July 14, 2024


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North Buncombe loses Game 1 of NCHSAA softball final in dramatic fashion



GREENSBORO — Karlyn Pickens dropped her glove to the dirt as she watched Eastern Alamance second baseman Kenzie Taylor slide into home plate Friday,

Soon after, the rest of the North Buncombe softball team joined her in haphazardly tossing their mitts in front of the first base dugout, and the Eagles wrapped up their celebration across from them.

The Black Hawks had seemed destined for extra innings moments earlier, but Taylor’s bouncer up the middle had eluded two of those gloves and gone all the way to the wall. turning a potential infield single into a walk-off trip around the bases.

North Buncombe blinked first in a Game 1 pitcher’s duel between Pickens and Kenna Raye Dark that featured four hits and 26 strikeouts combined, putting the Eagles in the driver’s seat in the best-of-three NCHSAA 3A state championship series.

“One hit that got through. That’s all it takes at this point,” Black Hawks coach Tiffani Ferguson said. “Going into it, we said in playoffs, it’s really anybody’s game. Just waiting on who makes an error. And that’s what happened tonight.”

SPECIAL CONNECTION: 16 years after daughter’s murder. NBHS teacher Anita King bonds with the Black Hawks

THE OTHER PERSPECTIVE: Insight from the Eagles on their Game 1 win

FULL COVERAGE: Links to all Citizen Times stories about the 2022 Black Hawks

With baserunners so hard to come by, a magnifying glass was on the defenders behind the aces.

North Buncombe’s defense had been stellar in recent rounds, but two first-inning misplays showed some nerves in the program’s first state championship game.

“Just the environment, being in a college stadium, the bus ride down, staying in a hotel, it just kind of builds up the anticipation of the game,” Pickens said. “But once the first inning went by, I think our nerves kind of settled and we were just playing ball.”

Dark, a UNC signee, led off the fourth inning with a double for the game’s first hit. The courtesy runner moved to third on a passed ball. A few pitches later, she was thrown out trying to score on another pitch that got to the backstop but was quickly corralled by catcher Cheyenne Cable and thrown to Pickens.

The Black Hawks didn’t get their first hit until the top of the seventh, when Cable lined a double into right field. She was sacrificed to third but tagged out on another bunt on the following play, and a strikeout ended the inning.

“[Dark] had great spin [and] her speed was higher than we’ve seen before, probably,” Pickens said. “We just had to shorten our swings. … We were able to get runners on which is reassuring for our next games.”

Pickens retired the first two batters of the seventh, but Taylor’s chopper eluded the dives of North Buncombe’s second baseman and center fielder, allowing the senior to score on a single and three-base error.

As Pickens walked off the field, she formulated her preparation plan for the nearly 200 pitches she’ll need to throw Saturday in order to win two games and complete a state championship comeback.

“Hot shower, maybe some ice, lots of water,” Pickens said. “And prayers.”

Key performers

Dark: 7 IP, 13 K, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB

Pickens: 6.2 IP, 13 K, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H

Dark: 1-3, 2B

Taylor: 1-3, R

Makiya Graves: 1-3

Cable: 1-3, 2B

Pickens: 0-2, BB, 2 SB

Live updates from the game are below.

FULL COVERAGE: Links to all Citizen Times stories about North Buncombe softball

SPECIAL CONNECTION: 16 years after daughter’s murder, Anita King is one of NBHS’s most cherished teachers and fans

PREDICTION: Insight from coaches and players, and a series pick from the Citizen Times

North Buncombe vs. Eastern Alamance: 2022 NCHSAA 3A softball championship updates

FINAL: Eastern Alamance 1, North Buncombe 0

9:35 p.m.: EAGLES WALK-OFF. Eastern Alamance second baseman Kenzie Taylor bounces a ball up the middle, and when it gets past the center fielder, she comes all the way around to score. A walk-off error or home run, depending on how you call it. Eastern Alamance 1, North Buncombe 0

9:27 p.m.: Dark pitches around it. A bunt moved Cable to third, but a second bunt couldn’t score her, and a strikeout ends it. Headed to the bottom of the 7th, still scoreless.

9:20 p.m.: Cable leads off the 7th with a double to break up Dark’s no-hitter.

9:18 p.m.: A two-out single put a runner on for Dark, but Pickens gets a clutch strikeout to take us to the 7th.

9:00 p.m.: Still no score through 5. One hit for Eastern Alamance, none for North Buncombe.

8:42 p.m.: The Eagles nearly break through in the 4th. Dark leads off with a double, and the courtesy runner moves to third on a passed ball. But she’s thrown out trying to score on a wild pitch, a nice recovery from catcher Cheyenne Cable.

8:35 p.m.: Pickens leads off the 4th with a walk and steals her way to 3rd, but two strikeouts and a foulout get Dark out of it.

8:26 p.m.: No hits for either side in the first three innings. Dark has 6 K’s and 3 comebackers. Pickens struck out batters 5-9.

8:16 p.m.: Both teams go down in order in the 2nd. Pickens strikes out the sid

8:10 p.m.: A North Buncombe error allows a baserunner in the first, but nothing more for the Eagles.

7:55 p.m.: North Buncombe goes down in order in the top of the 1st.

7:40 p.m.: Lineups and anthems underway. First pitch soon.

7:20 p.m.: The 1A game went a bit over time, so this start will likely be slightly delayed.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: North Buncombe softball drops dramatic Game 1 of NCHSAA title series


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