05/31/12 — Foard and C.B. Aycock ready for battle

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Foard and C.B. Aycock ready for battle

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 31, 2012 1:48 PM

The silence spoke volumes on that short bus ride home from Kenly in early March.

Charles B. Aycock's softball team had just let a victory slip from its talons against perennial powerhouse North Johnston.

"You could tell that we were all upset that we lost because we felt like we should have won that game," CBA senior third baseman Rachel Jordan said. "We were determined from there on that it wouldn't happen again. We were determined to win every game."

The Golden Falcons have honored their pledge.

Aycock (29-2 overall) puts its school-record, 26-game win streak on the line Friday against Fred T. Foard in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A state championship series at Walnut Creek in Raleigh. First pitch is 8 p.m.

Game 2 is Saturday at 11 a.m. A third game, if necessary, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.

Fourth-year head coach Brad Matthews saw the hunger in the players' faces after a shocking, second-round playoff loss at Wilson Hunt one year ago. The fire and desire grew stronger after that final-inning defeat against North Johnston just one week into the 2012 campaign.

"It was our goal to get to Walnut Creek after that bad feeling last year from losing in the second round," Matthews said. "I think it did us more good than harm. That North Johnston game, I won't ever forget. We lost in the last inning.

"I could see the fire in the girls' eyes. I was driving the bus home and was thinking to myself that 'this team does not like to lose'."

Foard's Lexi Shubert becomes the next pitcher who faces the task of containing an offensive juggernaut that bats .350 as a team and has cranked out 85 extra-base hits, including a single-season 28 home runs. A hard-throwing right-hander, Schubert keeps opponents off balance with good movement on all of her pitches. She is 25-4 inside the circle and has recorded a microscopic 0.28 earned run average (ERA.)

Shubert has struck out 358 batters.

Aycock has outscored the opposition 39-4 since the semifinals of the Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference tournament -- a stretch of eight games. However, it has managed to tally just eight runs in its last 21 playoff innings combined.

Seven of the Golden Falcons' nine starters bat .300 or better. Sophomore Meredith Burroughs leads the way with a .525 average and has mashed 17 home runs.

"I don't think we've been struggling hitting, it's just that we've been seeing better pitchers," senior catcher Ivy Hartzell said. "It's not that we're not used to it, we're just adjusting. Now I think we have adjusted. If everybody hits and everybody runs the bases smart -- we do everything offensively right -- there is nobody who can stop us anywhere."

If Aycock does reach base against Foard, it can possibly add onto a single-season record of 84 stolen bags. Cierra Harris is the team's top thief with 16, followed by Burroughs and Connor Davis with 14 apiece. Brooke Bell is next with 13.

Bell has been phenomenal in the circle and has been bolstered by a defense that's committed just 26 errors in 203 2/3 innings of work. A senior right-hander, Bell has fashioned a 20-2 record that includes a 0.71 ERA.

The Golden Falcons have logged 14 shutouts overall and yielded just four runs in the last 64 innings of action. They have emerged victorious in seven of nine outings decided by two runs or less with both losses coming against North Johnston.

"We've got to continue to throw strikes and play defense like we have been doing all year," Matthews said. "We can't worry about what other teams do, we just have to do our best. It's in our hands ... is up to us."