05/15/07 — Aggressive base running, solid defense helped FCA

View Archive

Aggressive base running, solid defense helped FCA

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 15, 2007 1:49 PM


News-Argus Sports Writer

Faith Christian softball coach Jeff Stocks thinks an early-season, non-conference loss at Wilmington Christian Academy might have been the turning point for his team this spring.

"The next three or four practices, the girls wanted to stick around after practice was over," said Stocks. "They hit extra; took some extra fielding. Honestly, it was their idea.

"They understood the work ethic, didn't blame each other for mistakes and encouraged each other. From that point on, we improved."

The workmanlike effort translated into consistent play as the Conquerors began putting wins in the scorebook. They captured the N.C. Christian Schools Athletic Association Class 2-A Coastal Region title and earned the right to defend their state championship.

Another of Stocks' concerns surfaced at that point. Could Faith Christian seriously repeat as state champion with a struggling offense? Stocks and his coaching staff decided to rely on the short game and hoped that opposing teams made enough mistakes to benefit the Conquerors.

One particular regular-season contest, an NCCSA battle with Trinity Christian, proved Stocks' theory. Neither team recorded a hit that afternoon, but the Conquerors moved runners on sacrifice bunts, errors and walks.

"We run well, we put the bat on the ball and play great defense," said Stocks. "Almost everybody we played out-hit us, but we told the girls if they got on base, we'd find a way to get them around.

"If a team makes one little mistake, we're going to score."

Faith Christian carried that philosophy into the postseason.

The Conquerors opened state tournament play with a 10-0, five-inning thrashing of Woodland Baptist. In the semifinals, Stocks' team fell behind Hickory Tri-City 4-0 after three innings of action.

Stocks could sense the tension.

"The girls were quiet because they usually like to do those cheers like other softball teams do," he said. "After we scored that first run, I think they realized they could win this."

Faith Christian eventually forged a 5-5 tie. In the bottom of the seventh, Stocks inserted eighth-grader Courtney Albritton into the lineup.

"I told her 'if you get on base, we win'," said Stocks.

Albritton executed a perfect bunt down the third-base line. She stole second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. Renee Provencal, who was chosen to the all-state team, plated Albritton with a groundout to first base.

That set up a rematch of last year's state-title game against Union Grove.

Neither team managed a hit in the seven-inning affair, but the Conquerors did the little things to successfully defend their 2-A championship. They won 4-0.

"Did I think we'd win the state again? No, because we don't hit well enough," said Stocks, who guided the boys' basketball team to a state title in February. "The key was we didn't beat ourselves. Our pitcher (Jennifer Christopher) didn't strike out a lot (of batters), but she didn't walk a lot, either.

"(Those early losses) woke this team up. They decided to work hard and get better, and we did."

Stocks says the back-to-back championships feel even more remarkable since none of his players are involved with travel-ball teams. They all grew up playing together at the Boys Club.

Seven sophomores, one junior and one senior comprised this year's starting lineup. Christopher received all-state recognition, while shortstop Brooke Anderson and third baseman Lindsey Godwin were first- and second-team, all-region selections, respectively.

Overall, Stocks had 13 players on the roster.

"Unbelievable," said Stocks. "What's good about this group is they enjoy softball and do a lot of things outside softball together, too. They all like each other and got along so well."

And they came together as a team at the right time.