Photo by Dave Lindaman
As the final week of the academic year starts, Orange softball players will have an extra spring in their step on their way to class Monday after winning the 3A state championship over the weekend.
While every state championship is noteworthy, regardless of sport, Orange’s softball title has several milestones.
* It was the 1st softball state championship in school history.
* It was the 1st state championship by a female team in Orange High history.
* It was the eighth team state championship in school history. Orange Wrestling has captured five state titles. There was also the 2008 Baseball team and the 1969 Boys Basketball squad.
* It was the first time a school from Orange, Durham or Wake Counties have won a fast-pitch state championship. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association started recognizing fast-pitch softball as a sport in 1994, when Wilmington Laney defeated Enka 2-games-to-nothing in a best-of-three series. Southern Durham did capture consecutive 3A slow-pitch softball championships in 1987 and 1988. Slow-pitch softball was officially dissolved in North Carolina in 1998. The fast-pitch state championship has been held annually since 1996.
* Orange was the first Eastern Regional team to win the 3A state championship since 2013, when D.H. Conley defeated Jay Robinson in three games. Enka had won the last two 3A state titles.
*It was the fourth straight year where the state champion swept the title series. The NCHSAA went to a best-of-three format in 2012.
* Orange was NOT the first team from Orange County to play for a fast-pitch state championship. In 2007, Chapel Hill, coached by Blake Norris, made the 4A State Semifinals. In those days, the field would be reduced to four teams and a double elimination tournament would ensue over the course of two days. Chapel Hill defeated Pine Forest and North Davidson, but lost to Charlotte Butler 3-2 in the championship game. The previous day, Butler defeated CHHS 7-1 in 14 innings.
* Mia Davidson was named tournament MVP. Her game-winning, two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning on Friday night was the 52nd of her career, a state record. She hit .375 in the tournament with two home runs and 6 RBI.
* Abby Hamlett finished with a .407 average in the state playoffs, the highest on the team. Her final swing as a Panther scored two runs, her 3rd RBI of the tournament.
* Freshman Jaydin Hurdle had six RBIs in the tournament, tying Davidson for the team lead.
* In the two games of the state series, Orange scored all of their runs either in their first at-bat or their last. In game one, Jaydin Hurdle singled home Hamlett for a 1-0 lead in the first inning. In the sixth, Orange trailed 2-1 before Davidson’s two-run homer, which scored Hayley Funk. In the first inning of game 2, Orange loaded the bases for the only time all series. Hurdle had another RBI single to score Davidson, while Alysann Lloyd scored Hamlett on a sacrifice fly. In the seventh inning with Orange lead 2-1, Hamlett had the single that scored Funk and Davidson.
* Orange ends the year with a 25-3 record, naturally the most wins in school history.