Orange lacrosse’s Sascha Van Praag and Nick Cardone talk tonight’s regional title game
The Orange lacrosse team will go for its first regional championship tonight when they host Northwood at Auman Stadium. It will be the third matchup of the year between the Panthers and the Chargers. Senior defenseman Nick Cardone had a big hand in beating the Chargers on March 20. In an 11-8 Orange win in Hillsborugh, Cardone helped hold the Chargers to three goals in the final 17:51. Cardone had four ground balls and created two turnovers. Cardone has signed to play at Division II Catawba College. Junior defenseman Sascha Van Praag was in his native country, the Netherlands, at the beginning of the season. He has played seven games for Orange this season. Van Praag had six ground balls against Bishop McGuinness on April 24, a 10-9 Orange win. If the Panthers emerge victorious tonight, they will play for the 3A/2A/1A State Championship at Durham County Stadium either Friday or Saturday.
Orange lacrosse goes for 1st regional championship tonight against Northwood in Hillsborough
All that stands between Orange High and its first-ever trip to the 3A/2A/1A State Lacrosse Championship is a showdown with a conference rival.
Orange and Northwood are no strangers to one another. When they meet tonight (Tuesday) for the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship at Auman Stadium, it will be their seventh meeting since March 8, 2021. On that night, the Chargers disposed of the Panthers easily, 17-6, at Chargers Stadium in Pittsboro.
It was hardly a surprise. It was the Chargers fifth win in six meetings against the Panthers. But like a lot of stuff since Chandler Zirkle took over the Orange lacrosse program, things changed at warp speed.
Just nine days later, the Panthers stunned the Chargers 10-9 to advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Freshman Connor Kruse scored the game-winning goal late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Jake Wimsatt tied the game off a man-up goal following an illegal stick penalty. Two years later, that call still sticks in the craw of some Northwood fans. It took a goal off the scoreboard that would have given the Chargers the lead.
The following year, the Panthers and the Chargers became rivals in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Yet the Panthers have beaten the Chargers four straight times, including twice this season, and have won 30 consecutive conference game overall.
Orange eased into the regional championship game after belting Carrboro 15-7 on Friday night at Auman Stadium. Kruse, who leads the team with 67 goals, paced Orange with four goals and two assists. Senior Joe Cady had a hat trick, putting him at 40 goals on the season.
“I thought we have a lot of skill and we played OK at times,” Zirkle said. “I thought we were focused on trying to play better and take the next step for Northwood. I think some of the guys thought we overlooked last year’s semifinal (also against Carrboro) so we’re trying to be critical of ourselves and focusing on what needs to be fixed.”
Wimsatt, who recently returned after an MCL injury kept him out of the lineup for most of the season, added a goal in the third quarter. For Orange’s ascendance to the top of the conference, Wimsatt was the ace face-off man. Wimsatt’s injury kept him on the sidelines while freshman Matthew MacNair handled duties at the dot. Yet Wimsatt’s presence makes Orange deeper than the last time they played Northwood, a 16-10 Orange win in Pittsboro on April 19.
“It’s such a boost to have Jake,” Zirkle said. “He just makes us better. He’s helped us a lot.”
The Chargers will be deeper, too. Northwood (17-3) is expected to have Grayson Cox, the son of head coach Randy Cox, back in the lineup after he missed last month’s game due to a broken wrist. Junior defenseman Ryan Brinker is also slated to return after suffering a shoulder injury earlier this year.
Northwood edged Croatan 5-4 last week to reach the state quarterfinals, then hammered Havelock 15-4 on Friday in Pittsboro.
“I know they’ll have some type of wrinkle up their sleeve,” Zirkle said. “I’m not sure what to expect. We’ll have to figure out what it could be. It’s going to be interesting. They have a 3-3 zone that use. I wouldn’t be surprised if they use a 10-man ride. I expect they’ll be at their best version of themselves.”
For the Chargers, the game could be a last stand for a senior class that has reached the regional championship game for the first time in school history. Seniors Will Smith (63 goals and 100 points), Taylor LaBerge (60 goals and 98 points) and Jason Walden (76 points) will fight to reach the state championship game–and end a five-game losing streak to Orange.
Orange (18-3) is looking to become just the second team from Hillsborough to win a regional championship in lacrosse. Last year, thousands of fans packed Auman Stadium to see Orange face off against First Flight for the regional title. But the moment may have overwhelmed a Panther team with only five seniors. First Flight defeated Orange 13-7.
Now, Orange starters like Kruse, Cady, Wimsatt, Tigh Metheny and defensive standouts like Braden Hunt, Sascha Van Praag and Josiah Tisdale are a year wiser with more playoff experience that any Orange team in history.
“I’m sure we’re more prepared in some capacity,” Zirkle said. “It’s tough to quantify that. It’s gives us a reference point about what to think about as opposed to going into it blind. That’s a positive. And the end of the day, you’ve got to make the plays in front of you on the field. You’ve got to figure out the right way to play, make sure you win.”
Six years ago today, Cedar Ridge won the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship when they defeated Chapel Hill 11-8 at Red Wolves Stadium.
Alumni Update: Nichols wins MEAC Championship for North Carolina Central; Dalehite wins SOCON title with UNCG
Takia Nichols: The North Carolina Central softball team has won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship for the first time ever. Last weekend in Norfolk, VA, the Eagles defeated Coppin State 6-2 in the seventh game of the MEAC Tournament at Norfolk State University. Nichols set the tone early with a solo homer in the second inning and the Eagles never conceded the lead. Nichols finished game seven 2-for-3 with a homer, a double and a stolen base. It was Nichols’ eighth home run of the season. Earlier in the day, Coppin State won an elimination game over the Eagles 6-5. Nichols went 1-for-3. For the tournament, Nichols hit 6-of-14 as the Eagles defeated Maryland-Eastern Shore 2-1 on Wednesday. Later in the day, the Eagles knocked off the #2 seed, Norfolk State, 7-4. Nichols went 1-for-3 against the Spartans. In addition, Nichols was named first-team All-MEAC for her freshman season. She is second on the team with a .346 batting average. She is first on the team with eight home runs. She is second on the squad with 31 RBIs, behind only Maegan Garrison, who has 32. On Sunday night, the Eagles were placed in the Athens Regional for the NCAA Softball Tournament. The Eagles will face the Georgia Bulldogs on Friday afternoon at 4:30. Virginia Tech and Boston University are also in the Athens Regional.
Tori Dalehite: For the second time in her career, Tori Dalehite will be going to the NCAA Softball Tournament as a member of the UNC Greensboro Spartans. UNCG captured the Southern Conference championship last weekend at Frost Stadium in Chattanooga, TN. The Spartans defeated Samford 7-6 in the seventh game of the tournament on Saturday afternoon. Earlier in the day, the Bulldogs forced the extra game with a 2-1 win in nine innings. The Spartans were placed in the Clemson Regional. They will face #16 Clemson on Friday.
Mary Moss Wirt: The Elon softball team has its season end in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on Wednesday. Stony Brook edged the Phoenix 2-1 in eight innings at Bill Edwards Stadium in Hampstead, NY. Earlier on Wednesday, Towson defeated Elon 7-5. Wirt ends the season seeing action in 26 games. She started six.
Lauren Jackson: The Lenoir-Rhyne softball team reached the finals of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regionals at Wingate. The Bears lost to #17 Wingate in consecutive games, ending the Bears season. Lenoir-Rhyne opened the tournament with a 6-4 win over Carson-Newman on Thursday at the Wingate Softball Complex. Jackson, a freshman starting at catcher, went 1-for-1 with a sacrifice fly for an RBI in the third inning to put the Bears ahead 4-0. On Friday, the Bears defeated Wingate 2-1 in eight innings. Jackson went 0-for-2. The following day, Wingate defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 6-2. Jackson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. She drove in the opening run in the game with an RBI double. She also drove in the final run of the game with a single up the middle. In the seventh game, Wingate won 4-1. Jackson went 0-for-3. Lenoir-Rhyne finishes the year 38-14. Jackson played 44 games, starting 37. She was fifth on the team with a .343 batting average. She had two home runs and 25 RBIs.
Olivia Aitkin: The season ended for the Division III Amherst University softball team on Friday. Bates College defeated the Mammoths 1-0 in the New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament. Aitkin, who played alongside Nichols and Dalehite at Cedar Ridge, played in ten games her freshman season for the Mammoths. She started six. Aitkin, whose brother Nichols played on the Cedar Ridge baseball team this year, hit .385 with three RBIs. Amherst finished the year 24-13.
Kate Burgess: The UNC rowing team finished eighth in the ACC Championships at Lake Wheeler in Raleigh. Burgess, who is a senior, competed for the Tar Heels. Burgess was a basketball player and ran cross country at Orange.
Schmid wins two more regional titles for Orange track; McDaniels, Seymour qualify for state championships
It has been 25 years since the Orange men’s outdoor track and field team had a runner win a state championship.
This Friday, Gabriel Schmid will look to end that drought. If this academic year is any indication, the smart money may be on him.
On Friday, Schmid continued an incredibly impressive year by winning two regional titles at the 3A Mideast Track and Field Championships at Franklinton High School.
Schmid cruised to victory in the 3,200 meters with a time of 9:11.10. He finished a full 37 seconds ahead of Corbin Weeks of Union Pines. Logan Trotten-Lancaster of Union Pines came in third at 9:56.77. Last year, Schmid finished second in the regionals behind his own teammate, Spencer Hampton of Orange.
Schmid also won the regional championship in the 1,600 meters at 4:23.96. Northwood’s Noah Nileson came in second at 4:28.71.
In addition, Orange sophomore Ja’Ki McDaniels earned a spot to the 3A State Championships this Friday at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. McDaniels came in third in the long jump at 21-feet, 6.5 inches. Kaleb Lucas of the Durham School of the Arts finished first at 22-feet, nine inches. Trenton Wiley of Eastern Alamance finished second at 21-feet, 11.5-inches.
McDaniels almost qualified for the state championships in the triple jump. His best leap of 40-feet-4,25 inches was good enough for fifth place. A.J. Allen of Southern Nash got fourth place, and the final state championship spot, at 40-feet-7.5 inches.
Isaiah Seymour, a senior who started the past two seasons for the Orange men’s basketball team, qualified for the state championships in the triple jump. Seymour finished third in the triple jump at 40-feet, ten-inches. He also came in eleventh in the long jump. Donovan Estes of Franklinton finished first at 44-feet-,6.25-inches.
Seymour’s brother, Issac, qualified for the state indoor track and field championships in February in the high jump. Issac Seymour finished 12th in the high jump in the outdoor regionals on Friday.
Schmid has had one of the greatest years for any runner in Orange High history. He won the 3A State Cross Country championship last November, finishing first at 15:44.28, a full 16 seconds ahead of runner-up Stephen Fernetti of North Lincoln. He became the first state cross country champion for Orange since Bradsher Wilkins in 1998.
Wilkins was also the last Orange runner to win a state championship in outdoor track and field. In 1998, Bradsher was named the Most Outstanding Performer at the State Championships when he won the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
Jamar Davis was the last Orange competitor to win an outdoor state championship. Davis was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the 2018 NCHSAA 3A State Championships when he captured the state championships in the long jump and the triple jump. Davis also competed in the Penn Relays in his senior season. He is currently in his final season at N.C. State, where he recently won the triple jump in the Penn Relays.
Schmid started the year winning the Early Bird Challenge in cross country on August 20. After winning the 3A State Cross Country Championships, he qualified for the Indoor State Championships by finishing 14th at the New Balance Dash for Doobie 3,200 in Pfafftown. In December, Schmid ran in the Nike Cross Country Nationals in Portland, OR.
Orange had other competitors nearly reach the state championships. Aiden Viola came in eighth in the 800 meters at 2:04.84.
Myles Jermyn almost earned a ticket to Greensboro in the 1,600 meters. He finished 5th at 4:30.09. Corbin Weeks of Union Pines finished fourth to take the final spot for the state championships at 4:29.57.
Freshman Lucas Van Mater of Orange came in sixth in the 3,200 meters at 10:00.96. Peter Musser crossed the finish line in 10th at 10:28.87.
Edgar Ibarra, who was the only Cedar Ridge Red Wolf to qualify for regionals, finished 14th in the 3,200 meters at 11:09.33.
In addition to Sampey’s near-miss in the pole vault, Orange freshman Liam Van Schaick finished fifth at 9-feet.
Cedar Ridge’s Dyreng wins three regional titles at Mideast Track & Field Championships; Cheek finishes 3rd in Long Jump
After being the best competitor for the Cedar Ridge women’s cross country team last fall, Naomi Dyreng has become joined a group of impressive Red Wolves to win a regional championship in track and field.
On Friday, Dyreng won three championships at the 3A Mideast Regionals at Franklinton High School. Dyreng claimed the individual title in the 1,600 meters in 5:24.35, beating out Central Carolina Conference rival Catherine Parker of Eastern Alamance, who came in second at 5:27.48.
In the 3,200 meters, there were two Red Wolves who finished in the top three. Dyreng finished first at 12:01.11, six seconds ahead of Natalia Serre of Carrboro. Cedar Ridge’s Abigail Klaitman finished 3rd at 12:13.46.
Klaitman, another sophomore, also finished fourth in the 1,600 meters at 5:35.47.
Dyreng and Klaitman both qualified for the 3A State Championships, which will be held on Friday at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro.
In addition, Cedar Ridge’s 4×800 relay team, which is comprised of Dyreng, Klaitman, Serena Summers and Eliza Klaitman, pulled away with a strong anchor leg to win the regional title. The Red Wolves finished at 10:25.02. Union Pines finished 2nd at 10:39.02.
Cedar Ridge junior Typhany Cheek also qualified for the state championships in the long jump. Cheek had a leap of 16 feet, 3.50 inches, good enough for a third-place finish. Shamari Allen of Durham School of the Arts took the gold medal at 17-feet, three-inches.
Orange sophomore Iyauna Justice earned a spot in the state championships in the shot put. Justice finished fourth in regionals with a toss of 34-feet, seven inches. It will be Justice’s first appearance at the state championships.
In November, Dyreng finished 23rd in the 3A State Cross Country Championships at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex in Kernersville. She finished 2nd in the Central Carolina Conference Cross Country Championships at Lake Cammack Cross Country Course in Burlington. Her regional championships are the first she has ever won in cross country. In her freshman year, Dyreng played tennis but opted to focus on cross country and long distance running for her sophomore season.
Dyreng and the 4×800 relay team will attempt to bring Cedar Ridge another individual state championship in track and field. Last May, senior Caroline Fowlkes won the 3A State Championship in the pole vault in thrilling fashion. Fowlkes took the gold medal after a jump-off against West Carteret’s Alyssa Cooley when each competitor failed to clear 11-feet. Fowlkes is now on the Appalachian State track & field team.
There were other regional competitors for Orange and Cedar Ridge in the 3A Mideast Regionals. Dyreshia Farrish finished 12th in the 100 meter hurdle preliminaries with a time of 18.72 seconds.
Summers finished 8th in the 3,200 meters at 13:23.42. Eliza Klaitman, a freshman, finished ninth in the 1,600 meters at 6:15.03.
In the 800 meter finals, Orange sophomore Sophia Schultz finished seventh at 2:40.71.
There have been eight female state champions in track & field for Cedar Ridge. The last Red Wolf female to win a state title in a running competition was Lindsay Fuller, who won three gold medals at the 2A State Championships in 2009. Fuller won the the 100 meter dash at 12.44 seconds. She also claimed the 4×100 meter relay championships and the 4×200 meter relay in 2009.
Overall for her career, Fuller won five state championships for Cedar Ridge. She won the 100 meter dash state championship three times. As a sophomore, she won in 2007 at 12.27 seconds. The following year, Fuller finished first crossing the finish line at 12.44 seconds.
In 2003, Cedar Ridge’s Italie Murphy became the first female athlete from a Hillsborough high school to win a state championship. She won the 400 meters in the 2A State Championships. It was the first of three consecutive state championships for Murphy in the event.
Orange has never had a state champion in women’s track and field.
Orange’s Wyatt Hedrick & Cameron Guentensberger discuss miracle comeback win over Triton
It was the greatest comeback in Orange baseball history. The Panthers were down 8-3 after they surrendered five runs in the top of the 10th inning to Triton. But Orange rallied for an incredible six runs in the bottom-of-the-10th to win 9-8 in the 2nd round of the 3A State Playoffs. Wyatt Hedrick smacked the game-winning single to score Cameron Guentensberger. Earlier in the inning, with Orange trailing 8-3, Horton drew a one-out walk, which started the comeback. Horton eventually scored when Ryan Hench was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Guentensberger had an RBI single in the first inning. In the 10th, he smacked a two-run single to left field. Guentensberger finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs. He also picked up the win on the mound. Hedrick had his first career three-hit game. He finished 3-for-5 with an RBI. Hedrick has been a part-time starter for most of this season, but now appears likely to see more time at second base. Orange will look ahead to Cape Fear on Tuesday night in Hillsborough. The Colts defeated West Carteret in Morehead City. Orange is now 24-2. That’s the most wins for the team in a single season since the 2013 squad when Bryse Wilson was a freshman. It was a special day for the Guentensberger family. In Boone, Cameron’s brother Colin, a former Orange High right fielder, graduated from Appalachian State.
A Hillsborough miracle–Hedrick’s RBI single ends 6-run 10th as Orange pulls off classic comeback over Triton 9-8 in 10 innings
No rally caps. No hokey chants from the dugout. No pep talks.
Orange didn’t need any of that for the greatest comeback in the baseball’s team history on Friday night. They just needed a reminder of who they were and what they were playing for.
Even if the hole they were in couldn’t have been much darker or deeper.
Triton, who had only four losses all year, had just scored five runs in the tenth inning in the second round of the 3A State Playoffs. It appeared that Kenneth McCoy had delivered the death blow with a three-run triple that bounced into the right field corner. It put the Hawks up 8-4. Then centerfielder Wyatt Avery lined a single up the middle to score McCoy for extra measure.
It was the most runs Orange had given up in an inning all year.
It seemed like a certain ending to a successful season, but not in the Orange dugout. That’s where Ryan Hench and assistant coach Matt Roberts told the team things weren’t over—even if it took a miracle.
Roberts reminded the players the pressure wasn’t on them, it was on Triton.
Hench knew from experience. As a sophomore in 2021, he was the pitcher when Cedar Ridge led Orange 6-3 with the Panthers down to its last strike at Red Wolves Field. Hench drove in the game-tying double and Orange went on to score eleven runs in the seventh to win 13-6.
“You draw off of experiences like that,” said Orange coach Jason Knapp. “Ryan took over ownership after that in the dugout talking to players. That’s something I haven’t seen around here since I’ve been here. Seniors taking ownership. All of them.”
Two years later, the Panthers would chip away at seemingly insurmountable odds 90 feet at a time.
In the most dramatic way possible, junior Wyatt Hedrick became the unlikely hero. He lined a single up the middle with the bases loaded to bring in Cameron Guentensberger in front of a raucous crowd at Panther Field. The Panthers won 9-8 in ten innings to advance to the Round of 16 in the 3A State Playoffs. Orange scored six runs in the bottom of the tenth, its longest game since 2017.
“I didn’t think it was over,” Knapp said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I felt great. But we have watched ourselves be able to do stuff like that, especially on this field. We can erupt at any time with a big, crooked number. We knew the guy they were throwing had some good velocity, but we knew he could walk some games.”
Orange will face Cape Fear, the champions of the United Eight Conference, on Tuesday night in Hillsborough.
Wherever the Panthers go from here, Friday night will be the source of discussion for years to come at reunions and get togethers amongst the players and coaches, not only because it was a giant comeback in the playoffs, but also the sheer craziness of it all.
There was Garrett Sawyer, who hadn’t had a plate appearance all season, somehow batting cleanup in the 10th inning of a state playoff game. Or Hedrick, who had been a part-time starter behind Cross Clayton at second base, with his first career three-hit game. Or Henry Huffman, making his varsity debut after playing on the JV team the whole season, nearly scoring the game-wining run in the ninth.
The Panthers’ season was on life support several times. Triton broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh when leadoff man Jalen Evans scored off a single to right field by Braxton Davis.
Connor Nordan led off the seventh with a liner to left field. Elijah Santos came on to run for Nordan. Santos reached second and third base off consecutive wild pitches. Ryan Honeycutt sent a soft pop fly to shallow centerfield that dropped between Evans and Avery. Santos scored the game-tying run and Honeycutt reached second on the throw. After Ryan Horton was intentionally walked with one out, Neo Best flew out to Avery. Hedrick nearly won the game in the seventh, but Avery made a diving catch in center to extend the game into extra innings.
Nordan led off the ninth with a single to centerfield that somehow got past Avery to the centerfield fence. After Nordan got an extra base, Orange coach Jason Knapp gambled. He pinch-ran Huffman for Nordan to get a faster runner at second. That meant Nordan, who leads the team with 38 RBIs would leave the game permanently.
“That’s was a tough call,” Knapp said. “He gave me a hug after the game. I told him I felt like we needed to get a little more speed out there and try to end it. He was like ‘Coach, I love you and you did what you had to do.'”
Guentensberger drilled a single up the middle that appeared to be enough to win. Yet Avery threw a frozen rope to the plate, where catcher Anthony Jones tagged out Huffman and deny the game-winning run. Relief pitcher Tucker Brown struck out Honeycutt and Horton to send it to the tenth.
Orange appeared to run out of arms in the tenth. Jones got a leadoff walk. Xander Johnson laid down a bunt where Sawyer slipped while fielding it. Ross Stevens loaded the bases off another walk. Diminutive second baseman William Meredith got a bases-loaded walk to score Hayden Campbell, running for Jones, to put the Hawks ahead 4-3 and things were just getting going. McKoy pulled a fastball from Guentensberger, who replaced Sawyer, for a bases-clearing triple. Johnson, Stevens and Meredith all came in to make it 7-3. With still no outs, Avery singled to right field to bring in McCoy.
In retrospect, what seemed like a harmless sequence with Triton ahead 8-3 turned out to be monumental. After Evans doubled, Davis grounded out to Hedrick for the second out. Evans, running at second, took off for third thinking that Avery would try to score from third. Avery wound up in a rundown where Horton tagged him out at the plate for your basic 4-3-6-2 double play.
By that point, Triton probably didn’t care. It seemed they had a surplus of runs and were ready to start a joyous bus ride by to Erwin for a game that had already surpassed three hours.
Braxton Davis, who threw six innings on Tuesday night in the Hawks 12-2 win over Scotland County in the first round, started the tenth for Triton. He induced Neo Best to ground out to Stevens at first base.
Then six straight Panthers reached base.
Hedrick and Jackson Berini walked. David Waitt, who leads the team with 33 hits, drove a fastball into the outfield to load the bases. Hench got drilled on the left knee with a fastball for a run battered in to score Hedrick.
That left Sawyer, in his first plate appearance of the season, in a bizzaro world at-bat with the season on the line. Sawyer worked the count until he got ball four outside to score Berini. Guentensberger ripped a fastball to left field to score Waitt and Hench and reduce the Hawks lead to 8-7.
Triton coach David Reece called in Avery from centerfield to pitch. The Hawks got within one out of the win when Honeycutt flew out to Jones, who moved to right field.
Best, who led off the frame with a groundout, came up to bat 0-for-5. He stayed patient as Avery, who didn’t warm up in the bullpen before going into the game, walked up with ball four well outside of the plate. Sawyer scored amid the loudest crowd pop you’re likely to hear following a walk.
Hedrick returned to the plate, the 11th Panther to hit in the inning. On a 2-2 pitch, Hedrick smoked a liner to centerfield to complete the most miraculous comeback in school history. Guentensberger, who earned the win on the mound, touched the plate for the game-winning run as Triton players collapsed in shock.
Orange, whose last loss was on March 21 is now 24-3. They have now won 17 in a row, but no one in attendance on Friday night will ever forget the Panthers’ latest victory.