Cedar Ridge Softball

Alumni Update: Nichols named MEAC Freshman of the Week

Takia Nichols: Nichols earned her first college weekly honor by the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference this week. She was named the MEAC Freshman of the Week following North Carolina Central’s two-game sweep of Maryland Eastern Shore at Thomas Brooks Park in Cary. On Saturday, the Eagles rallied to win 7-6 with four runs in the bottom of the sixth. Nichols delivered a three-run homer to centerfield to score the game-winning runs with one out. It was her second home run of the game. In the third, Nichols hit a solo homer to right centerfield. In the second game of the doubleheader, Nichols went 1-for-2 as the Eagles defeated the Hawks 9-1 in six innings. It was Central’s first run-rule win of the season. Sunday’s game was halted in the fifth inning with the score tied 3-3. On Wednesday, Appalachian State swept a doubleheader from the Eagles at Parkwood Athletic Field in Durham. In the second game, which the Mountaineers won 7-3, Nichols went 2-for-3. She is already batting cleanup for a Central squad that leads the MEAC with 25 home runs in 27 games. Central is 5-0 in the MEAC.

Ava Lowry: Lowry is regularly starting at shortstop for the Division III North Carolina Wesleyan softball team, which is off to a 15-8 start. On Wednesday, the Battling Bishops swept a doubleheader against Guilford at Howorth Field in Greensboro. In Wesleyan’s 6-1 win in the opener, Lowry went 1-for-3 with an RBI. In the nightcap, which Wesleyan won 9-1, Lowry went 1-for-4 with a double. Pfeifer swept Wesleyan in a doubleheader last Saturday. In the opening game, Lowry went 2-for-3. On March 18, the Batting Bishops swept a doubleheader from Averett by scores of 10-2 and 17-9. In the opener, Lowry went 2-for-3 with a run scored. In the nightcap, she finished 1-for-2 with an RBI. Lowry has played in 24 games and is hitting .318 with two home runs and eleven RBIs. She is fourth on the team with 21 hits. She also has eleven RBIs.

Mary Moss Wirt: Wirt appeared as a pinch-runner for Elon and scored a run in the Phoenix’s 4-3 win over Monmouth on March 19 at Monmouth Softball Park in West Long Branch, NJ. Wirt also played in the Phoenix’s 6-2 victory over Monmouth. Elon is 13-17 overall, 7-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Tori Dalehite: On Wednesday, UNC Greensboro’s softball team defeated Charlotte 4-2 at Daughtridge Stadium in Charlotte. Dalehite appeared as a pinch-runner. On March 19, Dalehite appeared as a designated player in the Spartans 5-3 win over Gardner-Webb. UNC Greensboro has won nine in a row as they head into next week’s midweek game at UNC.

Lauren Jackson: On Wednesday, Jackson faced her former teammate at Orange High as Lenoir-Rhyne faced Catawba. Jackson went 1-for-1 as a pinch-hitter, but Catawba defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 7-5. Jaden Hurdle suited up for Catawba. On March 24, Jackson again appeared as a pinch-hitter and had a base hit as the Bears defeated Coker 7-5 in Saleeby Stokes Field. Jackson has played in 27 games, starting 22 of them. She is hitting .333 with one home run and 15 RBIs.

Olivia Aitkin: The Division III Amherst College softball team started its season March 12. The Mammoths are 13-3. Aitkin started in right field in her first college game and finished 2-for-2 in a 6-2 loss to Bethel University at Fortune Road Complex in Kissimmee, FL. Amherst rebounded to win five in a row. Aitkin went 1-for-3 in a 8-0 win over Kenyon College in five innings. She had an RBI sacrifice fly in a 16-0 victory over the University of New England. Against Carleton College, Aitkin had an RBI single as a pinch-hitter as Amherst won 12-1 in five innings. Aitkin has played in eight games, starting five of them. She is hitting .385 with three RBIs.

Grace Andrews: On Wednesday, the Catawba Valley Community College softball team swept a doubleheader from Cleveland Community College in Shelby. In the nightcap, Andrews went 3-for-5 with three runs scored as the Red Hawks won 15-3 in five innings. Catawba Valley won the opener 8-0. On Monday, Louisburg College, ranked #5 in Division III of the National Junior College Athletic Association, swept a doubleheader from the Red Hawks at Highland Recreation Center in Hickory. In a 11-10 loss to the Hurricanes, Andrews hit a solo homer in the fourth inning. She also drove in a run off a bases-loaded walk. Andrews finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Louisburg won the opening game 3-1, where Andrews went 1-for-3. Andrews is the leading hitter for Catawba Valley with a .427 average through 30 games. Catawba Valley is 24-6 overall, 11-3 in Region X of the NJCCA.


Cedar Ridge Red Wolves of the Week: Cierra and Cameron Copeland

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolves of the Week are Cameron and Cierra Copeland. Since the time they started at Cedar Ridge, Cierra and Cameron have been unsung heroes for the athletic program. During the thrones of the COVID-19 pandemic, when fans weren’t allowed to attend games and basketball games were sometimes canceled in just a few hours notice, Cierra and Cameron were the backbone of the 2021 Cedar Ridge women’s basketball team. Often, the Red Wolves suited up only five players to play deeper teams. But that didn’t let that stop them from constantly competing. Last December, Cierra and Cameron both played as Cedar Ridge defeated Person to end a 39-game conference losing streak. Cierra and Cameron have also been managers for the Cedar Ridge volleyball team, which won the 2021 3A State Championship, the 2021 and 2022 Central Carolina Conference regular season and tournament championships. Currently, Cierra and Cameron are playing for the Cedar Ridge softball team, which are 7-4 and will resume its season against Falls Lake on Tuesday in Hillsborough.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Reagan Simmons

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is sophomore catcher Reagan Simmons. Through nine games this season, Simmons is second on the team with a .545 batting average. She leads the team with 14 runs and is second on the squad with 12 hits. She also leads the team with two home runs. Simmons started as a freshman last year and also played basketball. Playing extensively in 2022, she learned alongside seniors Takia Nichols, Ava Lowry and Olivia Aitkin, all of whom provided a valuable lesson in leadership. Among the highlights this season for Simmons is going 3-for-3 with an RBI single in a 9-7 win over Cardinal Gibbons in Hillsborough; going 2-for-4 with an RBI single in a 14-4 win over Northern Durham; and going 2-for-4 while scoring three runs against Seaforth in a 23-1 Red Wolves victory. Simmons has played youth softball since she was an adolescent. With Kimber Shambley and Charlotte Lowry, Simmons provides a youthful front that aims to propel Cedar Ridge back to the top of the Central Carolina Conference. Cedar RIdge travels to Eastern Alamance, the defending 3A State Champions, tonight in Mebane for its final game before spring break. First pitch is at 6PM.


Cedar Ridge softball’s Kimber Shambley & Charlotte Lowry discuss win over Northwood

The Cedar RIdge softball team claimed a pair of wins last week over teams from Chatham County. On Wednesday, Cedar RIdge rolled past Seaford 23-1 in Pittsboro., Sophomore Kimber Shambley hit her first home run as a Red Wolves with a two-run blast in the fourth inning. Shambley went 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Another sophomore, Charlotte Lowry, went 1-for-2 with a single. On Friday, the Red Wolves defeated Northwood 6-4 in Hillsborough. Lowry started as the pitcher and threw a complete game to earn the win. She is the younger sister of former Cedar Ridge shortstop Ava Lowry, who is now playing with North Carolina Wesleyan. Shambley, Lowry, Reagan Simmons and freshman Mia Best make up the core of a young Cedar RIdge team playing in a deep Central Carolina Conference. Freshmen Laci Sykes and Victoria Matthews have also seen time early on this season as the Red Wolves are off to a 6-2 start. Cedar RIdge will host crosstown rival Orange on Tuesday night. You can hear that game on Hillsboroughsports.com.


Alumni Update: Nichols homers in NCCU’s win over N.C. State

Takia Nichols: On March 8, the North Carolina Central softball team defeated N.C. State 10-3 at Dail Stadium in Raleigh in the second game of a doubleheader. Nichols launched a two-run homer to right field in the first inning. In the third inning, Nichols lined a double up the middle to score two runs. Nichols went 2-for-3 with four RBIs. In the opening game, N.C. State defeated the Eagles 19-9. Nichols, a freshman, started at 1st base and went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run scored. Over the weekend, Gardner-Webb swept a three-game series from Central in Boiling Springs. In the opening game of the series on Friday, Nichols went 1-for-4 with an RBI. On Sunday, Nichols went 1-for-2 with an RBI double. In 17 games, Nichols has started 15. She is hitting .244 with three home runs and eleven RBIs. Central won its first game of the season on March 3 with an 5-4 win in nine innings over Furman in the Campbell Stampede in Buies Creek. Nichols hit a three-run homer in the first inning. She drove in the walkoff run on a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning.

Mary Moss Wirt: Over the weekend, the Elon softball team swept Stony Brook in a three-game series at Hunt Softball Park in Elon. Wirt played on Friday and Sunday as a pinch-runner. On March 4-6, Wirt actually competed against a former Cedar Ridge player in Tori Dalehite when Elon faced UNC Greensboro. swept the three-game series. On March 4, Wirt started as catcher and went 1-for-3 with two runs scored. Elon is 9-14 overall, 3-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Tori Dalehite: Over the weekend, the UNC Greensboro softball team competed in the Clemson Classic in South Carolina. The Spartans defeated Jacksonville 3-0 on Friday. Clemson, ranked #4 in the country, shutout the Spartans 3-0, also on Friday. Bryant University edged UNCG 7-6. Dalehite played as a pinch-runner. UNCG is 14-11 and will host Notre Dame on Wednesday.

Lauren Jackson: The Division II Lenoir-Rhyne softball team is 20-3 after sweeping a doubleheader from #24 Anderson in Anderson, S.C. on Saturday. In the opening game, the Bears defeated the Trojans 5-3. Jackson, who started at catcher, roped a two-run homer in the first inning. She finished 1-for-4. In the nightcap, Lenoir-Rhyne won 6-0. Jackson had a two-run single up the middle in the first inning as the Bears scored all six of its runs in the opening three innings. On March 8, the Bears swept a doubleheader from Francis Marion at Bears Field in Hickory. In the opening 10-2 victory in six innings, Jackson went 0-for-1 with two walks. The Bears are 4-2 in the South Atlantic Conference and will face Wingate in a doubleheader on Tuesday in Hickory.

Grace Andrews: The Catawba Valley Community College softball team is 18-4 overall, 5-1 in Region X. On Saturday, the Red Hawks swept a doubleheader from Richard Bland College at Highland Community College in Hickory. CVCC took the opener 7-0. Andrews, starting at catcher, went 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Andrews had a two-run single in the fifth inning. The Red Hawks won the nightcap 12-2. Andrews went 1-for-2 with three RBIs. She had a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Andrews knocked in a run off an error in the third. On Friday, CVCC split a doubleheader against Bryant & Stratton College in Hickory. In the opener, the Statesmen won 2-0. In the second, the Red Hawks won 8-4. Andrews went 1-for-3 with an RBI single in the sixth. In 22 games this season, Andrews is hitting .424 with 15 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Aaliyah Harris: The Division III Randolph Macon women’s basketball team ended its season with a loss to Shenandoah in the quarterfinals of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Tournament on February 23. The Hornets defeated the Yellow Jackets 66-57. In her freshman season, Harris played five games. She averaged 1.8 points per game. She had three points against Lynchburg College on January 11.

Cedar Ridge’s Anaya Carter, Laci Sykes & Hayley King discuss big week for softball

Timely hitting and solid pitching punctuated the second week of the season for the Cedar Ridge softball team. The Red Wolves went 3-0 with two victories over Cardinal Gibbons and a run-rule victory over Northern Durham last Thursday. Sophomore Charlotte Lowry had a strong week in the circle and at the plate. She threw six innings in a 14-4 win over Northern Durham, striking out eight. Senior Anaya Carter went 2-for-5 with an RBI in an 11-5 win over Cardinal Gibbons in Raleigh on Monday. The next day, Carter went 3-for-4 with an RBI single as the Red Wolves completed a two-game sweep of the Crusaders, winning 9-7 in Raleigh. Senior Hayley King scored against Northern Durham and adds experience to the Red Wolves pitching staff. Freshman Laci Sykes went 2-for-4 with two runs scored against Northern Durham on Thursday night. Against Cardinal GIbbons on Tuesday, Sykes went 1-for-4 with two more runs scored. Sykes, Reagan Simmons, Kimber Shambley and Mia Best comprise a young nucleus for head coach Allan Byrd that hopes to make an impact in the Central Carolina Conference, one of the deepest softball leagues in the state. Cedar Ridge will return to action against Person in Roxboro on Tuesday night.

Softball Notebook: Shambley doubles, Simmons homers in Cedar Ridge win; Orange beats Roxboro Community School 8-1

Photo by Missy Shambley

Cedar Ridge 11, Cardinal Gibbons 5: Coming off a difficult conference opener against one of the most established pitchers in the state, Cedar Ridge ventured to Raleigh and rediscovered its offensive touch in a win over Cardinal Gibbons.

Sophomore catcher Reagan Simmons led off the game with a home run while first baseman Kimber Shambley went 2-for- 4 with two RBIs as the Red Wolves improved to 2-1. Cedar Ridge led 8-1 at the end of two innings. After Simmons led off the game with the solo blast to left field, three straight Red Wolves reached. Lacy Sykes walked. Senior Anaya Carter reached on an infield single. Pitcher Charlotte Lowry lined to center to score Sykes and Carter.

Lowry, a sophomore, earned her second win of the season. She threw the first complete game of the season, striking out four over seven innings. She conceded five runs off six hits.

Cedar Ridge did its heaviest damage in the second inning with five runs, all of which were scored after two outs were recorded. Freshman Mia Best singled to right field, while Simmons and Sykes walked. With the bases loaded, Carter reached on an infield single to score Best. Lowry lined to centerfield to bring in Hayley King (running for Simmons) and Sykes. Shambley lined an infield single to shortstop, which allowed Carter and Sydnee Tapper (running for Lowry) to score and increase the Red Wolves lead to 8-0.

In the third, Grace Young drew a leadoff walks and scored on a sacrifice fly when Sykes popped out to left field.

Lowry finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs. Best was 2-for-4, while Shamlbey went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. Carter was 2-for-5 with one RBI.

Cedar Ridge will continue the home-and-home series with a meeting against the Crusaders this afternoon at Red Wolves Stadium at 6 PM.

Orange 9, Roxboro Community 1 

Caden Robinson struck out eleven as the Orange softball team improved to 2-0 with a decisive win over Roxboro Community School in Hillsborough on Friday night.

The Bulldogs entered the game off back-to-back run rule wins over Bartlett Yancey and Granville Central, scored eleven and 17 runs, respectively. Robinson held the Bulldogs bats in check for her second win of the season.

Orange jumped out with two runs in the first inning. Carson Bradsher, a senior who has committed to South Carolina-Upstate, reached on an infield single. Bradsher stole second and Robinson followed with a double to deep centerfield to bring in Bradsher for the opening run. With two out, freshman Katie Carden, the cousin of former Orange first baseman Jaden Hurdle, lined a double to the fence in left field. Robinson scored to make it 2-0.

Orange added another run in the second. Rhiley Crabtree drew a leadoff walk. Savannah Wynn laid down a bunt to move Crabtree to second. Robinson walked to load the bases. Hayleigh Hammond reached on a bases-loaded walk to score Crabtree. Wynn, Serenity McPherson and Bradsher all singled to start the fourth inning, which Orange built its lead further.

The Panthers are under the direction of new head coach Rachel Peel, who played at Meredith College. Peel replaced Johnny Barefoot in December.

The Lady Panthers will travel to Roxboro to face Roxboro Community on Wednesday night. Orange’s Central Carolina Conference opener against Western Alamance was postponed due to rain last week.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Anaya Carter

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior volleyball outside hitter Anaya Carter. The daughter of Brian and Tenesha Carter, Anaya has been a member of the Cedar Ridge volleyball team for the past four years. She grew up childhood friends with many of her Red Wolf teammates. Together, they have captured three conference championships, an Eastern Regional championship and the 2021 3A State Championship. This season, Carter has 52 kills and a career-high 67 digs. Recently, Cater announced her intentions to play volleyball at UNC Pembroke. In addition to volleyball, Carter has played softball for coach Allen Byrd. Last season, Carter hit .333 in 22 games. She had 24 hits. Carter’s older sister, Tionna, was a member of a conference championship team with Cedar Ridge volleyball. Carter will continue her senior season on Tuesday night when the Red Wolves travel to Burlington to face Walter Williams. 

Cedar Ridge softball’s Takia Nichols, Olivia Aitkin and Ava Lowry discuss Senior Night win

The same way that Ted Williams hit a home run in his final game at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox, the greatest power hitter in Cedar Ridge softball history went out in style on Wednesday night. In her final game at Cedar Ridge Softball Field, Take Nichols hit a home run that sailed well beyond the fence into left field. Nichols added a double and went 3-for-3 as the Red Wolves defeated Williams 21-2. It was the final game at Cedar Ridge for Nichols, centerfielder Olivia Aitkin and shortstop Ava Lowry. Aitkin, who has signed to play at Amherst University, finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs. Lowry, who committed to North Carolina Wesleyan, went 3-for-4 with a double and a triple. This group of Ceda Ridge seniors won the 2019 Big 8 Conference Championship and won two games in the 3A State Playoffs. Nichols will graduate in June as the all-time leading home run hitter in Cedar Ridge history with 32 home runs. She has 109 carer RBIs, also a school record. Nichols and Lowry has played on the left side of the infield for the past four years. Lowry is hitting .444 this season. She is a career .450 hitter over 55 games. Aitkin is one of the most versatile athletes in Cedar Ridge history. She was also a member of Cedar Ridge’s 3A State Championship Volleyball team. Aitkin is one of the most versatile athletes in school history. She has qualified for the 3A Central Regional Golf Championships. She also is a member of the 4×200 swimming relay team that set the school record last winter, and also qualified for the 3A Central Regionals. 

One for the Road; Nichols homers in final home game vs. Williams, Cedar Ridge softball faces Orange in CCC Tournament tonight

With an array of Division I softball prospects spread across the various Alamance County schools within the Central Carolina Conference, it’s been easy to overlook the Hillsborough teams this season.

Orange did win the 2021 Big 8 Conference Championship after an undefeated regular season. Cedar Ridge won back-to-back conference titles in 2018 & 2019, reaching the Round of 16 in the 3A State Playoffs both times.

It speaks volumes about Cedar Ridge’s strength of schedule that, even with a current 9-11 overall record, the Red Wolves are still seeded #22 in the 3A East Rankings, according to MaxPreps. Four of the teams ahead of Cedar Ridge are from the Central Carolina Conference.

Nonetheless, Cedar Ridge coach Allen Byrd, who became a grandfather over the weekend, doesn’t want a repeat of last season.

The 2021 3A Softball state playoffs was narrowed down to 32 teams instead of the standard 64 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At season’s end, the Red Wolves were ranked #59 by MaxPreps, which likely would have put them in the postseason in a standard year. Of course, 2021 was anything but standard. Seven Cedar Ridge seniors, many of whom were members of the 2018 team that won the first softball conference championship in school history, ended their careers without one final trip to the playoffs.

While Cedar Ridge’s chances of returning to the postseason are strong this year, there was no denying a sense of finality last Wednesday. It was the final home game for Red Wolves seniors Takia Nichols, Olivia Aitkin and Ava Lowry. They have all signed to play college softball across the East Coast.

In her farewell game at Cedar Ridge against Walter Williams, Nichols hit one last home run in easily the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the Central Carolina Conference, possibly the state (it is 220 feet down the left and right field lines to the wall at Cedar Ridge Softball Field. For comparison’s sake, at Duke Softball Stadium, it is 195 feet each way). Leading off the bottom of the second inning, Nichols drilled an 0-1 pitch well beyond the left field wall for her school record 32nd career home run. She finished the night 3-for-3 with two RBIs as the Red Wolves cruised 21-2 in five innings. Nichols, who has committed to play at North Carolina Central, now has 109 career RBIs, also a school record.

While Nichols is prepared to move on to play with the Eagles, she will have at least two more games alongside Lowry. The two have shared the left side of the infield for the past two seasons, but it should have been longer.

Perhaps the perfect play that sums up the pairing came against Orange on April 15, 2021. In the seventh inning, Orange’s Serenity McPherson lined a ball to Nichols at third base. With a runner at second, the ball ricocheted off Nichols knee, bounced directly across to Lowry, who recovered in time to throw out McPherson and end the inning.

“I know that Ava always has my back,” Nichols said the following week. “I never have to question if she’s going to be there for me. I bobbled that ball, she had my back and we made the out.”

Lowry, who has signed with North Carolina Wesleyan, went 3-for-4 with three RBIs against the Bulldogs. She had a double and a triple. For her career, Lowry has a .450 career batting average. She has 28 hits this season, which leads the team.

“Takia and I have this bond,” Lowry said last summer. “She’s amazing. We’ve been playing since middle school. We know what’s going to happen. We’ll know what each other is thinking without saying anything. I know that if she’s covering the line, then I need to move closer to the hole in the infield. Our communication is the best.”

Aitkin, who committed to Amherst College in Massachusetts last year, is a three-sport athlete. Last fall, she made regionals in golf. In February, she teamed with Sophia Stinnett, Quinn McCrimmon and Abbygale Pearce to set a new school record in the 4×400 relay in swimming at the Orange County Sportsplex. They group qualified for the 3A Central Regionals.

Tonight, the three Cedar Ridge seniors will play its final game against crosstown rival Orange at Panther Softball Field in the Central Carolina Tournament quarterfinals. The Red Wolves are the #5 seed. The winner of the game will face top-seeded Eastern Alamance on Tuesday night in Mebane.

Nichols, Lowry and Aitkin are the last players who won a conference championship in softball. In 2019, Cedar Ridge defeated Orange 8-3 at Panther Softball Field to claim the #1 seed from the Big 8 Conference for the state playoffs. In the postseason, Cedar Ridge defeated West Johnston 4-3 in eleven innings, then journeyed all the way to Morehead City and defeated West Carteret 6-3. Nichols homered in the fourth inning against the Patriots.

Also tonight in the Central Carolina Tournament: Williams travels to Person while Western Alamance hosts Northwood. The semifinals are set for Tuesday with the championship game on Thursday.