Two more teams in The Wilson Times readership area are going to play for a shot at a state championship as softball teams from Charles B. Aycock and North Johnston advanced to the state final four in their respective classifications Friday night.
Aycock will make its fifth trip to Walnut Creek Softball Complex this decade for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A final four while North Johnston returns to the 1-A final four for the first time since 2005. Both teams went that year and both came pretty close to winning it all but came home empty-handed.
I have made two trips to Walnut Creek and here's a few things I can tell you.
1) Bring water and sunscreen. Both of my previous jaunts there have coincided with the arrival of the hot, muggy summer weather. We got a little taste of it the past few days so I expect next weekend to be fierce.
2) It's almost essential for teams to win their first game in the double-elimination format. It's nearly as important for them to win their first two games in order to avoid pitching issues.
3) While many teams have one star pitcher that gets them to Walnut Creek, usually the teams who win it all have pitching depth. If they don't, they'd better win three straight games spaced over the better part of two days.
4) Along with the heat and humidity, expect rain delays. And not just rain but severe thunderstorms that sends everyone scurrying since there aren't many places to take shelter.
5) Expect several 1-0, 15-inning (or more) games. There aren't many blowouts in the final four and runs come at a premium.
But of all the state championships I've been to, I have to rate the softball final four as one of the best. You can mosey around Walnut Creek and catch a glimpse of all top 16 teams left in the state. It's truly a festival and the only one that has all the state semifinalists in one spot.