03/04/10 — Triton tabbed as ECC favorite

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Triton tabbed as ECC favorite

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on March 4, 2010 1:47 PM

A final four participant last season, newcomer Triton has been picked to win the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference softball regular-season title this spring.

The Hawks received four first-place votes and 24 points in league balloting. Defending eastern champion Charles B. Aycock picked up two first-place votes and 21 points.

Perennial power and new league member South Johnston was picked third. Southern Wayne and North Lenoir tied for fourth, with Eastern Wayne completing the six-team league.

Triton returns eight starters from a squad that went 28-4 in 2009 and advanced to the N.C. High School Athletic Association final four at Walnut Creek. UNC Wilmington signee Candice Faircloth returns to anchor the Hawks' pitching staff.

Aycock compiled a 26-4 record one year ago and claimed the ECC regular-season championship. The Golden Falcons ended up third in the state and return all-ECC selections Autumn Pittman, Brooke Bell and Rachel Jordan.

"Our strength will be our team chemistry," said third-year Aycock head coach Brad Matthews. "This group plays very well together. Our weakness is we're a very young team."

South Johnston returns four starters from last season's 21-7 squad which reached the third round of the playoffs. The Trojans graduated 10 seniors.

Sophomore first baseman Whitney Williams, junior shortstop Kristen Jernigan, senior catcher Taylor Barbour and sophomore center fielder Anna Reaves are all back for head coach Mickey Bridgers.

Kayla Gracyk, Brittany Pate and Madison Davis are the returning starters for Southern Wayne. The Saints went 12-14 a year ago, played in the ECC tournament finals and lost in the first round of the state playoffs.

Third-year head coach Michael Wiggs has a combined 13 freshmen and sophomores on his roster this season.

Another league newcomer, North Lenoir brings back six starters from a team that went 18-8 and reached the second round of the 2-A playoffs last season.

Aaryn Deal, Brittany Barrow, Amber Best, Cayla Letchworth, Courtney Hill and Ashley Daugherty are back. Deal and Letchworth earned all-Eastern Plains accolades in 2009.

Eastern Wayne has three freshmen and a sophomore penciled into its starting lineup along with three juniors and just one senior. The Warriors finished 9-14 in 2009.

Senior Lani Fricks returns to the pitcher's circle after recording 91 strikeouts in 132 innings last season. Morgan Smith, a .310 hitter a year ago, is back as the key to the Eastern Wayne offense.

"We will work hard, play hard and gain valuable experience at key positions," said Warriors head coach Tony Parrish. "We hope to play sound defense and create opportunities to score or manufacture runs playing small ball. We're looking forward to a great year."