Jeff Hamlin

Orange’s Clayton named Central Conference Pitcher of the Year

After being a mainstay in the Orange baseball pitching rotation for three years, Cross Clayton earned an accolade attained only for the elite hurlers in school history.

A Conference Pitcher of the Year award.

Like Bryse Wilson and Ryan Hench before him, Clayton was named the Central Conference Pitcher of the Year following a vote of the league’s coaches. Clayton, who graduated last month, led the Panthers to its fourth consecutive conference title this season after Orange tied Southern Alamance with a 9-3 record. In the 3A State Playoffs, the Panthers would have the deepest run of any Central team, reaching the third round after an incredible comeback win over Cedar Ridge and a rout of Eastern Alamance.

Clayton became the first pitcher since Bryse Wilson to win 20 career games. He reached the milestone against Eastern Alamance on April 30 in Hillsborough. Clayton is only the third pitcher from Hillsborough in the past decade to reach 20 career wins. Cedar Ridge’s Phillip Berger, who graduated in 2019, holds the school record with 21 games. Berger went on to pitch four years at Division III William Peace University.

In his senior season, Clayton finished 6-2 with a 1.49 ERA. He led the team with 79 strikeouts with just nine walks. Through his career, getting ahead in the count became Clayton’s trademark. In a 4-1 win over Person on April 16, 80% of Clayton’s first pitches went for strikes. He finished with eleven strikeouts in a 4-1 win.

Clayton’s best performance of the year came against Walter Williams on April 9, when he threw a three-hit shoutout with seven strikeouts on just 78 pitches. In that game. his first pitch strike percentage was 69%.

For his career, Clayton had 173 strikeouts with 22 walks. He could have easily reached 20 wins earlier in his career, but he battled injuries throughout his junior season which became the theme for the entire Orange team for the 2023 season. He was limited to 29 innings but still had 43 strikeout in six pitching appearances. He finished with a 5-0 record and a 1.19 ERA. That included a compete game win over Lee County on April 12, 2023, where he struck out eight in a 4-1 win. Clayton needed only 88 pitches to earn the win. Clayton threw six shutout innings against Person on April 25, 2023, striking out a career-best 13 batters. He allowed just three hits in a 3-0 Orange win.

After spending his freshman year on the junior varsity team, Clayton earned a spot in the rotation on the varsity squad his sophomore year in Wilson during a 13-0 loss to Perquimans, a game that Orange coaches now look back on and laugh because it represented a turning point for the 2022 squad. Perquimans went on to win the 1A State Championship. A month after that loss, Clayton threw a five-inning perfect game against Cedar Ridge, a 16-0 Orange win that ensured the Central Conference championship. Clayton struck out four Red Wolves and got a Gatorade bath afterwards.

Clayton was also a reliable bat when he wasn’t pitching. In his final at-bat at Orange High Field, Clayton hit a three-run homer in a 19-1 win over Eastern Alamance in the second round of the state playoffs. In his last game in Hillsborough, Clayton went 3-for-3 with four RBIs with a double.

In his final game against Cedar Ridge, Clayton came to back with Orange down 4-0 in the seventh inning with two out. He lined an RBI double to the left field gap to score Wyatt Hedrick to score the first of seven runs in a 7-4 win.

Clayton hit .267 with six doubles and eleven runs scored. When he wasn’t on the mound, Clayton played second base with a few starts at shortstop.

Clayton will attend Gaston Community College to play baseball this fall. He will join his former teammate Jackson Berini, who just finished his freshman year.

After record breaking season, Orange lacrosse’s Kruse named All-American, wins HighSchoolOT Award

The long nights where Connor Kruse fired shots into an empty net long after practice ended have long since paid off for him.

Now, in the dearth of summer, comes the gravy.

Kruse, the all-time leading scorer in Orange lacrosse history, was named  an All-American by USA Lacrosse for the third time in his career. Last week, Kruse also was named the winner for Best Offensive Lacrosse Player. Kruse became the first Orange lacrosse player to win a award, which is determined by online voting.

Kruse’s extraordinary final chapter at Orange, the greatest individual season in school lacrosse history, predictably led to a slew of postseason honors from coaches in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Kruse was named to the All-Conference team, one of seven players who earned a spot on the squad. He was also named to the All-State team for the third time by the North Carolina Coaches Lacrosse Association. He is the first player in the history of Hillsborough to make the All-State team three times. He also made the All-Region team for the third time. He was second-team All-Region as a freshman.

Kruse became the first Orange player to score over 200 points in a season. He registered 72 goals, which is five short of his own single-season record of 77, set in 2022.

On March 25, Kruse tied the national record for most assists in a game when he racked up 16 in a 18-5 win over Southern Alamance in Graham. He set the school record for most assists in a season with 130.

Kruse was the spark plug behind an Orange team that had the greatest season in school history. The Panthers won the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship for the first time ever, beating Croatan 14-9 at Auman Stadium on May 13. They advanced to the State Championship match, where Lake Norman Charter claimed its third consecutive crown at Durham County Memorial Stadium.

Kruse paced Orange to its fourth consecutive league championship, outscoring opposition 298-54 in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Orange had a school-record 24 wins with its only regular season loss coming against Holly Springs, a 4A team.

A starter since his freshman year, Kruse actually made history before he even put on an Orange uniform. He started for Stanford Middle School in a game against Roxboro Community School in Person County in March 2000, scoring the opening goal seconds after winning the face-off in an easy Charger victory. It was the final game before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which shut down middle school athletics across Orange County for 18 months. It was also the final game in the storied history of Stanford athletics before the Orange County School Board mandated the school be rebranded to Orange Middle.

Once high school sports emerged from the slog of the pandemic, Orange coach Chandler Zirkle immediately stuck Kruse, as a freshman, on the front unit with veterans Ryan Merrill, Caleb Davis and Cy Horner. The Panthers won its first-ever conference title and reached the state quarterfinals, upsetting Northwood along the way. From that point forward, the balance of power in local lacrosse shifted away from the Chapel Hill-based schools and directly to Hillsborough.

After Merrill, Horner and Davis graduated, Kruse took control of the offense his sophomore season. He set a school-record of 77 goals and 139 points as the Panthers finished 11-0 in league play.

In 2022 and 2023, Orange hosted the Eastern Regional Championship games. In his junior year, Kruse scored 69 goals and 150 points, leading Orange to an undefeated conference regular season.

Last December, Kruse signed with Lenoir-Rhyne University, which reached the Division II National Championship game in May. In 2023, Lenoir-Rhyne won its first national championship game.

Kruse and his cousin, swimmer Katie Belle Sikes, formed a tandem that led to unprecedented success in their respective sports at Orange. In February, Sikes was named the Most Outstanding Swimmer of the 3A State Championships for the second time in her career. Sikes, who will swim at the University of Georgia, claimed five individual state championships and three relay state titles, the first Orange female swimmer to win a state championship.

Alumni Update: Davidson goes to Italy to play in WBSC Softball World Cup this week

Mia Davidson: This week, Davidson will suit up for Team USA in the World Baseball Softball Confederation Softball World Cup Finals in Castions di Strada, Italy. The Americans will open against Canada on Monday at noon. Davidson continues to play for Denso Bright Pegasus in Japan’s Diamond League, where she starts regularly as catcher. She is hitting .189 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. The second half of the Japanese season starts September 7. The Bright Pegasus went 8-10 in the opening half of its season. After Davidson returns from Italy, she will resume play in Athletes Unlimited to round out the summer. It will be Davidson’s third season with Athletes Unlimited.

Ivy Garner: The North Carolina Courage U-23 women’s soccer team will host the championship game of the United Soccer W League next week at the WRAL Soccer Complex in Cary. On Saturday, the Courage defeated the Tennessee United Soccer Club 2-1 in added extra time during the W League’s semifinals. Garner, who spent her freshman season at Cedar Ridge High School before she transferred to Eno River Academy for her final three years, scored a goal in the quarterfinals against the Long Island Roughridgers, which the Courage won 3-0 on July 7. In the opening game of the W League Playoffs, Garner added another goal as the Courage whitewashed the North Carolina Fusion 7-nil. Garner helped Liberty University win the Conference USA Tournament championship last season, finishing with six goals and four assists in 20 games.

Bryse Wilson: The Milwaukee Brewers continue to lead the National League Central Division with a 54-42 record going into Saturday. They’re four games ahead of St. Louis. After starting games in May and June, Wilson has returned to the bullpen thus far in July. This season, he has a 5-3 record with a 4.12 ERA and 66 strikeouts. On Friday, Wilson threw one shutout inning with one strikeouts in a 5-2 loss to the Washington Nationals. Wilson had a no-decision. On June 25, Wilson earned the win in a game against the defending World Champion Texas Rangers 3-1 at American Family Ballpark. Wilson threw six shutout innings, allowing only three hits and striking out seven. On June 15, Wilson earned a 3-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. In five-plus innings, Wilson allowed three hits with zero runs, six strikeouts and two walks.

Ryan Hench: After redshirting this spring for the University of North Carolina baseball team, Hench is spending this summer playing for the Burlington Sock Puppets of the Appalachian League. Over six games, Hench is 1-3 with a 5.47 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 20 walks. Through July 13, Hench has thrown a team-high 24.2 innings. Hench earned his first win against the Sri-City Coal Cats 2-1 on June 22. He there five innings, striking out eight. He allowed four hits and just one run.

Joey Berini: Last month, Berin’s career with East Carolina came to a heartbreaking end when Evansville defeated the Pirates 6-5 at Clarke-LeClair Stadium in game seven of the Greenville Regional. In his final game with the Pirates, Berini started at shortstop. East Carolina, the #16 national seed, finished the year as the American Athletic Conference regular season champions with a 46-17 record. Berini, whose senior year at Orange was abbreviated to four games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, finished his final season starting all 63 games, one of only five Pirates to play in every game. He hit .225 with four home runs and 36 RBIs. In his ECU career, Berini won four AAC regular season titles.

Dante DeFranco: In its first season in the AAC, the Charlotte 49ers baseball team finished 27-37. They were eliminated by Florida Atlantic in the AAC Tournament in Clearwater Florida in May. DeFranco, who played there years at Cedar Ridge before transferring to Orange for his senior year, hit .259 in 55 games this season. He had one home run and 18 RBIs.

Cedar Ridge baseball’s Cates, Finnegan, McGuffey, and Aitkin named to All-Central Conference team

Following a season where the Cedar Ridge baseball team made the state playoffs for the third straight year, four Red Wolves were named to the All-Central Conference team.

Senior pitcher/utility man Mason Cates, junior Quinn Finnegan, sophomores Nick Aitkin and Ian McGuffey were honored after a vote of Central Conference coaches.

Cates, who committed to Catawba Valley Community College last winter, opened the Central Conference season by earning a win over Walter Williams in Burlington on March 12. Cates threw five innings with five strikeouts as the Red Wolves defeated the Bulldogs 7-6. In addition, Cates had an RBI single in the fourth inning. In the first inning, he had an RBI triple that reached the right field gap as Cedar Ridge stormed out to a 2-0 lead.

Cates also earned the save in a win at Chapel hill on April 24.

Against Orange in the state playoffs on May 7, Cates slammed a two-run homer over the centerfield fence that gave the Red Wolves a lead that would carry through for almost the entire night. Cates final game as a Red Wolf was one of his very best. he went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. In addition, Cates had a two-run double in the opening inning of a 15-5 win over Jordan-Matthews on March 13.

Cedar Ridge was one of only two teams from the Central Conference to beat Williams in Burlington this season.

Finnegan, in his third year as a starter, earned the save against Williams. He threw four shutout innings in a win over Chapel Hill at Tiger Field in April. Finnegan, who often started in right field when he wasn’t pitching, laced an RBI double. Later, John Grove would drive Finnegan in for a 3-2 win. It was a victory that paved the way to a six-game winning streak to conclude the regular season.

Against Eastern Alamance on April 19, Finnegan had a season-high five RBIs  in a 12-6 win in Mebane.

Ian McGuffey hit a walkoff single to help Cedar Ridge defeat Person March 19 in Hillsborough. The Red Wolves trailed 4-1 going into the seventh inning, but Cedar Ridge rallied to hand Person what was its first loss of the season. McGuffey wound up earning the win on the mound, striking out four over two shutout innings.

On Senior night against Western Alamance on April 26, McGuffey earned another win on the mound, allowing only two hits across six-plus innings as the Red Wolves defeated the Warriors 3-1. McGuffey also drove in Cedar Ridge’s opening run with an RBI line drive single down the left field line. In a 13-5 win over Carrboro on May 1, McGuffey had two RBIs.

Aitkin, the younger brother of former Cedar Ridge three-sport athlete Olivia Aitkin, threw three-and-one-thirds innings of shutout baseball in a 2-1 win over Western Alamance in nine innings at Elon. Aitkin, who played regularly as a freshman, often started at shortstop. Aitkin also scored the first run in the state playoff win over Orange during the Cates home run. Aitkin filled many roles for a Cedar Ridge team that made the state playoffs in a deep league. All seven teams from the Central Conference made the state playoffs.

After a disappointing start to April, Cedar Ridge rebounded and played its best baseball of the season during May. The Red Wolves started to turn the tide with its victory over Eastern Alamance on April 19, its third straight win over the Eagles in Mebane. From there, Cedar Ridge swept a two-game series against Western Alamance, including a marathon win in Elon that went ten innings. In the final week of the regular season, they defeated Carrboro, who claimed the #12 seed in the state playoffs, and Knightdale.


Orange seniors Kruse, Cathey, Van Praag, Wolter & Crabtree to play in Tony Cullen Classic

After playing 26 games in the past three months, seniors on the Orange lacrosse team have logged plenty of minutes together.

Later today, they will take their final bow in the most famed lacrosse stadium in North Carolina.

Connor Kruse, Alden Cathey, Sascha Van Praag and Josh Crabtree will suit up in the Tony Cullen Classic All-Star game at Koskinen Stadium at Duke University in Durham tonight.

In addition, Katie Wolter will become the first player from Hillsborough to play in the women’s game, which starts at 3PM. After serving as Orange’s goalkeeper playing against men her entire career, Wolter will play in the women’s game for the Blue team.

The game includes lacrosse seniors from throughout the state and includes ten players who competed in men’s state championship games two weeks ago at Durham County Stadium.

In addition, Orange head coach Chandler Zirkle will serve as a head coach for the first time. Zirkle will coach the White team, which includes Kruse and Cathey. Zirkle, who typically serves in a behind the scenes role for the All-Star game, just led the Panthers to its most successful season in school history with a 24-2 record, capturing the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship for the first time.

The game is named in honor of Tony Cullen, a former Duke player and head coach who still holds the school record with eight assists in one game. He scored 220 career points and went on to serve as a head coach at Duke from 1982-1990. Afterwards, he served as a college official for 12 years.

Kruse, who will attend Lenoir-Rhyne next fall, is finishing the most accomplished career in Orange lacrosse history and will be the standard that future players will be compared with. He set the single-season school record 75 goals and 213 points as Orange won its fourth consecutive Mid-Carolina Conference championship. On March 25, Kruse tied the national record with 16 assists in a 18-5 win over Southern Alamance in Graham.

Cathey was a part of two regional championship team in men’s cross country in 2021 and 2023. He has been a member of the varsity since the pandemic-shortened season in 2021. This year, he led Orange with 58 turnovers created and 136 ground balls. In his final regular season game against Northwood, Cathey had 13 ground balls, a season-high, as the Panthers won 14-3 in Pittsboro to complete an undefeated regular season.

Van Praag, a native of the Netherlands, joined Cathey, Kale & Jace Womble and Drew Jouannet on a fierce defensive front the past three years. Van Praag was in elementary school with Wolter, Kruse, Josh Cowan and Josh Merill, all of whom are seniors who will graduate next month. This season, Van Praag had 75 ground balls and 49 turnovers created. He was named to the All-Conference team and will join Kruse at Lenoir-Rhyne next sesaon.

Crabtree finished with 38 goals this season and scored the opening goal for Orange against Lake Norman Charter, the Panthers’ first-ever goal in a state championship game. He had five hat tricks this season, including three goals against Carrboro in the state quarterfinals on May 7 at Auman Stadium. Crabtree’s season-high was four goals in a win over Western Alamance on April 23. He will play at Methodist University in Fayetteville next year.

Cathey will join Kruse on the White team, while Van Praag and Crabtree are on the Blue team.

Wolter has been Orange’s main goalkeeper for the past three years. Each season, Orange hosted the Eastern Regional championship game. Katie earned her own fan section for Orange home games. Each time she made a save, her family would raise a banner that reads “Play Like a Girl.” Wolter made over 300 saves in her Orange career, but this afternoon’s game will be the first time she has played against other women. Wolter will play women’s lacrosse at Elon University next February.

The game is a benefit for the Duke Cancer Institute. Donations can be made by going to the All-Star game website . 



Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Nikhil Agans

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior swimmer Nikhil Agans. In February, Agans finished seventh in the 200 yard freestyle during the 3A State Swimming Championships at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary. Agans also finished eighth in the 100 yard freestyle. In January, Agans won two Central Conference Championships at the Orange County Sportsplex. He earned the gold medal in the 100 yard freestyle, setting the school record of 1:51.70. He also teamed with Phillip Cauwels, Jacob Olmstead and Christopher Seawell to win the 200 yard freestyle relay. In 2023, Agans finished fifth in the 100 yard freestyle in the 3A State Championships. In February, Agans finished third in the 200 yard freestyle at the Central Regional Championships in the Greensboro Aquatic Center. He also finished third in the 100 freestyle. Agans has been the most consistent male swimmer for Cedar Ridge swimming the past four years, qualifying for the state championships three times. He has made All-Central Conference each of the past three years. In 2023, Agans won the conference championship in the 200 freestyle He broke two school records during his stint with the Red Wolves. Nikhil will graduate next month during a ceremony at Red Wolves Stadium after making his mark in the swimming pool for four years.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Nikhil Agans

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Price scores eight goals to lead Lake Norman Charter past Orange 16-7 to win 3A/2A/1A State Lacrosse Championship; Kruse scores four points in final game

Photo by Jacques Morin 

DURHAM–If the 3A/2A/1A Men’s State Lacrosse game boiled down to crown interest, Orange would have won going away.

Orange fans came out in large numbers to Durham County Stadium on May 18 to watch the Panthers play for the state championship in lacrosse for the first time in school history.

But Orange wasn’t just battling the two-time defending State Champions in Lake Norman Charter. They were trying to overthrow history.

Since the North Carolina High School Athletic Association split the public school state championships into two classifications, the Western region team has won the 3A/2A/1A State Championship eight consecutive times, split between Lake Norman Charter, Weddington (3) and Marvin Ridge (2). In that span, the average margin of victory has been eleven goals.

While Orange had thrilling moments early and even led with 2:10 remaining in the first half, the Knights threw wave after wave of humanity against the Panthers to thwart any hopes of an upset.

Junior Tyler Price scored seven goals, opening the second half with four consecutive goals, as Lake Norman Charter defeated Orange 16-7 to win its third consecutive state championship. Price, who finished with ten points, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. Senior Jack Dalton added three goals for Lake Norman Charter (15-7), who won three consecutive road games to win the state championship.

Orange’s Connor Kruse, the all-time leading scorer in school history, fittingly scored Orange’s final goal of the greatest season in team history. Sophomore Brandon Williams forced a turnover against Knights’ goalkeeper Noah McGovern. Williams picked the ball off the FieldTurf surface and fed it to Kruse, who fired it into an empty net for his 244th career goal, his 74th of the season, another school record.

“I think it was very possible for us to win today,” said Orange coach Chandler Zirkle, who led the team to a school record 24 wins this season. “Things didn’t go out way when we needed to get a break. They’re goalie played great. We took some shots that kind of dictated some turnovers to them. We don’t normally do that. They are too talented offensively to not score on the opportunities we gave them.”

There was hope early. Despite the Bimbe Music Festival sending thundering bass booms across the street, it didn’t seem to bother the Orange fans who cheered the Panthers every move in the first half. The Knights held Orange scoreless for the opening 4:28 as Dalton and Price opened with tallies to put LNC ahead 2-0.

Then Orange held the Knights without a goal for the subsequent 17 minutes and 24 seconds. Orange senior defenders Sascha Van Praag, Alden Cathey, Jace and Kale Womble all created turnovers. Senior Josh Crabtree scored Orange’s first goal in a state championship game on a simple overhand from 15 yards away following a restart. After LNC’s Landon Foushee was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Kruse tied the game with a man-up goal following a pass from Williams, evening the game at 2-2 with 4:02 remaining in the first quarter.

“Our fans did a remarkable job,” Zirkle said. “I took a picture of them before the game and they were all over the place. It felt like a home game.”

Junior Gray Crabtree gave Orange its only lead of the game with 6:39 remaining in the first half on another man-advantage goal, assisted by Kruse. It came after Dalton was called for offsides. From that point forward, McGovern shut down the Orange offense, making 12 saves. Orange went 18:46 without a goal, not scoring until sophomore faceoff man Matthew Macneir scored off a pass from Brett Clark to open the fourth quarter.

Between those two points, it was mostly Tyler Price. Following a man-up goal by the Knights from Stevie Parker to tie the game, Price put the Knights in the lead with an unassisted tally with 1:23 remaining in the first half. Then LNC scored seven unanswered goals in the third quarter. Price netted the opening four, including three in a span of 2:51. a tidal wave of offense that has been common for the Knights during its run to three straight state titles.

For Orange’s eleven seniors who were so instrumental in building the program, their final quarter wasn’t all doom and gloom, though the skies got darker and the rain started to fall as the game wound to a close. The Panthers’ starting goalkeeper, Parker Christie-Pohl, played strong in the first half. He was replaced in the final minutes by Katie Wolter, who made over 300 career saves and earned a win in net over Carrboro in the state quarterfinals.

Josh Cowan scored his final goal, the 29th of his season, with 9:35 remaining to cut the Knights lead down to 12-6. Michael Lindsey and Jacob Carlascio managed the game’s final goals for LNC.

As the hundreds of Orange supporters lingered outside of the home team’s dressing room along the main concourse, a significant portion of Orange’s lacrosse history quietly closed. A group that won four conference championships and put the sport on the map in northern Orange County all took off their Panthers uniforms for the last time.

They were part of Orange going from a team to a program, something that wasn’t lost on Zirkle.

“This was the best senior class we’ve had,” Zirkle said. “We’ve had some really great senior classes, but this group was phenomenal. At this time last year, I talked with this senior class about how to get to the next step and get to this game. It’s really cool to know we did that.”


Softball Alumni Update: Dalehite ends career at UNCG in Southern Conference Tournament

Tori Dalehite: UNC Greensboro ended its season one game short of reaching the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans lost to Chattanooga 5-0 in the Southern Conference championship game at UNCG Softball Stadium in Greensboro. In her final game, Dalehite had an RBI off a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning that narrowed the Mocs lead to 4-2. She also scored in the seventh inning off a single by Brooklyn Maxwell. Dalehite started all four games in the Southern Conference Tournament, including the opener where she scored a run off a bases-loaded walk in the first inning in a 13-5 win over Samford. This season, Dalehite was third on the team with a .302 batting average. She played in 51 games, starting 42. She finished with four home runs and 22 RBIs. Dalehite ends her career with 123 games played, a .250 batting average. Dalehite reached the NCAA Tournament in her freshman year. She will start work at Emerge Orthopedic while applying to physical therapy school next fall.

Mia Davidson-Smith: The all-time leading home run hitter in Southeastern Conference history is in her first season with the Denso Bright Pegasus of Japan’s Diamond Softball League, the most storied professional softball league in the world. Through 12 games, Davidson is hitting .241 with two home runs and six RBIs. Denso is in fifth place in the East District with a 6-8 record. The Pegasus are five games behind the Bic Camera Takasaki Bee Queen for first place. Davidson will also participate in Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby X this summer. The competition will have teams competing in groups of three, with each team featuring a former Major League star, a women’s baseball player or softball player and a local baseball player. Home Run Derby X will start in Fort Wayne, IN on August 10, Alburquerque, NM on August 23, Nashville, TN on August 31, and Durham Athletic Park on September 7th. However, Davidson won’t play on the Durham date because she will return to Japan at that point.

Carson Bradsher: Bradsher was the only former Hillsborough product to reach the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament this year. South Carolina Upstate won the Big South Tournament and was sent to the Tuscaloosa Regional, where the Spartans lost to Alabama and Clemson. This season, Bradsher played in 12 games and went 3-for-4 with six runs scored. South Carolina Upstate went 30-23, 13-5 in the Big South. The Spartans defeated Winthrop to win the Big South championship.

Takia Nichols: North Carolina Central came up just short of winning its second straight Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship. Morgan State eliminated the Eagles in an elimination game on May 10 in Norfolk, VA. Central finished the year 20-36, 14-7 in the MEAC. Nichols, a rising junior, played in 40 games. She started 34 and hit .282 with one home run and eight RBIs.

Lauren Jackson: The Lenior-Rhyne Bears reached the Division II Women’s College World Series for the first time ever this season. The Bears’ season came to an end on Wednesday when they fell to the University of Texas-Tyler 5-2 at Soldier’s Creek Park in Longwood, FL. The Bears won the Southeast Regional championship, beating Wingate in three games in a best-of-three series. This season, Jackson played in 32 games, starting 20. She hit .241 with two home runs and nine RBIs.

Ava Lowry: The Division III North Carolina Wesleyan softball team ended the season 22-19, 11-7 in the USA South Conference. After a third place finish in the USA South, the Battling Bishops were eliminated in two games in the conference tournament. In the final game of the season against Greensboro, Lowry went 3-for-3 with a double, but the Pride won 3-0. Lowry hit .302 this season. Starting all 29 games she played, Lowry had one home runs and 16 RBIs.

Kelsey Tackett: In her first season with N.C. Wesleyan, Tackett played in two games.

Grace Andrews: Carolina University’s season ended in the South Region of the National Christian College Athletic Association South Region Tournament in Augusta, GA on May 9. The University of Fort Lauderdale defeated the Bruins 5-0 to end the season. Andrews started at shortstop in all four games in the regional. In a 9-0 win over Trinity Baptist on May 8, Andrews went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a double. Andrews hit a home run, which turned out to be the game-winner, in the Bruins 5-4 win over Paine College on May 7. Andrews’ two-run blast in the fifth put Carolina ahead 5-2. Andrews, a junior, hit .356 this season, which was the fourth-highest average on the team. She had two home runs and 19 RBIs. Carolina finished 24-20 this season.

Breezy Foster: The Wake Tech softball team finished the year 15-22, 11-16 in Region X of the National Junior College Athletic Association. Foster played 33 games and had a .149 batting average with five RBIs. The win total was a eight-game improvement from last year, when Wake Tech went 7-27. The 15-22 record was the best mark for Wake Tech since records started being kept by the school in 2016.