05/27/05 — Return to Walnut Creek: C.B. Aycock advances past ECC 3-A foe

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Return to Walnut Creek: C.B. Aycock advances past ECC 3-A foe

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 27, 2005 1:47 PM

PIKEVILLE -- No surprise, Charles B. Aycock's Jenny Jackson and South Central's Jessie Odom -- with 31 wins between them this season -- staged a pitcher's duel most of Thursday night with a berth in the Class 3-A N.C. High School Athletic Association Final Four on the line.

Like so many times before, Jackson was up to the task in her final game on Aycock's diamond.

The senior Western Carolina signee struck out 10 against just one walk as the Golden Falcons defeated Eastern Carolina Conference foe South Central 3-0 to advance to the Final Four at Raleigh's Walnut Creek Softball Complex for the fifth time in six seasons and third in four years under coach David West.

Aycock, gunning for its first state championship, will open the double-elimination Final Four against Big Eight South representative Clayton on Friday. The Comets defeated West Johnston 3-0 on Thursday.

Kings Mountain will face either West Rowan or Southwest Randolph in the Western semifinal.

"I feel like we have a lot of talent this year. We have a really good chance," Jackson said.

Appropriately, Jackson (15-2), the Falcons' all-time leader in strikeouts, finished the game with a K and retired the last 13 batters she faced (six by strikeout). Behind her, the defense made just one error with a majority of the visitors' outs coming on ground-ball outs.

Aycock (22-3), who split two league games with South Central, has now outscored its opposition 23-0 in the playoffs with Jackson on the mound all but two of the 17 innings.

"I was a little concerned we had won 7-0, then 13-0, and then you don't want to get satisfied with that," West said. "When South Central comes in here, they are packing a bunch. I told them at the first of the game not to lay down for these girls, and they didn't.

"If there is any group of girls that characterize the word team, this team is doing it. It seems like it's everybody coming through every night."

Offensively, the home team managed just three hits against Odom (16-6) but put the ball in play in key situations to push across three runs.

Brittani Edgerton posted a one-out, opposite-field single to right in the bottom of the first, then moved to third when Kandace Burroughs reached on an infield error. Edgerton raced home to score the first run on Jackson's sacrifice fly to left.

Odom, a junior, settled into a rhythm in innings two through five, yielding only one base runner -- a one-out double by Jackson in the fourth. During that stretch, Odom recorded all seven of her strikeouts and fanned five in a row to close out the fourth, then fifth inning.

Aycock tacked on two insurance runs with two outs in the sixth. Burroughs, who has moved to catcher from first base the last two games due to Ashley Morris' thumb injury, started the rally with a single to center, before Jackson and Rusti Talton were issued back-to-back walks to load the bases.

Chrissy Setliff's ground ball to short was fielded clean, but the throw to first bounced past the first baseman -- allowing courtesy runners Brittany Ford and Stevie Savage to score, making it 3-0.

It looked as if Aycock would tack on another run, but pinch-hitter Karlie West's sharp line drive back to the mound was snagged by Odom for the final out of the sixth.

"We've been aggressive at the plate the last three games ... really more than that," West said. "You've got to make contact to score runs. This is a good hitting ball club and not just that, they are scattin' around the bases.

"We did what we were supposed to do and came through."

In the top of the seventh, South Central's first two batters grounded out, then West jogged out to second base and briefly met with all nine players.

"I wanted to get the girls focused on that last out. I didn't think my girls would break down, but I wanted to remind them how important that out was," West said. "We got a good break, the girls smiled and we took care of business."

South Central's Sarah Ribeiro worked the count to 2-2, before Jackson stepped back, took a deep breath and delivered her final pitch on her home diamond. Ribeiro swung and missed at a fast ball on the inside corner as the ball popped Burroughs' glove for strike three.

"Jenny is an awesome ball player. She's going to give 100 percent every time, and it's just a great opportunity to catch a player like her," Burroughs said. "I went to Walnut Creek my freshman year, and it was disappointing not to go last year. It's just an awesome feeling to get to go back."

South Central (16-6) threatened twice early in the game. In the top of the first, Karen Harker and Odom both reached on infield singles, then advanced to second and third on a dropped third strike for the second out. Jackson then got Emily Perkins to ground to first for the last out.

A two-out error by Aycock in the third set up a first and third situation. With clean-up hitter Nicole Nunamaker due up, West elected to walk the hot-hitting catcher intentionally to load the bases. The move paid off as Perkins again grounded out to end the threat.

Jackson and the Falcon defense were perfect the rest of the way.

"I was glad it happened earlier, so in case they would have scored we would have had time to come back," Jackson said.

Notes: Aycock has outhit its playoff opposition 23-7 in the three games ... CBA is 12-5 in the playoffs since 2002, while South Central is 2-2 in postseason play in the last two years. South Central loses just one senior and will move out of the ECC and into a split 4-A/3-A conference next year with the likes of Pitt County rivals D.H. Conley and J.H. Rose.