There will be a sense of what might have been for the Orange softball team as they go into the state playoffs.

They won its first eleven games against 3A competition, including sweeping the defending Eastern Regional champions Western Alamance. They were one win away from the Central Conference title, but lost its final four regular season games.

Even after the Lady Panthers fell out of first place in a loss to Southern Alamance, they got a reprieve when Eastern Alamance stunned the Patriots. It set up a showdown in Mebane last Thursday where if Orange won, they would claim the regular season title.

The Eagles, on its senior night, scored the game-winning run in the sixth inning after Kayden Manning left off with a double that hit the top of the centerfield fence. Taylor Byrd sent another fly ball to center, which was captured by Hayleigh Hammond, but she fell down as she retrieved it. McKenzie Blevins, running for Manning, tagged up from second and took two bases on a sacrifice fly to score the game-winning throw without a throw to the plate.

Eastern Alamance, who trailed Orange by two games for first place on April 22 with three conference games remaining, wound up tying Southern Alamance for a share of the Central Conference title. Southern Alamance will be the #1 seed from the conference going into the state playoffs after winning a coin toss against Eastern Alamance.

Orange will still get a home game for the opening round of the state playoffs. They will open against C.B. Aycock on Tuesday night in Hillsborough. Orange received a #11 seed. The winner of Orange/Acycock will face either South Johnson or West Carteret in the second round on Friday night.

Most likely, it will be the final Orange home game for pitcher Caden Robinson and designated hitter Mia Leathers. Robinson is the leading hitter for the Lady Panthers with a .551 batting average. She leads the team is almost every offensive category with a .551 batting average, 34 runs scored, 38 hits, 31 RBIs, 16 doubles and five home runs. Robinson has committed to play at Averett University.

The Golden Falcons finished second in the Quad County Conference behind South Johnston, the #3 seed in the East Region. Aycock will arrive into Hillsborough with a 12-9 overall record and wins in its last four games, including a 12-11 victory over South Central in its regular season finale.

The coin toss that Southern Alamance won likely kept anxiety levels down considerably across Hillsborough on Tuesday night. If Eastern Alamance has won, it would have been Cedar Ridge facing Orange in the state playoffs.

Instead of traveling across town, the Red Wolves will head to Cameron to face Union Pines. Cedar Ridge received a #19 seed. The winner of Union Pines/Cedar Ridge will take on either Southern Alamance or Franklinton on Friday night.

The Red Wolves go into the playoffs for the third straight year with momentum. Last week, Cedar Ridge junior Kimber Shambley whacked a walkoff home run in the seventh inning to beat Western Alamance 7-6 on Senior Night in Hillsborough.

Shambley, who has committed to play at Western Carolina, leads the team with eight home runs, 34 RBIs, and 28 runs scored. Second baseman Mia Best leads the Red Wolves with 32 hits and ten doubles and is only behind Shambley with a .457 batting average.

Cedar Ridge, 12-7-1, will likely start pitcher Charlotte Lowry. This season, Lowry has won six games and has registered 97 strikeouts with only 25 walks.

Union Pines finished 9-3 in the Sandhills Conference, good enough for second place behind Scotland County. The Vikings lost three conference games, two to Scotland County and the other to Southern Lee in Sanford.

Six teams from the Central Conference made the field of 64 for the state playoff. Three will have home games in the opening round of the playoffs .Eastern Alamance faces Croatan in Mebane.

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