08/01/10 — Hurricanes blow through untouched toward title

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Hurricanes blow through untouched toward title

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 1, 2010 1:50 AM

Disappointed that its 2009 season ended with a runner-up finish in the Amateur Athletic Union Class A World Series, the Wayne County Hurricanes 14-Under softball team vowed 2010 would end in different fashion.

That stinging, season-ending defeat stoked the flames and kept the desire burning deep within the players' souls during their off time.

The workouts became harder.

The team chemistry improved daily.

"Take care of business" became the team's battle cry.

"We felt like last year we left something on the table," said Hurricanes head coach Mark McCollum. "We had an awesome year, but got to the championship game and couldn't seem to get it together. The error bug just seemed to bite us.

"Our goal this year was to do undo the wrong ... make it right as it were."

The Hurricanes did.

Wayne County entered -- and claimed the championship -- in three of four fall tournaments. Once the spring rolled around, the Hurricanes were a perfect 9-for-9 in tournament competition. The 12-player squad compiled an incredible 66-7-3 worksheet that included the N.C. United States Fast-pitch Association 14-U crown and the N.C. AAU 14-U state title.

One goal remained.

A group that easily bought into the "team approach" and met McCollum's challenge to think outside the box and work outside its comfort zone, the Hurricanes reached the mountain top in impressive fashion during the World Series in Concord.

Wayne County's pitching staff -- Savanna Massengill, Amber Hardison, Rachel McCollum, Rachel Willis and Morgan Mentz -- combined for five shutouts inside the circle. The quintet permitted just three runs in eight games.

"These girls just really hit their spots, threw whatever pitch we called at the time and kept the batters guessing," said coach McCollum. "Defensively, these girls are solid top to bottom in the infield and outfield. It's all in the preparation.

"There's not a lazy one in the bunch."

Offensively, the Hurricanes rattled opposing pitching for 57 runs -- including an 8-0 victory over the Storm in the championship game at the World Series. It was a far cry from recent seasons when Wayne County settled for a 1- or 2-run advantage, and depend on its pitching/defense to keep the opposition from scoring.

McCollum wanted to showcase the offense this season.

The Hurricanes recorded a .377 team batting average with an on-base percentage of .574. Eight of 12 players combined to swat 27 home runs.

"We work every practice on hitting and many of these girls have Roger May as their hitting coach and I have to give him credit for the work he's done with these girls," said McCollum. "We do work the fundamentals of the swing and the short game every practice."

McCollum said the team is comprised of players from Wayne, Greene, Lenoir and Johnston Counties. Some have been playing together for six seasons, while others have joined in the past couple of years.

In addition to its pitching staff, the team has gotten quality play from Anna Ingram, Meredith Burroughs, Brittany Bucklin, Cierra Harris, Charlie Cox and Amber Rose.

"They impress me every time they step onto the field," said McCollum. "I classify them as a blue-collar team -- work hard and get the job done. It may not be pretty sometimes, but it's effective. They don't mind getting dirty and don't mind doing what it takes to get the job done.

"We're not as flashy as some teams, but we can definitely take care of business."


The long-awaited World Series title proves it.