06/30/12 — Hurricanes win not one, but two state titles in softball

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Hurricanes win not one, but two state titles in softball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 30, 2012 11:04 PM

A long shot to capture the Holy Grail of North Carolina softball, the youth-laden Wayne County Hurricanes defied the odds.

And brought home not one -- but two -- coveted prizes.

The Hurricanes seized the 18-Under USSSA Class 1-A state championship in Kinston and followed that up by taking the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America crown at Walnut Creek in Raleigh.

The first title might have been expected.

The second?

Not so much.

Comprised of seven first-year 16U players, three still eligible for 14U competition and two upperclassmen, the Hurricanes emerged the best among 34 teams from throughout North Carolina.

"We did not know what to expect since we are so young," Hurricane coach Mark McCollum said. "I knew our team was very good, but based on the level of competition, it was a long shot for us to capture this Holy Grail of North Carolina softball."

The Hurricanes opened pool play with a mercy-rule triumph over Carolina Attitude and a one-run loss to the Blue Ridge Bombers. Thunderstorms washed out play the remainder of the day.

Wayne County returned Saturday morning to defeat the Fusion and the Rockers for a spot in the elite eight. The next victory convinced McCollum and his fellow coaches that maybe, just maybe, the Hurricanes could do some serious damage.

A 13-0 slaughter-rule triumph over the defending ASA 18U state champion vaulted the Hurricanes into semifinal-round play. Rachel McCollum, a Wayne Christian alum, delivered the go-ahead hit in a 4-3 triumph over the Foothills Heat.

Next was a contest against the Charlotte Blues, which won a 74-team showcase team the week before in Columbia, S.C. Tied at 4-4 through eight innings, the Hurricanes exploded for four ninth-inning runs behind hits from McCollum Meredith Burroughs, Brittany Bucklin, Kati Causey, Liz White and Rachel Willis.

The Blues worked their way through the consolation bracket for a rematch with the Hurricanes. However, Wayne County immediately dashed the Blues' aspirations for a "winner-take-all" game.

Bucklin, Burroughs, McCollum, White, Willis, Anna Ingram and Megan Mozingo provided the offensive punch. Princeton standout Charley Cox and Cierra Harris, who helped lead Charles B. Aycock to its first-ever state title in softball, played stout defense in the 8-0, mercy-rule rout.

Coach Shawn Harris lauded the team's ability to get quality offensive efforts from every batter in the lineup and that there were no weak spots on defense.

"This is the most talented group of players I have ever seen assembled on one team," coach Curt Hinton said. "To win these 18U titles with such a young team is unprecedented. We have had many college coaches, including Division I, to show a great interest in our players.

"It's not a matter of 'if' our players will play college ball, but it is a matter of where."

Harris said this group of Hurricanes, who have been together since they were nine years old, boosted their record to a phenomenal 420-20-5 overall.