06/04/12 — CBA seniors relish state title

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CBA seniors relish state title

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 4, 2012 1:48 PM

RALEIGH -- Seven trips.

One state runner-up trophy.

A memory chest full of frustrations.

But all that changed Sunday afternoon.

The eighth senior class -- the quintet of Brooke Bell, Ivy Hartzell, Connor Davis, Rachel Jordan and Misty Edwards -- finally put that long-awaited stamp of validation on the Charles B. Aycock softball program. They, along with their teammates, completely banished those demons that have haunted the previous Golden Falcon teams that left Walnut Creek empty handed.

It's time to make room for a state championship trophy and spruce up a corner in the gymnasium to hang a team photo.

Meredith Burroughs swatted two home runs during a 7-2 triumph over Fred T. Foard in the decisive third game of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A title series at Walnut Creek.

Directed by head coach Brad Matthews, the softball team became just the third program in CBA athletics history to earn a state championship. The baseball team won titles in 1974 and 2007 on the 3-A level, while the girls' tennis squad emerged the 2-A dual-team queen in 1997.

But the mystique of Walnut Creek seemed to surface during Saturday's opener. Aycock dropped a heart-breaking, 1-0 loss in nine innings -- the fourth extra-inning affair its played in and third it has lost during 21 outings on the Walnut Creek diamonds since 2000.

The Golden Falcons responded with a gut-wrenching, 4-3 triumph in the nightcap and prevented the Tigers from capturing their second state crown in program history.

There was still hope.

"We knew today was going to be our final game and before we got here, we said 'all or nothing'," Bell said as she glanced at the gold championship medal draped around her neck. "I felt good about this game, the team felt good about this game and our coaches felt good about this game. I think we proved we were the better team."

Aycock found ways to put pressure on the Foard defense despite 12 strikeouts by pitcher Lexi Shubert. The junior right-hander permitted just three hits, but was victimized by a defense that committed two costly errors which led to two unearned runs after the Golden Falcons had built a 5-0 advantage.

Burroughs' prowess at the plate helped calm Bell, who threw an efficient 84 pitches in yet another complete-game performance. The right-hander was bolstered by a stout defense that consistently made the plays and had just one minor hiccup.

Left fielder Reagan Herndon made two great catches. Fellow outfielders Cierra Harris and Katie Gay patrolled their areas well and kept the Tigers from finding the gaps.

Bell had just two 1-2-3 innings, including the seventh. After Herndon caught a high pop-up in foul territory just beyond third base, Bell snagged a line-drive catch -- snow-cone style -- from lead-off hitter Addie Bolick. Catcher Mackenzie Dziendziel hit a slow roller, Bell scooped it up and touched first base for the state title-clinching out.

Bell smiled toward the CBA fans.

Matthews jumped up from his bucket, leapt into the air and pumped his fist. The dugout emptied, the players piled up behind first base and the celebration began for a team -- and program -- that definitively put to rest those old, haunting ghosts.