Orange Panther of the Week: Caden Robinson

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is senior pitcher Caden Robinson. In her final game at Orange on Thursday night, Robinson broke the school record for most career strikeouts. She set down ten South Brunswick Cougars in the third round of the 3A State Playoffs. She ended her career with 380 strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 378 by Kristina Givens. This season, Robinson was also Orange’s leading hitter, posting a .526 batting average. She also led the team with 40 hits, 17 doubles and five home runs. She tied for the team lead with 33 RBIs. A starter since her freshman year, Robinson was a part of a conference championship team in 2021. This year, Orange reached the Round of 16 in the state playoffs for the first time since 2017, when the Lady Panthers won the 3A State Championship. Caden went 14-5 this season with a 2.96 ERA. She ends her career with 27 wins. Robinson also posted a lifetime batting average of .526 with 17 home runs and 98 RBIs. This month, she posted back-to-back shutouts in the state playoffs against C.B. Aycock and South Johnston. This year, Orange won eight consecutive games, including victories at Southern Alamance and Western Alamance. After she graduates next month, she will play college softball at Averett University in Danville, Virginia.

Orange lacrosse seniors Katie Wolter, Parker Christie-Pohl, Nate Sorrells & Alden Cathey discuss winning regional title

It’s been a special week for the Orange lacrosse team. On Monday night, they won its first regional championship after beating Croatan 14-9 in front of a jubilant crowd at Auman Stadium. Senior Parker Christie-Pohl earned the win as goalkeeper. This is only the second year that Christie-Pohl has played lacrosse after being raised in Calgary, Alberta, Canada playing hockey as a center. Katie Wolter, who has been on the varsity for four years, completed the game as goalkeeper. She has over 300 saves in her Orange career and will play at Elon University next year. Long-stick midfielder Alden Cathey leads the team with 136 ground balls and had created a team-high 58 turnovers. This is the third regional championship team that Cathey has competed on his in Orange career. In 2021 and 2023, Cathey won a regional championship for the Orange men’s cross country team. This is the first season for defenseman Nate Sorrells playing lacrosse, but he has made an impact. Sorrells has 21 ground balls and played throughout the win over Croatan. Sorrells led the Orange football team in rushing yards last season and will play college football at Mars Hill. Orange will face Lake Norman Charter, the two-time defending 3A/2A/1A State Champions, for the state championship at Durham County Stadium in Saturday afternoon at 2. You can hear the game on Hillsboroughsports.com.

Smith homers, Hart strikes out eleven, Terry Sanford ends Orange baseball’s season 4-0 in state playoffs

FAYETTEVILLE–There was already enough going against Orange baseball before they even arrived in Cumberland County on Thursday night.

There was Mother Nature, which caused its third round state playoff game against Terry Sanford to be postponed twice. On Tuesday, the team had driven to Sanford when they got word to turn around because thunderstorms would prevent them from playing. Orange’s bus made it all the way to Fayetteville on Wednesday, only to find the tarp was already on the field with rain falling down. They had no choice but to drive back to Hillsborough and try again on Thursday.

Then again, the rain has been a problem for Orange since the regular season ended after clinching a share of the Central Conference regular season championship. The Panthers were supposed to face Southern Alamance in a one-game tiebreaker to determine the #1 seed from the Central at Southeast Alamance. If Orange had won, they would have earned the #2 seed in the East Region. That meant no trips to Fayetteville, or anyplace else, if they simply kept winning through the first four rounds.

But that playoff was rained out at Southeast Alamance High. The Patriots got the #1 seed because they swept third-place Williams while Orange split the two-game series with the Bulldogs. That handed Orange a #12 seed instead.

Once the game finally started on Thursday, Orange’s problems were Josh Hart and Brent Smith.

Hart, a junior, struck out eleven over six innings. Smith drove in two runs, including a solo bomb in the fourth inning as Terry Sanford (25-5) defeated Orange 4-0 to advance to the 3A State Quarterfinals.

It was the first time this season that Orange was shutout. The Panthers end the year 19-6.

There was immediately a sense of deja vu for an Orange team that went 15-1 at home this year, but was 4-5 on the road. In each of its road losses, the Panthers gave up runs in the first inning. Sanford’s Josh Mozingo and Ryan Seagroves each reached on infield singles, both hitting balls deep in the 5-6 hole where shortstop Oliver Van Tiem was put through the paces early on a busy night. Orange starter Cross Clayton uncorked a wild pitch to Mason Walker, moving each runner up 90 feet. Walker grounded out to second baseman Kayden Bradsher, scoring Mozingo.

Smith, a senior who has committed to Elon University, started a big night with an RBI single to left field, and the Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead that they would sit on for most of the night.

Though Orange was blanked, they actually had more threats than Sanford. In the second, Orange loaded the bases when Van Tiem was hit by a pitch. Garrett Sawyer grounded a cue shot to third baseman Ethan Nobles, who threw it away, advancing Van Tiem to third. Clayton walked to load the bases, but Elijah Santos pop-up to shallow centerfield was caught by Smith at second base.

Senior Ryan Honeycutt, in his final Orange game, reached on an infield single with two out in the third. Ryan Horton stroked an opposite field liner that landed in front of Walker in right field. Horton and Henry Hoffman, running for Horton, advanced to second and third following a wild pitch. With two out, Hart got a strike out to end the threat.

After the bad start, Orange’s defense settled down. Clayton retired eight straight batters. A surprise bunt attempt by Mozingo to lead off the third was handled sublimely by third baseman Wyatt Hedrick, who threw him out at first. Sanford head coach Sam Guy was so impressed, he bumped fists with Hedrick while coaching third base.

It was Smith who almost single-handily added Sanford’s remaining insurance runs. He started the fourth by launching an 0-1 fastball over the left field wall, and over the adjacent team batting cage with an interlocking “TS” on the front, as well, to increase the Bulldogs lead to 3-0. In the sixth, Smith led off with a single, advanced to second on a groundout, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored off a sacrifice fly from catcher Willis Noon.

Orange had more opportunities. Horton singled to right field to lead off the sixth. Hedrick laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Hart threw the ball away. Hedrick, who collided with the first baseman, remained at first. With one out, Hart continued to hit the right corner of the strike zone like a punching bag, setting down Sawyer and Santos in order to squelch the threat.

Santos singled to left to open the seventh. Immediately, Guy replaced Hart with reliever Jack Reaves. Kayden Bradsher got aboard on an infield hit. Honeycutt sent a dangerous floater to the right that would have loaded the bases if it fell. But once again, Smith was there to chase it down. Horton’s flew out to Benny Whiteaker to end the game.

There were tears and hugs, as you would expect in the postgame in the Orange dugout. It was also the end of an prominent chapter of Orange baseball. Eight seniors who teamed together to win four consecutive conference championships played their final game together.

Cameron Guentensberger, the senior centerfielder, could even boast about being in the starting lineup when Orange beat Terry Sanford in the 2nd round of the state playoffs in 2022. It was head coach Jason Knapp’s most successful class of his six-year tenure.

Together, they dominated the Central Conference for the past three years and compiled a home record of 45-7.

It’s something that not even Mother Nature can take away from them.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Kimber Shambley

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is junior first baseman Kimber Shambley. This season, Shambley led the Red Wolves in home runs and RBIs. She hit eight home runs and 34 RBIs. In Cedar Ridge’s final home game of 2024, Shambley hit a walkoff home run to defeat Western Alamance 7-6. It was the first time Cedar Ridge has defeated Western Alamance since the two teams became conference rivals in 2022. Shambley also had a three-run homer in the Red Wolves 13-4 win over Northwood in Pittsboro on April 25. She also had a three-run homer against Eastern Alamance on April 23 in Mebane. In an 8-6 win over Person on April 12 in Roxboro, Shambley had a two-run single. Last fall, Shambley announced that she would play for Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. The daughter of Kevin and Missy Shambley, Kimber hit .449 as the Red Wolves reached the state playoffs for the third straight year. At one point this year, Shambley had a four-game home run streak, starting with a dinger in a win over Person in Hillsborough on March 19. She followed with homers against Walter Williams, Southern Alamance and Orange, which came in the first inning at Panther Field and gave Cedar Ridge an early lead. Next year, Shambley will be a senior leader for a more experienced squad ready to move upward in the Central Conference.

Orange softball seniors Caden Robinson and Mia Leathers discuss playoff win at South Johnston

For the first time since winning the 3A State Championship in 2017, the Orange softball team has reached the round of 16 in the state tournament. On Friday, Orange rolled past South Johnston, the Quad County Champions, 7-0 in Four Oaks. Senior Caden Robinson struck out nine in a complete game, four-hit shutout. Mia Leathers, as a designated player, roped a two-run single to break Orange’s lead out to 7-0 in the fifth inning. Orange is the last team standing from the Central Conference in the state playoffs. Robinson is 14-4 this season with 139 strikeouts. Leathers, a senior, is hitting .264 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. The Lady Panthers were in Southport last night for a game against South Brunswick. The game was interrupted by rain in the fifth inning with the Cougars leading 2-0. The game will resume today in the top of the fifth inning with Evelyn George running at first base with one out. Robinson has seven strikeouts through four innings. Robinson now has 377 strikeouts, which is only one behind the school record set by Kristina Givens, who was the hurler for Orange’s 3A State Championship team. The winner of Orange-South Brunswick will face the winner of Havelock-Cape Fear in the state quarterfinals.

Jermyn, Alvis help Orange men’s, women’s track & field win Central Conference championships

Over the past three years, the Orange men’s track & field team has been anchored by its long distance runners.

In 2021, it was Spencer Hampton, The past two years, it was Gabriel Schmid.

Now, it’s Myles Jermyn.

On May 1, Jermyn won three individual championships and a relay event during the Central Conference Track & Field Championships at the John Kirby Sports Complex at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane.

Orange claimed the men’s conference championship with 181.2 points. Cedar Ridge finished second with 96.3 points.

Behind the running of seniors Bree Harris and Adelyn Alvis, the Orange women’s track and field team also claimed the conference title, finishing with 150 points.

Once again, Cedar Ridge’s Naomi Dyreng had a strong performance for the Red Wolves. Dyreng won two conference crowns in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Dyreng won three Mideast Regional championships, in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters last year at Franklinton High School. Dyreng has also qualified for the 3A State Cross Country championships the past two years.

Jermyn helped Orange win six men’s conference championships. Jermyn won the 800 meters in a tight race where the top three competitors were separated by only just .38 of a second. Jermyn edged teammate Cyrus Neal to the finish line with a time of 2:03.55. Neal came in at 2:03.83. Henri Lanzoni of Walter Williams finished third at 2:03.93.

Jermyn had another close race with a teammate in the 1,600 meters. Jermyn edged Lucas Van Mater for first place at 4:38.10. Van Mater finished second only two-tenths-of-a-second behind Jermyn. In the 3,200 meters, Jermyn took first place, Van Mater finished second and Nathan Walters of Cedar Ridge came in third.

The Orange men won two relay events. Jermyn, Van Mater, Neal and Dallas Johnson earned first place in the 4×800 meter relay, timing out at 8:40.69.

Orange also claimed the 4×200 meter relay. Merveille Ndayiringiye, Malykahi Justice, Kingston Purefoy-Farrington and Jackson Patrick finished first at 1:32.88.

Orange senior Aedan Sampey finished first in the pole vault, clearing 12-feet-six inches. Sampey’s teammate, Kyse Devore, tied for second by clearing eleven feet. Cedar Ridge’s Ender Buchanan also cleared 11-feet.

Senior Jaylan Sorrells finished second in the discus and third in the shot put. He registered a distance of 122-feet, four-inches in the discus. In the shot put, he finished with a distance of 40-feet, 9-inches.

The Orange women won nine individual championships. Sophomore Adelyn Alvis won the only win once in a running event and another in a field event. Alvis captured the 400 meter dash at 1:02.64. She also captured the long jump at 16-feet-six inches. Typhany Cheek of Cedar Ridge finished second in the long jump at 16-feet-3.50 inches.

Cheek would take first place in the triple jump at 32-feet-11.50 inches.

Alvis also came in second in the 800 meters, only behind Ava Childress of Walter Williams.

The Cedar Ridge women’s relay team of Payton Castro, Chloe Bowers, Danielle Gala and Annora Leaf won the women’s 4×100 relay. They finished at 52.48 seconds.

Orange senior Bree Harris finished first in both hurdle events. She won the 100 meters at 17.43 seconds, then captured the 300 meters in 48.76 seconds.

Orange’s 4×200 relay team of Harris, Gianni Burnette, Asia Whitsett and Kayla Willey came in first at 4:23.29. Cedar Ridge’s Molly Alverson, Dyreng, Rebecca Fullwood and Leaf came in second.

Orange senior Grace Pell earned first place in the high jump at five feet. Pell finished second in the triple jump at 31-feet-four inches.

Orange had the top three placers in the pole vault. Lily Howard finished first at eight-feet. Clara Fowlkes finished second while Pell came in third.

Junior Iyauna Justice captured the conference championship in the shot put with a throw of 33-feet-9 inches.

The 3A State Championships are set for Saturday at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

Orange baseball’s Josiah Gibbs & Wyatt Hedrick discuss playoff win over Eastern Alamance

After a stunning win over Cedar Ridge in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs last week, the Orange baseball team didn’t have any time for drama against Eastern Alamance in the second round. The Panthers scored seven runs in the opening inning and rolled to a 19-1 win over the Eagles on Friday night to advance to the third round of the state playoffs for the third straight year. Senior third baseman Wyatt Hedrick drove in a career-high seven runs as he finished 4-for-4. That included a two-run single to left field in the third and a high fly ball that bounced off the 2008 2A State Championship banner in right field that plated Ryan Honeycutt and Henry Hoffman. Senior pitcher Josiah Gibbs earned his 18th career win, throwing five innings to improve to 8-0 on the season. Gibbs struck out three and finished the night with 68 pitches. The Panthers now have to win their way back into another home game. They will venture to Fayetteville on Wednesday night to face the Terry Sanford Bulldogs, the co-champions of the All-Americans Conference. The Bulldogs have only one loss since the end of March, which happened against 4A power D.H. Conley. The winner of Orange-Terry Sanford will move into the state quarterfinals.

Kate to Katie: Paulakonis’ two goals leads Cedar Ridge women’s soccer past Richlands 3-1 for 1st home playoff win since 2005

There have already been plenty of remarkable achievements for the Cedar Ridge women’s soccer team this year.

They now have 14 wins, more than the 2018 squad that had freshman Ivy Garner, who now plays at Liberty University.

On Monday night, the Red Wolves won its first home playoff game since 2005.

Junior Katie Paulakonis scored two goals in the opening eight minutes as the Red Wolves defeated Richlands 3-1 at Red Wolves Stadium. Freshman Kate Finnegan assisted on the opening two goals.

The Red Wolves, seeded #16, will face conference rival Western Alamance in the second round in Elon. The Warriors defeated another Central Conference team, Walter Williams 6-2 on Monday.

Cedar Ridge’s last home win in the state playoffs came back in 2005 when they were a 2A team. They defeated Durham School of the Arts 2-0 to move into the state quarterfinals, where they fell to Western Guilford. That Red Wolf team finished 16-1-1.

This Cedar Ridge team is now the most successful team since that squad from 19 years ago.

Much of the credit goes to first-year head coach Sam Semerzier, who now had the Red Wolves on a four-game home winning streak.

“Given the passion of this team, I thought this was possible at the beginning of the year,” Semerzier said after Cedar Ridge’s win over Williams last week, which ended the regular season. “They had the thirst to thrive. They had the urge to win from the first time I met them. Everything that was burning in their hearts in coming to life now.”

Cedar Ridge’s last playoff win came in 2018, when they defeated West Carteret 3-0 in Morehead City.

The Red Wolves scored on its first possession just 80 seconds into the game. As the Wildcats tried to mount an attack, centerback Adelynn Nasseri cut off a pass and cleared the ball upfield to Kate Finnegan. As Paulakonis went on a mad dash past the midfield line, Finnegan kneed the ball past a Wildcat midfielder and directed a gorgeous longball ahead. Paulakonis’ won a race against Richland centerback Ester Zapata and had only goalkeeper Abbigail Kaestner in front of her. Paulakonis’ dribbled around Kaestner and, with a tight angle, directed the ball towards the net with her left field. The ball rolled tenuously along the line before it crossed over just as it tapped the far post.

Cedar Ridge goalkeeper Ellamarie Perel stopped an immediate response from 20 yards away by sophomore Kamrey Watkins, who finished the season with 34 goals.

The Red Wolves would strike again only three minutes later when Paulakonis took a deep throw-in from midfield and banked it off Finnegan’s corner went directly into the nine-yard box, where Paulakonis curved through unmarked and sent a half-volley directly to the back of the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal with 35:23 remaining in the first half.

Paulakonis nearly had a hat trick on a free kick knuckleball from 23 yards away with 21:30 remaining in the first half that nearly cleared Kaestner’s head below the crossbar, but it sailed over the net.

Watkins provided the Wildcats in the best chance in the opening 40 minutes when midfielder Torrie McAllister stripped the ball away in Richlands’ attacking end and fed Watkins, who cut across midfield and got past Natasha Buchler-Fosado, but Perel stopped a line drive from ten yards away. With 5:42 remaining, Watkins took a long counter pass, but Rachel Alverson raced her down and squared up. It led to a long shot by Cadence Brown that missed wide. Watkins fired a 21-yard heave in the waning minutes that led to Perel’s fourth save.

Watkins had the forest serious attempt in the second half when she took a long clearance pass following a Cedar Ridge free kick, but Alverson ran her down and conceded a corner. The subsequent cross was cleared by Nasseri.

Paulakonis was fouled just outside of the box with 29:45 remaining in regulation, but her shot from 19 yards skipped off the top of the crossbar, the Red Wolves ninth shot.

The Red Wolves earned its third goal with 19:34 remaining a throw-in by Finnegan. Paulakonis bounced the ball off her chest and it rebounded to Celine Galla, who shot off a bounce inside the box went off Kaetner’s hands, then the crossbar. On the rebound, Galla jumped and tapped the ball off her head into the net and was immediately mobbed after her first playoff goal.

Richlands earned a penalty kick after a foul on Cedar Ridge in the box. Facing off against Abigail Proffitt, Perel made a diving save to the left, leading to another celebration from her teammates. Immediately afterwards, Brown sent a corner kick that was headed in by Watkins for the only Wildcats goal.

Perel finished with nine saves.