Month: May 2022

Alumni Update: Berini helps East Carolina baseball win AAC title

Joey Berini: The East Carolina baseball team clinched the American Athletic Conference regular season championship after they swept the South Florida Bulls in a three-game series at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville last weekend. On May 14, the Pirates defeated the Bulls 11-3. Berini went 1-for-2 with three RBIs after he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. In his first plate appearance, Berini had a two-run single to left field to put the Pirates ahead 6-3. On Wednesday, the Pirates edged Campbell 7-6. Berini started as designated hitter and played at shortstop. He went 0-for-2. This weekend, East Carolina completed a three-game sweep of Houston. On Friday night, the Pirates defeated the Cougars 5-3. Berini had a pinch-hit, RBI single in the eighth to score the final run of the game. East Carolina will enter the American Athletic Conference Tournament next week at BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater, Florida as possibly the hottest team in the country. East Carolina has won 14 in a row. They finished the regular season 38-18, 20-4 in the AAC.

Bryse Wilson: Wilson came out of the bullpen for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Chicago Cubs on Monday at Wrigley Field. The Cubs won 9-0. Wilson threw five-and-one-thirds innings. He surrendered four runs off eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Dillon Peters suffered the loss for Pittsburgh.

Landon Riley: The Liberty baseball team honored its seniors during a game against Kennesaw State at Worthington Field on Saturday. Riley, one of the seniors, helped the Flames beat Owls 16-12 in its regular season finale. Riley threw the eighth inning and didn’t surrender a run. He struck out one batter and surrendered one hit with one walk. On Thursday, Kennesaw State defeated the Flames 9-6. Riley threw two shutout innings of middle relief. He conceded only one hit with two strikeouts. Liberty will start play in the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament in Fort Myers, Florida on Tuesday.

Brandon Andrews: The Nicholls State baseball team completed its season in the Southland Conference Tournament at Lake Charles, Louisiana. On Saturday, Incarnate Word edged the Colonels 9-8. Andrews, in his final college appearance, threw two-thirds-of-an-inning. He surrendered two runs off two hits. On Tuesday, Louisiana defeated Nicholls 6-1. Andrews threw one inning of relief with one strikeout. He surrendered one hit. Last Sunday, Nicholls edged Southeastern Louisiana 4-3 in eleven innings. Andrews threw the eighth inning and surrendered one hit and one walk. Nicholls ends the year 26-25, its first winning season since 2017. Andrews, who returned to Nicholls this year after spending a season with Jacksonville State, had a 2.70 ERA. He was second on the team with 20 appearances. Andrews went 2-1 with 19 strikeouts and ten walks.

Phillip Berger: The Division III William Peace baseball team’s season came to an end in the USA South Conference Tournament at Cleaveland Field in LaGrange, NC. Berger won his final start of the season in an elimination game against Methodist on May 6. The Pacers outscored the Monarchs 14-10. Berger threw seven-and-one-thirds innings. He struck out four. He also gave up eight runs on nine hits. Six of the runs were earned. Peace was eliminated by LaGrange College. This season, Berger led the Pacers with eight wins. He went 8-2 in 13 starts. He finished with a 4.64 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 19 walks.

Will Walker: The Pitt Community College baseball team ended its season in disappointing fashion in the Region X Division II Baseball Tournament at Big Rock Stadium in Morehead City. The Bulldogs started with a 12-6 win over Cleveland Community College. Walker hit his sixth home run of the season, a solo blast in the fifth inning to put the Bulldogs ahead 7-5. Walker went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. On May 6, Catawba Valley rallied for two runs in the bottom-of-the-ninth inning to beat the Bulldogs 9-8. Walker went 1-for-5. In an elimination game, Brunswick Community College defeated Pitt 11-9. The Bulldogs led 6-3 until Brunswick scored eight runs in the seventh inning. Walker was named to the Region X, Division II All-Defensive team. He ends the season with a .319 batting average over 35 games. He hit six home runs with 31 RBIs.

No Fear–Brown’s hat trick leads Orange women’s soccer past Cape Fear 5-2, into 3rd round of state playoffs for 1st time

FAYETTEVILLE–91 degrees at kickoff in 45% humidity playing 102 miles from Hillsborough against a team that finished undefeated in its conference.

None of those obstacles were big enough to stop the Orange women’s soccer team from making history.

Senior Bella Brown notched her fifth career hat trick, her first this season, to propel the Lady Panthers (11-7-1) past Cape Fear 5-2 at Colt Stadium on Thursday night in the 2nd round of the 3A State Playoffs. Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched the game-wining goal with 27:29 remaining. Sullivan Gaddy, who scored two goals in Orange’s win at Harnett Central on Tuesday night, now leads the Lady Panthers with 13 goals this season.

Cape Fear (15-4-2), who finished undefeated in winning the United Eight Conference championship, got both goals from sophomore Jayda Angel. She ends the season with 32 goals.

It’s the first time in the 34-year history of the program that Orange reached the 3rd round of the state playoffs. On Tuesday, the Lady Panthers defeated Harnett Central 5-3 for its second postseason victory in team history. The other was in double overtime against Southern Lee in 2016.

“It’s really a tribute to their hard work,” said Orange coach Jacki Mignosa. “I’m just kind of there to guide them, but they put in that time, they put in that effort. I’m glad they’re reaping the benefits.”

While Sullivan Gaddy got the game-winner, Brown injected Orange with a huge boost of adrenaline on a muggy night in the final minute of the first half. Junior midfielder Sydney Rogers sent an entry pass from 35 yards away. Cape Fear goalkeeper Meridith Wenthur struck the ball at the edge of the six-yard box. The ball popped off Wenthur’s hands, then bounced off the leg of Isabel Jones and off the chest of Brown, where it rolled into the right corner of the net with only 13 seconds remaining.

The equalizing goal provided Orange with momentum that they would not lose again.

Cape Fear had the first scoring opportunity in the second half when senior forward Brooke Dawkins dribbled up the right sideline. Dawkins fed a cross to Angel, whose attempt was blocked by Rogers. Throughout the second half, the Colts’ repeatedly tried to attack Orange’s sophomore left back Lily Crayton, who shut down every threat Cape Fear offered as Orange started controlling possession.

“When Lily gets on like that, there’s no stopping her,” Mignosa said. “She’s gets in that mindset and keeps steeping and going. She’s only a sophomore.”

Orange earned three corner kicks in the opening ten minutes of the second half. With 31:10 remaining in the second half, Brown sent a high line drive off the crossbar from 18 yard away. After Orange centerback Channing Mahaney cleared an entry pass, Crayton forced a turnover that led to a shot by Rogers that was saved by Wenthur.

As wingback Christina Paz sent a back pass to Wenthur, Sullivan Gaddy stuck her leg out, which doesn’t work about 95% of the time. This was an exception.

Sullivan Gaddy made just enough contact at the edge of the box to force a turnover. Sullivan Gaddy beat Wenthur to the ball and tucked it into the right corner of an empty net to put Orange ahead 3-2.

Cape Fear nearly earned a penalty kick on the subsequent possession. Angel sprinted towards the middle of the field, where Crayton rubbed her off the ball and fell to the turf. The Cape Fear fans screamed for a handball, but the official shook his head “no” as Crayton successfully cleared it down the field.

With 24:27 remaining, Ella Wimsatt fired a long shot that Wenthur blocked with both hands. The rebounds spilled out to the right flank, where Brown fed Jones on a gorgeous cross. Jones chipped it over the goal line from eight yards away into the right corner of the net for Orange’s first insurance goal.

Brown, who transferred from Burlington Christian Academy in 2020, ended the scoring with possibly the goal of the season for the Lady Panthers. After Crayton picked off a cross, Jones played it to Sullivan Gaddy. Brown got a slither of daylight from 22 yards away and fired a gorgeous ball that sailed into the left corner past a flailing Wenthur to send the Orange bench into hysteria.

“She’s had a lot of really pretty goals,” Mignosa said. “But that was beautiful.”

Brown now has 24 career goals.

As has happened time and time again across women’s sports in the Central Carolina Conference, Orange will face a conference rival in the third round of the state playoffs. On Monday night, the Lady Panthers will travel to Burlington to face Walter Williams. On Thursday night, the Bulldogs upset second-seeded Union Pines 2-1.

Orange and Williams had a bizarre season series where the Bulldogs dominated Orange 2-0 in Hillsborough on April 14. Just eleven days later, Orange traveled to Burlington and handled the Bulldogs 5-0.

That win started a four-game winning streak for Orange that propelled them into the sate playoffs. Now, this Orange team has gone where no other Lady Panther squad before them ever has: the Sweet 16 of the 3A State Playoffs.

“I’m so proud of them,” Mignosa said. “It’s amazing and it’s really just an honor to watch them and to just have time with them and be a part of their lives right now. This team works so hard. I lot of times, I feel like they get overlooked. So I’m so happy that they gets this time in the spotlight. They deserve it.”

Orange’s Crayton, Sullivan Gaddy, Monteith, Brown & Jones talk playoff win at Cape Fear

After 34 years of fielding teams, Orange women’s soccer is in the 3rd round of the state playoffs for the first time. On a hot, humid night in Fayetteville, senior Bella Brown scored a hat trick, while freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched the game-winning goal with 27:29 remaining as orange defeated Cape Fear 5-2. Isabel Jones added another goal for the Lady Panthers, who claimed its third-ever win in the state playoffs. With the game tied 2-2 at halftime, the Colts had a strong opportunity to score early. But Lily Crayton, playing left back for Orange, stopped a shot by Jada Angel. Midway through the second half, Orange’s Ella Wimsatt set a hard shot from 30 yards, which was thrust away by Colts goalkeeper Meridith Wenthur. Brown gained the rebound and sent a cross to Jones, who knocked it into the left corner of the net to put Orange ahead 4-2 with 24;27 remaining. After two trips to the Sandhills this week, Orange won’t have to travel far for the third round of the State Playoffs. Orange, the #23 seed, will travel to Burlington to face Walter Williams on Monday night. The Bulldogs upset #2 seed Union Pines on Thursday. Orange and Williams split the season series this year. Orange won 5-0 at Williams on April 25. 

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Sullivan Gaddy’s two goals leads Orange women’s soccer past Harnett Central 5-3 in state playoffs; face Cape Fear tonight

The Orange women’s soccer team had waited six years since its last win in the state playoffs. What was another 45 minutes?

Despite a severe weather threat forecast on Monday, the Lady Panthers had still driven to Angier to face Harnett Central in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs. It was the first time Orange had been in the postseason since 2017.

Orange was a hungry, confident team and they played like it. Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched two goals in the opening half. Senior Bella Brown, who was the Lady Panthers’ leading scorer in 2021, added another. Sophomore Ella Wimsatt and junior Isabel Jones also tallied goals to put Orange ahead 5-2 when action stopped because of a lighting.

So Orange coach Jake Mignosa, assistant Will Stinnett and the players killed time the best way they knew how. An eclectic playlist full of music to sing and dance to.

There was lots of Taylor Swift, which sophomore Kassi Scarntino labeled “her 2000s songs.” Also Hannah Montana, Willie Nelson, even a Nirvana tune that most of the players liked, though they couldn’t quite remember the title (probably “Smells Like Teen Spirit because, well, that’s what it usually is when its Nirvana). Just enough songs to pass the time until the delay ended, complete the game and head back to Hillsborough to arrive at a decent hour ad get enough rest in time for school the next day.

Except there was another weather delay that followed shortly after play resumed. This second hold-up kept the players on the pitch until the final whistle sounded at 10 PM. Mind you, the day started on Monday morning with a standard day of classes, followed by the team boarding a bus for Angier for a 100-minute road trip. By the time the bus pulled back to the soccer parking lot adjacent to Orange’s tennis courts, a wilted but victorious group of players staggered off the bus at 11:30 PM.

“It was just mentally exhausting waiting through those delays,” Mignosa said after practice on Wednesday. “Keeping their spirits up, keeping their bodies loose, it was hard. There was some music, but I didn’t want them to think we were done playing. Because we weren’t.”

Orange came away with a 5-3 victory over the Trojans, the program’s first win in the 3A State Playoffs since 2016. Though it took a long time, lengthy postseason victories tend to be common in Orange’s soccer heritage. The Lady Panthers’ last state playoff win was a 5-4 double overtime victory over Southern Lee in Sanford.

Orange, the #23 seed in the 3A East Region, travels to Fayetteville tonight to face Cape Fear. The Colts (15-3-2) finished undefeated in the United Eight Conference.

The variance of Orange’s season are emblematic of a young team that has only two seniors (Brown and Laura Garcia). Of its top three scorers, Sullivan Gaddy (eleven goals) and Caroline Cathey (17 points) are freshmen.

All of which has led to some unpredictable results this year. On April 14, Walter Williams shut out the Lady Panthers 2-0 in Hillsborough. Eleven days later, in Orange’s very next game, they traveled to Burlington and beat the same Williams team 5-0 behind goals from Sullivan Gaddy, Brown, Wimsatt, Jones and Cathey. Junior goalkeeper Abby Monteith earned the clean sheet.

Ironically, the game that delivered the biggest confidence boost for Orange was also its most heartbreaking loss. On April 12, Orange was one minute away from beating Eastern Alamance and tying for first place in the Central Carolina Conference. With roughly 45 seconds remaining, the Eagles scored the equalizing goal off a low corner kick to end regulation 2-2. In a wild overtime session, the Eagles scored twice and held off a furious, last-minute Panther charge to win 4-3. Eastern Alamance went on to win the CCC title with an 11-1 record.

It would have been easy for Orange to be demoralized. Instead, their confidence got a boost.

“I think it clicked in our brain that we could compete with anybody,” Mignosa said. “That confidence makes a big difference. I think it really helped them. We played an amazing game that didn’t go in our favor. But Coach Stinnett and I reiterated that we were proud of them and they were completely capable of playing the best of the best.”

After the Williams defeat in Hillsborough, Orange won four straight games to sew up a state playoff spot. That included three straight shutouts over Williams, Cedar Ridge and Person. Monteith, usually the goalkeeper, came away with two goals in the win over the Rockets.

In a 3-0 shutout of Cedar Ridge on April 27 at Orange Soccer Field, Monteith and Kate Barger combined to shut out the Red Wolves. Sullivan Gaddy, Cathey and Destiny Lily Crayton all scored goals, while Brown and Jones had assists.

If Orange has ever advanced to the third round of the state playoffs in women’s soccer, there aren’t any online records that show it. Which means the Lady Panthers will make a road trip to Fayetteville tonight (which severe weather in the forecast, naturally) with potential history on the line.

There are some good omens. Of the three teams from the Central Carolina Conference that reached the state playoffs, all of them won their opening round games in the 3A State Playoffs (Eastern Alamance romped past Fayetteville 71st, Williams defeated Dixon in Holly Ridge).

As the photo that accompanies this article indicates, the players seem to get a kick out of playing along each other. That bodes well for a team that is slated to have nearly everyone back next season, along with new arrivals from Orange Middle School that captured the Orange-Person Athletic Conference Northern Division Championship earlier this month.

“All the girls get along so well,” Mignosa said. “We’ve been blessed with their companionship and their camaraderie. Having Sully (Sullivan Gaddy) and Caroline Cathey come up as freshmen and start varsity games has been amazing. We know it’s going to improve for the future.”

Orange women’s soccer goalkeeper Abby Monteith & midfielder Bella Brown discuss state playoff win

The Orange women’s soccer team knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win in the opening round of the state playoffs when they faced Harnett Central in Angier on Monday night. For starters, they had a 90 minute bus trip. What they didn’t know was that there would not one, but two, weather delays due to lightning. Nonetheless, when the game was stooped the second time, Orange was ahead 5-2 and had plenty of songs by Taylor Swift, Hannah Montana, Nirvana (?!), and Willie Nelson (???!!!) to get them through the delay. The night finally ended with Orange winning 5-3, its first win in the 3A State Playoffs since 2017. Junior goalkeeper Abby Monteith earned the win in net. Senior Bella Brown, who transferred to Orange from Burlington Christian Academy in 2020, scored a goal for the Lady Panthers. In 22 career games for Orange, Brown has scored 20 goals. Freshman Elliana Sullivan Gaddy notched two goals for the Lady Panthers, while Isabel Jones and Ella Wimsatt also scored. Freshman Caroline Cathey and junior Sydney Rogers earned assists. Orange will travel to face Cape Fear in Fayetteville on Thursday night. The Colts are the champions of the United Eight Conference, a 3A/4A league. Cape Fear went undefeated in league play this year. The opening kick will be at 6:30 on Thursday.

Orange goalkeeper Abby Monteith & senior midfielder Bella Brown discuss state playoff win

The Orange women’s soccer team knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win in the opening round of the state playoffs when they faced Harnett Central in Angier on Monday night. For starters, they had a 90 minute bus trip. What they didn’t know was that there would not one, but two, weather delays due to lightning.

Dream denied; Gray’s five goals leads First Flight Lax past Orange 13-7 for 3A/2A/1A Regional Title

A decade ago, the Orange lacrosse team finished a winless conference season by losing to crosstown rival Cedar Ridge 15-3.

On Tuesday night, some 3,679 days after a largely ignored end to a forgettable season, the same Orange program hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Men’s Lacrosse Championship game in front of thousands of fans at Auman Stadium.

It was a world of difference between what Orange lacrosse was then and what it is now. The storybook finish would have led the Panthers playing again in Cary this Friday night for the state championship.

That will have to wait.

The First Flight Nighthawks reeled off an 11-1 run at the end of the first quarter to beat Orange 13-7 at Auman Stadium on Tuesday night.

First Fight (12-3), who came into the season with only one state playoff win in school history, captured its first regional championship in lacrosse. They will face Lake Norman Charter for the 3A/2A/1A State Championship on Friday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

Junior Jacob Gray continued a strong postseason with five goals to lead the Nighthawks. Gray scored eight goals against Cedar Ridge in a 14-10 win in the third round of the State Playoffs in Kill Devil Hills last Tuesday.

While hosting a regional championship game for the first time in school history will always be a point of pride for this Orange team, the loss to the Nighthawks will likely leave sour feelings. Last year, the Panthers played at a high level in losing to East Chapel Hill in the state quarterfinals at Auman Stadium. The Wildcats won, but Orange played well offensively. East had Alec Levy, whose five goals was enough to take the Wildcats to the regional final. Two teams played its best and the better one won.

Against the Nighthawks, the Panthers were held to its lowest scoring output of the season. While the Nighthawks defense may have been the best Orange has faced, the Panthers were sloppy offensively. Simple passes that Orange usually completes almost effortlessly wound up out of bounds or in the pockets of Nighthawk sticks. The Panthers were just 1-of-5 in man-up opportunities, rarely getting multiple shots on possessions when the Nighthawks had someone confined to the penalty box.

After Orange led 3-1 at the end of the first quarter, they were held to just one goal in the subsequent 23:26. Sophomore Connor Kruse and junior Joe Cady, Orange’s leading scorer with 136 points this season, was held without a goal for the first time this year.

First Flight longstick defenseman Cam Van Lunen, the son of head coach John Van Lunen, defended Kruse for much of the game.

Tigh Metheny and Jake Wimsatt each had two goals for Orange.

“We weren’t able to possess the ball the way we wanted to do it,” said Orange coach Chandler Zirkle. “I think we got caught up with how electric the crowd was. The moment got a little bit bigger than us.”

After Grey Crabtree knocked a loose ball into the net past First Fight goalkeeper Porter Smith, Orange led 3-1 at the end of the first quarter. Josh Cowan and Metheney opened the Panther scoring. Orange goalkeeper Katie Wolter made three saves from point-blank range against the Nighthawks in the first quarter and it appeared the Panthers were in good shape.

That changed very quickly.

Immediately in the second quarter, the Nighthawks assumed command. Joey Krieg scored in transition off a feed from Joe Wagner only 43 seconds into the frame. Grey tied the game after another fast break goal assisted by Van Lunen. After Orange’s Alden Cathey was called for a slashing penalty, senior Jackson Kelly notched his 23rd tally of the year on a diagonal pass from Krieg for the first man-up goal of the game. First Flight took its first lead 4-3 with 9:22 left in the first half and they were just getting warmed up.

Sophomore James Summerton went low to the bottom right corner against Wolter to make it 5-3. Kelly, Wagner and Grey (three goals in the first half) all scored in the final minutes of the second quarter to put the Nighthawks ahead 7-4 at the half.

Orange was no stranger to comeback wins in the regular season. They trailed Northwood 8-1 in Pittsboro on March 21 and still prevailed 14-9. They trailed the Chargers again 10-7 with 8:43 remaining on April 27, then finished the game with the final five goals to win 12-10.

There would be no rally on Tuesday. The Nighthawks kept Orange scoreless in the third quarter. Senior Nicholas Gardill, First Flight’s leading scorer, hat a hat trick in the third quarter. His final goal, assisted by Gray, gave First Flight an 11-4 lead.

Wimsatt scored Orange’s only man-up goal in a 6-on-4 situation in the fourth quarter. Joe Cady notched his lone tally after he whacked a rebound into the top of the net to cut the Orange deficit to 13-7 with 6:27 remaining. There was some left time for a miracle, but First Flight was too disciplined and ran out the clock as the faithful from Kill Devil Hills, who had driven four hours to Hillsborough, cheered on.

The Orange players got a standing ovation from the largest lacrosse crowd in Auman Stadium history. The Panthers’ following in lacrosse will likely only grow from here. A team that has twice as many sophomores as seniors will return all of its offensive weapons from a 17-3 team, the most successful in school history.

But for Zirkle as his Orange coaching staff, there’s pain right now which may only grow as the weekend approaches. In 2005, Chandler’s father, Franklin, took his East Chapel Hill Wildcats into Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park (then called SAS Stadium) and won the North Carolina Lacrosse Association’s State Championship over Chapel Hill. Even now, 17 years later, the game’s final score of 10-2 just rolls off the tip of his tongue.

Chandler Zirkle was a ballboy for that East team. Now, his father is an assistant at Orange after amassing over 200 head coaching wins at East and Leesville Road. Zirkle wanted to coach in Cary this weekend, just like his father did in 2005. Now, he’ll explore how to get better with the bulk of a Mid-Carolina Conference Championship team returning for 2023 and a bevy of 8th graders arriving from Orange Middle School waiting to make their mark, some possibly sooner than later.

But for now, there’s just pain after a lost opportunity.

“First Flight played a really good game,” Zirkle said. “They had a really good defensive game plan. We had too many uncharacteristic turnovers and I’m not sure what they were based on. We just threw the ball away too much. It’s probably a product of not being fully ready for the moment. I think that’s probably more of it than anything else. We have a really young group. I hope at this time next year, we’re more ready for this.”

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Billy Power

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is junior lacrosse attacker Billy Power. This season, Power helped Cedar Ridge host its first game in the 3A/2A/1A/ State Playoffs since 2017, when they won the Eastern Regional Championship. Power moved to Hillsborough in November and immediately found himself immersed in Cedar Ridge athletics. He played on the varsity men’s basketball team, but it was on the lacrosse field under head coach Cole Churchill where he made the biggest impact. Power was second on the team with 70 points this season. That included 50 goals. On April 27, Power scored four goals in the Red Wolves 8-7 overtime win over Bishop McGuinness, where Alex Castro scored the game-winning goal. This season, Power had ten hat tricks. That included five goals in an 18-12 victory over Western Alamance at Red Wolves Stadium. He also scored five goals in a 12-5 win over Seaford. This season, Power helped Cedar Ridge to its first win in the state playoffs in five years. As top scorers Roman Oguntoyinbo, James Clayton, Alex Castro and Logan Eckholm graduated next month, Power will take on a greater role for next year’s Red Wolves as they continue to move forward in the Mid-Carolina Conference.