Orange County

State title berths on the line for 4 area teams

Olivia Ruff (9) of Orange congratulates her teammates Alisha Pettiford (35) and Jaden Hurdle (23) after they score for the Panthers. Orange opens play tonight against West Brunswick in the 3-A East Region championship.
Olivia Ruff (9) of Orange congratulates her teammates Alisha Pettiford (35) and Jaden Hurdle (23) after they score for the Panthers. Orange opens play tonight against West Brunswick in the 3-A East Region championship. newsobserver.com

One and done had been the likely outcome of Orange's softball season in the seasons before senior catcher Mia Davidson and her Panther teammates hit the diamond.

But the last three seasons have seen the Panthers improve their lot. Their improvement was stymied by one team — Pikeville Aycock. That is until Saturday when Orange finally beat Aycock and now the Panthers are deeper in the playoffs than they've ever been.

Orange's 3-2 win over Aycock, which required stopping a seventh-inning rally, avenged losses in the past two years to the Golden Falcons.

The Panthers advanced to the 3-A East Region championship and will host West Brunswick in Game 1 of a best-of-3 series at Orange (tonight, 6 p.m.). The series will then switch to West Brunswick for Game 2. If a third game is required, it would be back at Orange.

The teams played earlier in the season at the Northwood Tournament in March as the Panthers took a 2-0 win. West Brunswick knocked out Oxford Webb in the second round of the playoffs.

But Orange isn't the only local team that is on the verge of playing for a state championship. Carrboro, which has won two straight 2-A girls' soccer state titles, as well as the softball and baseball teams at South Granville are playing in the regional championships.

Carrboro hosts Dixon in the 2-A East championship (tonight, 6 p.m.).

The Jaguars reached the penultimate game by defeating Southwest Onslow 1-0 on Saturday in a match that Carrboro played shorthanded. Senior Natasha Turner missed the game with an injured foot and is out for the rest of the season.

Carrboro coach Jared Drexler said his team is doing what it needs to do in roder to win. He's shuffled his lineup but it didn't affect Laura Sparling, who delivered the game-winning goal for the Jaguars.

Dixon and Carrboro last met in the 2015 East championship in which the Jaguars prevailed 1-0 en route to their first state title for Drexler.

At South Granville, the Vikings are taking on Eastern Randolph in softball (tonight, 7 p.m.) and in baseball, they are in a rematch of last year's regional series with Edenton Holmes (tonight, 7 p.m.). Both squads are the higher seeds and will have the home field advantage in their series.

South Granville (24-0) is trying to win its third straight state softball championship but the Vikings will need to get by East Randolph first. Senior pitcher Miranda Barker has tossed 16 shutouts and had eight no-hitters as she's pitched every game for the Vikings.

The Vikings (25-3) haven't missed a beat either for first-year baseball coach Jeff Tate, who took over for Curt Watkins after two straight trips to the state championship series where the won once and lost once.

They're led by senior pitcher Justin Bullock and junior Tucker Brown, who each are hitting right at .500. Bullock also brings the power with 11 home runs out of South Granville's 15 this season.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6889, @HPreps

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