (Mid-State No. 1, 25-3) vs. East Rutherford (Southwestern No. 1, 25-8)
3-A — Rocky Mount (NEW 6 No. 2, 25-5) vs. East Rowan (North Piedmont No. 1, 28-3)
4-A — Greenville Rose (Coastal No. 1, 26-3) vs. Charlotte Ardrey Kell (Southwestern No. 1, 28-4)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Championship Saturday update

Some other scores to report on N.C. High School Athletic Association championship Saturday.

In the boys tennis dual-team championships, East Chapel Hill blanked Charlotte Ardrey Kell 6-0 to take the 4-A title; Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons rolled past Newton-Conover 6-0 to repeat the results from last year's 2-A championship and in the 1-A ranks Durham School for the Arts needed doubles play to edge Hendersonville 5-2.

In the girls soccer championship's at N.C. State University's Paul Derr Stadium, Jacksonville White Oak "three-peated" as 3-A queens with a 4-0 handling of previously unbeaten and nationally No. 1-ranked Asheville T.C. Roberson. Junior Stephanie Rose had a goal and an assist for White Oak to earn MVP honors. Fike fans might remember Rose as a very fast freshman wing that had two first-half goals in the Lady Golden Demons' 3-2 loss in Jacksonville in the fourth round of the 2006 playoffs.

In the 2-A classification, Kill Devil Hills First Flight edged East Bend Forbush 2-1 for its first girls soccer state title in its four-year history.

Holly Ridge Dixon joined White Oak as Onslow County state champions with a 1-0 conquest of Polk County in the 1-A division.

Firebirds fall short of title but what a season!

Southern Nash suffered its first loss in 27 boys dual-team tennis matches this spring when Charlotte Catholic zapped the Firebirds 6-0 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A state championship in Burlington this morning.

The Firebirds of coach Brad Joyner have no reason to hang their heads, however. According to records available on the NCHSAA Web site, Southern Nash is just the second 3-A team east of Raleigh to reach the state final since the association initiated dual-team championships in 1991. Wake-Forest Rolesville lost to Asheville in the 1996 3-A title match.

The only team east of Raleigh to win a state title in any classification was Topsail in the 1-A ranks last year. Greene Central made it to four consecutive 2-A championships from 2002-2005 but lost to Shelby twice and Charlotte Catholic twice. Union Pines, which is south of Raleigh in the Sandhills region, won the 1-A title in 1991 and 1993.

Schools from Wake County have won 12 titles with Raleigh Broughton capturing eight 4-A championships and Millbrook one. Cardinal Gibbons — like Charlotte Catholic and Bishop McGuiness, another private school competing in the NCHSAA ranks — has won three 2-A crowns, including one today.

West of Wake, the numbers rise sharply. East Chapel Hill won its ninth crown today while Chapel Hill High won three 4-A titles in the early years of the dual-team championships.

Other strongholds besides Charlotte are Burlington, Greensboro, Hickory, Statesville, Elkin and Asheville.

Simply put, schools from western and central North Carolina dominate high school tennis in the state. When you take into consideration that Southern Nash is a rural school at which tennis still isn't deeply rooted, the Firebirds' achievement is pretty doggone awesome.

Joyner has managed to put together a juggernaut boys program in Stanhope but his latest group of seniors — Michael Barnes, Ethan Page, Nicolas Finet, Cody Brandt and Kyle Ramsey — has been his best. They've had quite a run over the past three springs.

NCHSAA baseball (and girls soccer) update

Rocky Mount stopped D.H. Conley 3-2 Friday night behind the right arm of freshman starting pitcher Benton Moss to sweep the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A East Regional championship series.

Rocky Mount won the opener 11-1 at Conley on Thursday night.

The Gryphons (25-5) await the winner of the West Regional series between East Rowan and Belmont South Point, which is tied 1-1 after East Rowan's 17-2 win Friday night. South Point won the opener 1-0. The final game of the best-of-3 series is tonight at East Rowan.

In the 1-A East finals, defending state champion Princeton (coached by Beddingfield graduate Bruce Proctor) was knocked out by Topsail in two games, 6-0 and 6-5.

Here's what happened in other NCHSAA semifinals series.

1-A West finals — Cherryville-South Stokes series tied 1-1
2-A East finals — Hillsborough Orange sweeps Whiteville, 3-2 and 15-5
2-A West finals — East Rutherford 7, Ledford 2 in the first game; Ledford 5, East Rutherford 3 in the second game. Championship is tonight.
4-A East finals — Greenville Rose sweeps Raleigh Sanderson 5-0 and 10-3. Rose lost twice during the regular season to Rocky Mount.
4-A West finals — Charlotte Adrey Kell 5, Charlotte Providence 2 in the first game. No score yet on Friday's game.

NOTE: Ardrey Kell in just its second year of existence will play East Chapel Hill for the 4-A boys dual-team tennis title today. The girls soccer team lost 3-0 to Raleigh Leesville Road in the 4-A championship Friday night and the baseball team is in the hunt for the 4-A crown. Not bad.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Girls soccer finals set in all classifications

The N.C. High School Athletic Association will kick off its girl soccer championships Friday at 7:30 p.m. with the 4-A final between Raleigh Leesville Road (23-2) vs. Charlotte Ardrey Kell (19-2-2) in Paul Derr Stadium on the campus of N.C. State University in Raleigh.

On the 3-A scene, Jacksonville White Oak (20-1-1) takes on Asheville T.C. Roberson (28-0) in the nightcap of Saturday's championship tripleheader, also in Derr.

Dixon (15-2-2) and Polk County (16-5-2) will meet at 1 p.m. for the 1-A crown while Kill Devil Hills First Flight (21-2) and East Bend Forbush (22-3) tangle at 10 a.m. for the 2-A title.

Roberson and First Flight participated in The Brittany Willis Memorial Scholarship Soccer Showcase in Wilson in March.

NCHSAA baseball playoff scores

Here are the regional semifinals scores in the N.C. High School Athletic Association baseball playoffs:

East semifinals
Princeton 8, Williamston 6 (Princeton, the defending state champion, is coached by Bruce Proctor, a 1985 Beddingfield High graduate)
Topsail 7, Heide Trask
West semifinals
South Stokes 8, Bishop McGuiness 3
Cherryville 5, Polk County 4

East semifinals
Whiteville 5, South Lenoir 4
Hillsborough Orange 4, North Lenoir 1
West semifinals
Ledford 11, Starmount 1
East Rutherford 9, Hibriten 4

East semifinals
Rocky Mount 5, Fike 0
D.H. Conley 1, South Central 0
West semifinals
East Rowan 5, Mooresville 4
South Point 1, Rutherford-Spindale Central 0

East semifinals
Greenville Rose 5, Leesville Road 4
Raleigh Sanderson 2, Wilmington Hoggard 0
West semifinals
Ardrey Kell 4, North Davidson 3
Charlotte Providence 10, South Caldwell 4


Gryphons look good for No. 5

The season ended again in the fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A baseball playoffs for Fike.

This time, it was NEW 6 Conference archrival Rocky Mount that sent the Golden Demons home. A year ago, Charles B. Aycock got past Fike on the way to the 3-A state title.

My money, if I had any, would be on Fike being ousted by another state champion.

I felt that going into Wednesday night's East Regional semifinal at Fike was the best matchup of remaining teams. Granted, I do plead a certain amount of ignorance about the West Regional semifinalists. But recent history has taught me the East might have the better baseball teams in the NCHSAA.

While I was thinking Fike had a championship-caliber team, I knew that Rocky Mount does for five reasons — pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching, pitching.

You see, as the NCHSAA playoffs turn into best-of-3 series at the regional and state championships, pitching depth becomes the single biggest factor in a team's success, in my humble opinion.

There's no doubt a team can ride a couple of hot bats and obscure mediocre pitching through the single-elimination part of the playoffs. But in order to win four games in five or six days (as is the case with the regional semifinals and finals) and then play a best-of-3 in two days in the state finals, you'd better have more than one good pitcher.

Fike had two pretty good pitchers in senior Bentley Massey and sophomore William Prince. I have to believe that if Demons head coach Will Flowers called on them, either Tripp Sauls, Matthew Pittman, Jacob Davis or Mitchell Wheeler could have given a credible effort on the mound.

But that's a moot point now.

It's the Gryphons who are headed to Winterville on Friday night to play D.H. Conley, a 1-0 victor against South Central on Wednesday night.

And Rocky Mount has four solid arms with more than 30 innings pitched this season plus junior Nick Hahula who emerged at midseason as a hard-throwing option.

Gryphons head coach Pat Smith can use Hahula, Benton Moss, Chris Berry or Dillon Cockrell in the first two games and still have ace Jim Leggett, Wednesday night's winner, for some innings Saturday.

If Rocky Mount makes it to the 3-A finals, its mound quintet will have seven days of rest.

That's why I'm taking the Gryphons to win the fifth state title in school history.

By the way, the starting shortstop on Rocky Mount's 1973 4-A state champion was none other than Phil Ford, who opted to play basketball in college.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mount Olive moves on to NCAA Division II championship

For those of you who may have forgotten that the NCAA Division II baseball season is still going on, the campaign is especially alive for Mount Olive.

The top-ranked Trojans earned their first trip to the national championship tournament today by defeating University of South Carolina-Aiken 8-3 in the completion of Sunday's suspended South Atlantic Regional championship game at Scarborough Field.

Mount Olive (54-6) had to win three straight elimination games, including two against USC-Aiken. The Trojans were beaten by USC-Aiken 6-5 on Saturday morning. Mount Olive then outscored Columbus State and USC-Aiken twice by a 33-7 margin.

The Trojans, which won the Conference Carolinas championship in Fleming Stadium last month for the third straight year, will play Ouachita Baptist on Sunday in Sauget, Ill. The other first-round pairings in the double-elimination tournament are Sonoma State vs. Shippensburg, Central Missouri vs. Franklin Pierce, and Tampa vs. Ashland.

Congratulations and good luck to head coach Carl Lancaster, his son Jesse, an outfielder and soon-to-be Wilson Tob, first baseman Erik Lovett (a former Tob) and all the Trojans!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Flowers has his own cheering section

Taking in the action at the Fike-Triton 3-A playoff baseball game are former Fike players Robin Rose, center, and Dennis Wilkerson, right, along with Jerry Rose, left.
Following his team's 3-0 defeat of Erwin Triton in the second round of the state 3-A baseball playoffs, Fike head coach Will Flowers called a few of his players over to meet a couple of guys they had probably never heard of.

While current Demons Bentley Massey and Jacob Davis might not have been aware of who they were, the sight of Flowers standing alongside his former teammates Robin Rose and Dennis Wilkerson was a treat for me.

Those names are recognizable to anyone familiar with Fike baseball in the early 1970s. Wilkerson, Rose and Flowers all played for Gilbert Ferrell in 1972.

Wilkerson, now a Wilmington resident, is best known for his feats on the football field. He is one of three Fike players to achieve All-America status, doing so in his senior season in 1971. One of five brothers who left their marks on Wilson sports, Wilkerson was a standout on the basketball court and baseball diamond. He is a member of the Fike High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Rose, graduated in 1973, a year behind Flowers and Wilkerson, Rose's first cousin. He played at Louisburg College and was an NAIA All-American at Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College. Now living in Cary, Rose is a member of the Barton sports hall of fame. Rose and Flowers were teammates at Atlantic Christian.

I grew up reading about them playing for Fike and AC. Rose grew up across the street from me on Thurston Drive, not far from Wilkerson's house on Third Street.They were both physical education student-teachers at Vinson-Bynum Elementary School and me and some of my buddies would go to Fleming Stadium to watch them play way back in the wood-bat era.

There's at least a touch of gray on the heads of all three men but I could easily picture Rose firing a tennis ball at Flowers holding a bat in front of the bricks of the Rose home, as I saw them do so many times way back when Richard Nixon was president.