06/10/07 — C.B. Aycock's Boys of Summer

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C.B. Aycock's Boys of Summer

By Kenneth Fine
Published in Sports on June 10, 2007 2:02 AM

RALEIGH -- Thomas Pilkington waits, hoping pitcher Garrett Davis will give the Charles B. Aycock Golden Falcons a strikout-ending to their championship run.

Then, the ball hits Zack Wright's mitt.

That's all he needs to hear.

"I throw my glove up in the air, and I run over there (to the mound)," Thomas said. "Garrett and Zack are already hugging. I wanted to be the one to start the dog pile because you have to have a dog pile when you win a state championship. So I try a little wrestling move, you know, take their legs out from under them and lay them out on the ground. Finally, everybody's piling up, and I'm on the bottom. There's people screaming 'Yes,' and 'We've finally done it.' It was pretty much a highlight I'm never going to forget -- not until the day I die."

His teammates had been waiting, too -- to put an end to Aycock's 33-year drought and to bring the school's second baseball title back home to Pikeville.

But for the nine seniors on the Golden Falcon squad, that final pitch meant so much more.

It marked the culmination of more than a decade of growing together -- as ballplayers, friends, "brothers."

Pitching standout Grant Sasser doesn't remember the first time he threw a strike or how he gripped his first changeup. But he can tell you about T-ball at the Goldsboro YMCA, about playing alongside Garrett when they were just 8 years old.

So he watched with anticipation -- his good friend staring down Southeast Guilford's final batter from the Doak Field hill -- hoping for a "perfect ending."

"I was just wanting him to get that strikeout so bad," Grant said. "I was just ready to run on that field and celebrate."

Brandon Price, who had passed the ball to Garrett after five solid innings for the Golden Falcons, still can't believe he is part of a team that now calls itself "state champions."

"It's just something we've been working for all our lives," Brandon said. "We've been playing ball since we were real little -- 9, 10 years old. Back then, coaches said we were good and later on we would have a chance for this, but you really don't think about it until you get here and realize what they said back then actually happened."

Kyle Harmon remembers the first few teams he and "the guys" were on together, too -- watching rivalry transform into camaraderie.

"We started off all of us played up against each other when we were real small," he said. "Then we had the all-star teams most of us were on. Then we started up an AAU team -- dominated everybody and won state year after year."

Matched up against other youths, there had never been a question about which group possessed the most raw talent, athleticism and drive, he added.

But as they grew older and the competition grew stronger, a new challenge surfaced for the crew.

As young boys they had brought home dozens of trophies, ribbons and medals.

Still, the first time they set foot on the Aycock diamond, they had one more feat in mind.

"When we were small, we would go in, and we knew who was the best," Kyle said. "But you never know in high school. You know, Rocky Mount, the first-ranked team, lost in the first round. We got beat by an unranked team this year. You just never know."

But the victory in itself was not as sweet as sharing it with people you have come to call family, Thomas said.

"Nothing can compare to what this championship means to everybody -- being local kids, brothers and everything," he said. "And going to Aycock, knowing you are one of the few state champions from here is probably one of the best moments of my life."

Second baseman Joseph Toler might not have been on the field last Saturday if it weren't for the friendships he found on the diamond.

"I remember when I first started playing," he said. "I had never really liked baseball and my parents wanted me to play -- and my brother. And then I started playing with these guys and have loved it since."

So for him, the thought of sharing a page in the Aycock history books with the guys who helped him fall for the game means more than a championship medal or ring.

"Being a champion with all these guys beats everything," he said.

And then there is Evan Medford, the only Golden Falcon senior without the Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken league memories.

But even as the "new kid," coming to Aycock as a sophomore, he has come to appreciate the family-like moments shared on and off the field.

You can see the brother in each of them -- with every friendly taunt, playful shove and call-out.

Daniel Stancil can tell you just how close he and his teammates are. When season-ending surgery forced him out of the Golden Falcons lineup, they kept him around and made sure he shared in the glory.

"I'm still getting chill bumps just thinking about it," he said. "I couldn't play or anything, but they still kept me in there. I love them. They are my family, and I will never forget them."

None of them will ever forget -- not when the summer winds down, not when each goes his separate way in the fall.

"I'm going to follow everybody for their whole lives," Thomas said. "I'm going to keep in touch."

And maybe, just maybe, they will reunite at an Aycock game decades from now to watch their own sons play -- bound by the same love and spirit that took these Wayne County boys to the top of the mountain.

Thomas hopes so, anyway.

And if they do, he wonders whether or not the young men on that field will have experiences as rich and rewarding as the ones he and his teammates have collected over a decade.

"I hope (my son) grows as much as I did as a person," Thomas said. "Aycock baseball is not just about becoming a better ballplayer. It really isn't. Spending quality time with friends and coaches and learning from them, this is probably one of the best experiences a high school boy can have. We were one big family. We're going to stay this close for the rest of our lives."