03/17/06 — 101 consecutive wins ... and counting ... for Norwayne softball

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101 consecutive wins ... and counting ... for Norwayne softball

By Steve Roush
Published in Sports on March 17, 2006 1:47 PM

Dan Millard remembers the last time his Norwayne Middle School Lady Cobras lost a game.

It was in 1998 -- nearly eight years ago.

"We lost to Eastern Wayne," the longtime softball coach says, shaking his head. "It was the very last game of the season. I had a really young team that year."

The Cobras haven't tasted defeat since.

Norwayne, now 6-0 this season, won its 100th straight game this week with a 24-0 triumph at Mount Olive and picked up win No. 101 on Thursday afternoon with a 6-0 victory at home against Eastern Wayne.

When the streak began in the spring of '99, Millard never dreamed it would still be going today.

After all, the girls on this year's team were just six or seven years old when it all began.

"No way, no way," he laughed. "I can remember when it got to 20-something, I thought that was great. Then it got to 30-something and it just kept going. A few years back, we got to 50-something and I said, 'Oh my goodness,' I just couldn't believe it. And then here we are a few years later and now we're over 100.

"It's fantastic."

Catcher Victoria Benton, an eighth grader, said the streak keeps the team focused.

"I feel proud to be a Cobra," said Benton, who singled and scored a run in Thursday's win over Eastern Wayne. "When I step onto the field, whenever we play, I feel like we can't lose. We can't let coach Millard down."

"He's such a great coach," said eighth grade shortstop Cara Frederick, who had a triple and scored a run Thursday. "We want to win every game for him."

Millard, who has been at Norwayne longer than his current players have been alive -- 16 years -- smiles when he hears that.

"It takes players," Millard says. "It takes players who are willing to buy into the system and come here and give it their all. You have to have good leaders, and they all have to mesh together as a team. That's important, and they've all done that so well over the years.

"It's easy to coach when you have good team chemistry."

Thursday's game with Eastern Wayne went a full seven innings, but many of Norwayne's wins during the streak have been shortened by the mercy rule.

"We had two good games last year with Grantham, they had a really good team," he said. "The last really close game I can remember was when this year's juniors were in eighth grade, we played a team in Greenville, E.B. Aycock, because we had a couple of schools here that didn't field teams. We beat them 7-3 at their place, but when they came here, they had us 2-1 with two outs in the last inning and we had a runner on second. We got a triple, then the next girl hit her in and we won 3-2."

Hard-throwing pitcher Autumn Pittman's sister, Summer (now a sophomore in college), was a first baseman at Norwayne during the early years of the streak. After watching her big sister's Lady Cobras dominate when she was little, Autumn, an eighth grader, doesn't want the run to end on her watch.

"I'm proud to be on the team where he got his 100th victory, and we want to keep it going," said Autumn, who did her part Thursday by striking out 13 hitters. "We don't want to be the team where it comes to an end. So we work hard to preserve it."

While the names Autumn Pittman, Benton and Frederick are among the stars on this team, many top-flight softball players like Jenny Jackson, April Vick, Kandace Burroughs, Brittani Edgerton, Julia Lancaster, Shelly Lancaster, Emily Jordan, Rusty Talton and Summer Pittman have been a part of the streak.

And that's just to name a few.

"They've all been part of the tradition," Millard said. "I hate to single any one player out, there have been so many good players who have been a big part of all of this.

"I couldn't do it without them. This is a lot to be proud of."

Other Lady Cobras on this year's team are Ashley Shingleton (two hits, 3 RBIs Thursday), Jessica Hare, Jessica Summerlin, Nicole Kessler, Emily Daughtry, Shaina Matthews, Anna Rose, Abbey Strickland, Cassidy Anderson, Jessica Cole, Megan Wunders and Leigh Johnson.

Will this group keep the streak alive? Millard believes they can, but isn't looking that far ahead.

"We just take them one at a time," he said. "That's what I tell the girls. If you start looking forward, that's when someone will jump on you and get you."