Goldsboro's Marcy Taylor

Goldsboro’s Marcy Taylor (8) throws a pitch during a game against Southern Wayne earlier this season. One of three seniors on the roster, Taylor helped guide the Cougars to their second straight NCHSAA 2-A playoff berth.

The Goldsboro softball program spent most of this decade going through a drought.

But those days seem like a distant memory now.

After the program’s first-ever playoff berth last spring, this season the Cougars had their first winning season in decades and reached the playoffs for the second straight year.

Unfortunately, for the second straight year, the Cougars dropped their opening round playoff matchup. This season, the Cougars lost a close game against Richlands 3-1.

“It was a good game, but you always hate to see your season end,” Goldsboro head coach T.J. Lancaster said. “The girls competed and it was some of the best ball we played all season.

“It was a great performance, we made some spectacular plays and I can’t fault the girls’ effort, they did everything they could. We just came up a little bit short.”

It’s been an unprecedented era of success for the Goldsboro program, which won just 11 games from 2016-2017. Playing a major role in the ascendance has been a talented group of three seniors, Amber Pfenning, Nikki Olmsted and Marcy Taylor, who have all matured along the way with the program.

“They’re a great group and they’ve done a whole lot for the program,” Lancaster said. “They brought some legitimacy to the softball program, and they brought a desire to be out there and to play the game, and to want to be successful and make this program successful.

“The tone they set these past four years is now being mirrored by younger ones. They are going to be missed, but they won’t be forgotten.”

Goldsboro finished last season with a 14-9 record and outscored its opponents 186-109, while pounding out seven double-digit wins and seven mercy rule victories.

The Cougars, who only lost four conference games last season, were led in the circle by Taylor, who posted a 3.27 ERA in 1342/3 innings pitched, has limited hitters to a .262 batting average and racked up 95 strikeouts.

The Cougars’ offense was been equally impressive last season, averaging eight runs per contest and scoring at least 10 runs in nine games. The Cougars’ lineup featured four players who were batting above .300. With strong hitters, strong pitching and solid defense, there were few weak spots.

“I’ve been around these girls since they were in the sixth or seventh grade and they are a special group,” Lancaster said.

Plenty of Cougars batters put up eye-catching numbers this season, but none have been more impressive than Amber Pfenning. The senior is batting .485 with two homers, 12 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, 31 runs scored — all of which are team bests. In her final season, Olmsted had a .304 batting average, 21 RBIs, seven doubles 20 runs scored.

“I was proud of them, they fought through a lot this season. Seeing how they came together as a family and as a team was amazing,” Lancaster said.