After back-to-back second-round exits from the state 3-A playoffs the past two years, the Charles B. Aycock softball is back within earshot of a trip to Walnut Creek Softball Complex.
The Raleigh venue is the site of the N.C. High School Athletic Association softball final four, which CBA reached four times in five years from 2002 to 2006 under former head coach David West. Now under the direction of Brad Matthews, in his second season, the Golden Falcons can book passage to Walnut Creek by beating D.H. Conley on Friday night in Pikeville.
But that's no easy task as the Vikings have won 23 of 24 games, including a 1-0 victory against CBA in early March in Winterville. Aycock went on to win 20 straight games and looked forward to the non-conference rematch late in the season but it was rained out. CBA (24-2), the Eastern Carolina Conference queen, was ranked fifth in the N.C. Fastpitch Softball Coaches Association final 3-A poll while Conley retained its top spot.
The Falcons haven't had an easy path to Friday's East Regional semifinals date with the Vikings. In the second round, CBA had to go through defending state champion South Central before edging past Washington 1-0 in Tuesday night's third-round battle. Those two teams were the ones which ended Aycock's seasons the past two years.
I covered CBA's playoff runs in 2005 and 2006, all the way to Raleigh but missed out on both their playoff exits the past two years. Standing beside the home dugout Tuesday night, it seemed only natural to be at a late-May postseason game at Aycock. It was my first look at the Falcons this year and while some of the names seemed familiar, it was only through family connections.
Starting pitcher Cynthia Burroughs is the younger sister of former CBA standout Kandace Burroughs while freshman third baseman Rachel Jordan is the sibling of former CBA starting pitcher Emily Jordan. Then there's freshman left fielder Connor Davis, whose dad, Charles, is the CBA athletic director and head baseball coach.
Aycock has forged an eastern 3-A dynasty over the past decade or more and it's good to see a new group of players looking to revive that tradition after a short break.