After falling one series short of advancing to the program’s first-ever state title appearance last year, the Topsail softball team dedicated their offseason workouts and the spring of 2016 to getting back to the 3A East Regional.
The Pirates dominated league play this season and quickly moved their way through the playoffs, advancing to the final four of the state tournament. With the best-of-three series tied at one game apiece, No. 3 Topsail again fell one result away from moving on following a 3-0 season ending setback to top-ranked C.B. Aycock in Pikeville on Thursday night.
“We were right there and just couldn’t capitalize on some things throughout the week,” said Topsail Coach Jay Abston. “Two years in a row to the regions is an accomplishment and these girls should be proud. Our two seniors are going to represent this school and program well next year in college.”
With the win, the Golden Falcons clinched their third state championship appearance in five years, improving to 29-2 overall. Topsail closed another memorable run this spring with a 26-4 record.
Coming off her last outing nearly one month to the day, the Pirates gave Hayley Grizzle the start and the junior put in a strong performance on the stripe. The junior right-handed hurler allowed three runs – none earned – on five hits, with four walks and two strikeouts.
“I was kind of shocked when the coaches said I had the ball because I didn’t pitch much all year,” said Grizzle. “I remember talking to Hunter [Bizzell] today in class about having confidence and knew my team needed me tonight and knew I could pitch.”
Grizzle mixed in a good changeup to keep the C.B. Aycock lineup off balance for most of the night as she retired the first six hitters she faced in order. However, the Golden Falcons were able to scratch one across in the third on two hits and two errors after Topsail ran themselves into a pair of outs in the top of the frame.
The home side made it a 2-0 advantage in the fourth and added one more in the sixth, while Taylor Waddell tossed a complete game shutout for her second victory in as many nights. The junior scattered four hits and did not allow a Topsail runner to reach third base all game, with one walk and three strikeouts.
The Pirates had two quality scoring opportunities through the middle innings, but couldn’t find the big hit, leaving five stranded. Bizzell, Grizzle and Alyssa Randall each had one hit apiece. Keri White went 1-for-2, with one walk.
Thursday’s contest marked the end of two quality high school careers for seniors Keri White and Danielle Parks. Both players will go on to compete at the college level after graduation.
“I’m not really worried about the future of this team,” Grizzle added. “We’re definitely going to miss Keri and Danielle. They were two big players for us, but we’ve got a good year coming next year.”
Box score R H E
Topsail 000 000 0 0 4 4
CB Aycock 001 101 X 3 5 2
2A softball: No. 3 Topsail (26-5) vs. No. 1 C.B. Aycock (29-2)
Game 1: Topsail 9, C.B. Aycock 7; Game 2:C.B. Aycock 5, Topsail 2; Game 3 C.B. Aycock 3, Topsail 0
No. 4 Green Hope 3 No. 3 Hoggard 1
Facing a must-win situation down one game to none in the 4A East Regional best-of-three series, the Hoggard baseball team battled to the 21st out on Thursday night, but No. 4 Green Hope grabbed an early lead and used a big effort on the mound by Chris Joyner in a 3-1 victory against the Vikings.
Joyner gave up just one run after Hoggard loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the third, tossing a complete game to clinch the Falcons’ first-ever berth to the North Carolina High School Championship.
A big two-out, two-run double by Sean McQuillan put the home team in front 2-0 after two full innings before the Vikings closed the deficit during their next at-bat after scoring on a wild pitch. Joyner was able to work himself out of the jam and struck out nine through six. He retired the final six hitters faced in order to secure the win.
Hoggard saw their season come to an end with a 22-6 mark. Green Hope moved to 25-5 overall heading into next week’s best-of-three NCHSAA 4A championship.
Box score R H E
Hoggard 001 000 0 1 4 1
Green Hope 021 000 X 3 7 2
No. 3 Hoggard (22-6) at No. 4 Green Hope (25-5)
Game 1:Green Hope 5, Hoggard 4: Game 2: Green Hope, 3 Hoggard 1