Orange Softball

Orange Panther of the Week: Caden Robinson

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is senior pitcher Caden Robinson. In her final game at Orange on Thursday night, Robinson broke the school record for most career strikeouts. She set down ten South Brunswick Cougars in the third round of the 3A State Playoffs. She ended her career with 380 strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 378 by Kristina Givens. This season, Robinson was also Orange’s leading hitter, posting a .526 batting average. She also led the team with 40 hits, 17 doubles and five home runs. She tied for the team lead with 33 RBIs. A starter since her freshman year, Robinson was a part of a conference championship team in 2021. This year, Orange reached the Round of 16 in the state playoffs for the first time since 2017, when the Lady Panthers won the 3A State Championship. Caden went 14-5 this season with a 2.96 ERA. She ends her career with 27 wins. Robinson also posted a lifetime batting average of .526 with 17 home runs and 98 RBIs. This month, she posted back-to-back shutouts in the state playoffs against C.B. Aycock and South Johnston. This year, Orange won eight consecutive games, including victories at Southern Alamance and Western Alamance. After she graduates next month, she will play college softball at Averett University in Danville, Virginia.

Orange Panther of the Week: Caden Robinson

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Orange softball seniors Caden Robinson and Mia Leathers discuss playoff win at South Johnston

For the first time since winning the 3A State Championship in 2017, the Orange softball team has reached the round of 16 in the state tournament. On Friday, Orange rolled past South Johnston, the Quad County Champions, 7-0 in Four Oaks. Senior Caden Robinson struck out nine in a complete game, four-hit shutout. Mia Leathers, as a designated player, roped a two-run single to break Orange’s lead out to 7-0 in the fifth inning. Orange is the last team standing from the Central Conference in the state playoffs. Robinson is 14-4 this season with 139 strikeouts. Leathers, a senior, is hitting .264 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. The Lady Panthers were in Southport last night for a game against South Brunswick. The game was interrupted by rain in the fifth inning with the Cougars leading 2-0. The game will resume today in the top of the fifth inning with Evelyn George running at first base with one out. Robinson has seven strikeouts through four innings. Robinson now has 377 strikeouts, which is only one behind the school record set by Kristina Givens, who was the hurler for Orange’s 3A State Championship team. The winner of Orange-South Brunswick will face the winner of Havelock-Cape Fear in the state quarterfinals.

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Robinson tosses second shutout of state playoffs, Leathers drives in two as Orange softball blanks South Johnston 7-0 to advance to 3rd round

Thrive and advance.

It’s a modification of a three-word phrase that famed N.C. State men’s college basketball coach Jim Valvano coined to describe the unpredictable, exhilarating but cruel nature of March Madness.

In softball, it’s just as unrelenting. One bad inning can sink a team’s season.

Orange softball coach Rachel Peel turned that catchphrase on its head as the Lady Panthers started play against C.B. Aycock in the 3A State Playoffs on Tuesday night. In its final postseason with senior pitcher Caden Robinson, Orange has reached the round of 16 in the state playoffs for the first time since they won the 3A State Championship in 2017.

On Friday night, Robinson struck out nine in a complete-game shutout for her 14th win of the season, propelling Orange past South Johnston 7-0 in Four Oaks. The Trojans, the Quad County Conference champions who rolled through conference play with a 14-0 record, had not been shutout all season. They end the year 20-2 after suffering its first loss since March 14.

“Everyone in the playoffs is saying ‘Survive and Advance,'” Peel said after the bus returned from a two-hour journey from Johnston County on Friday night. “I keep saying ‘Thrive and Advance.’ I don’t want to have that mindset of finality. I don’t want to have that mindset of this could be the last one. I want to leave it all the field and play the absolute best you can play. Just thrive at a high level.”

Orange has outscored its opening two playoff opponents 22-0. On Tuesday night, Orange routed Aycock, another Quad County opponent, 15-0 in Hillsborough.

On Friday, Orange played an error-free game and didn’t allow a Trojan beyond second base. Robinson threw her third shutout of the season and now has 370 career strikeouts. It’s believed that the school record is held by Kristina Givens, the pitcher from Orange’s state championship team, who finished with 378 from 2014-2017.

The game was scoreless going into the fourth inning when Allie Carden reached on a walk. Hayeligh Hammond sent a ground ball to Trojans shortstop Kaylee Cox, who underhanded the ball to second baseman Randi Deese, but Carden legged it out and slid into second safely. With Rhiley Crabtree at bat, Carden raced for third. The throw by catcher Reese Penny overshot third baseman Allison Barbour, leading to Carden and Hammond both scoring.

The Trojans engineered its biggest threat when Cox singled to left field and Ava Strickland walked with two out. Orange shortstop Sadie Cecil captured a line drive from Jaydin Wall to end the inning.

Katie Carden, Addison Guentensberger and Cecil all singled to open the fifth inning. Robinson threw a bases-loaded walk to score Guentensberger. Then Allie Carden followed with another bases-loaded walk, bringing in Cecil. With two out, Crabtree was hit by a pitch, allowing Katie Carden to increase Orange’s lead to 5-0. Senior Mia Leathers delivered the big blow with a hard grounder up the middle, scoring Robinson and Allie Carden to make it 7-0.

In Orange’s 15-0 win over C.B. Aycock on Tuesday night, Cecil set the proper tone, leading off with a solo home run that sailed over the centerfield fence, her fourth of the season. Allie Carden followed with a towering three-run homer that went over dead centerfield.

In the second, Katie Carden delivered a three-run homer that scored Guentensberger and Cecil. It was Katie Carden’s second home run of the season to increase the Orange lead to 7-0. Leathers drove in Allie Carden and Hammond with a two-run single.

Orange is now the last team remaining in the state playoffs from the Central Conference. Southern Alamance, the co-league champion, lost to Union Pines 8-7 in Graham on Friday night. Southern Nash, the #1 overall seed in the East Region, held off Eastern Alamance 2-1 in Bailey.

A New Life–Gibbs earns 18th career win, Hedrick drives in 7 runs to help Orange baseball rout Eastern Alamance 19-1 in state playoffs

For most of Tuesday night, some of the Orange baseball seniors didn’t think they would reach the second round of the state playoffs, much less host another home game.

After a miraculous rally against Cedar Ridge, the Panthers didn’t leave drama against Eastern Alamance on Friday night.

The Panthers exploded for seven runs in the first inning, keyed by a two-run single by Wyatt Hedrick, and easily defeated the Eagles 19-1 in five innings to advance to the Round of 16 in the 3A State Playoffs on Friday night. Orange (19-5) will travel to Terry Sanford for the third round on Tuesday. The Bulldogs hammered Walter Williams 19-3 in Fayetteville Friday night.

Senior pitcher Josiah Gibbs tossed a five-inning complete game, surrendering only two hits for his 18th career win. Gibbs improved to 8-0 with a 2.07 ERA.

It was Orange’s third run-rule win of the season, its second against the Eagles in ten days. Last week, Orange beat the Eagles 11-0 where Cross Clayton won his 20th career game.

“Gibbs commanded the strike zone well,” said Orange coach Jason Knapp. When you put seven runs in the bottom of the first, you know that a kid is going to pitch to contract. He’s not going to give up a bunch of walks.”

On the drama scale, it was the polar opposite of Orange’s playoff opener against Cedar Ridge on Tuesday. The Panthers were down four runs in the seventh inning with the bases empty and two outs before pulling off a stunning rally capped by Ryan Honeycutt’s three-run homer to win 7-4.

“I told the team it was like a batter who pops a ball up in foul ground, and the fielder drops it,” Knapp said. “Then that batter gets a new life. That’s what we got. We got a new life after that rally on Tuesday. We know that and we’re playing with house money. So the guys were a lot looser tonight. They’re not scared of the end.”

Facing Eastern Alamance (9-16) starter Conner Horner, Orange’s first six batters reached base and eventually scored. With the bases loaded, Ryan Horton blooped a curveball that fell down between three fielders, bringing in Cameron Guentensberger. Oliver Van Tiem tapped a fastball in front of the plate where Horner slipped on the wet grass that had been soaked from a pregame shower, delaying the game for 40 minutes.  Kayden Bradsher came in to score.

Wyatt Hedrick drove in two runs when he sent a high fly ball off the 2008 2A State Championship banner in right field to score Honeycutt and Henry Hoffman, running for Horton. Cross Clayton drove a fastball to the 395-foot ally in right centerfield to score Van Tiem. Elijah Santos lined a single up the middle to score Hedrick. In his second plate appearance of the inning, Guentensberger plated Clayton off a sacrifice fly to Tyler Westbrooks.

Eastern catcher Kasen McGinnis whacked a solo home run to left field to start the second inning, scoring the Eagles only run.

Hedrick blooped a double down the left field line to score Hoffman in the second to increase Orange’s lead to 8-1. In the third, Hedrick knocked in Honeycutt and Van Tiem with a line drive to left field.

Orange sent 14 batters to the plate in the fourth inning, where they scored nine runs. It included Hedrick driving in two more runs with a liner to right and a three-run home run by Clayton to left field.

Hedrick finished 4-for-4 with seven RBIs and two runs scored. Horton was 4-for-4, allowing Hoffman to score three times. Clayton was 3-for-4 with four RBIs. Guentensberger scored three runs and was 2-for-3. Every Panther in the starting lineup scored a run.

Orange softball to host C.B. Aycock in state playoffs on Tuesday; Cedar Ridge travels to Union Pines

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.

Orange softball Katie Carden & Mia Leathers discuss win over Eastern Alamance

The Orange softball team sits atop first place in the Central Conference. On Tuesday night, the Lady Panthers used home runs from Mia Leathers, Caden Robinson and Hayleigh Hammond to defeat Eastern Alamance 8-5 in a battle of teams undefeated in conference play. Sophomore Katie Carden singled in the first inning, which allowed Sadie Cecil to score a run off an error. Later in the frame, Carden scored off a groundout by Allie Carden. After the Eagles tied the game at 2-2, Orange hit back-to-back homers. Hayleigh Hammond smashed one over the centerfield wall to put Orange in the lead for good. Afterwards, Leathers took one deep, also to centerfield. Later in the fourth, Katie Carden knocked in Addison Guentensberger with a single to centerfield to put Orange ahead 5-2. Katie Carden is hitting .378 this season and has played in all eleven games. Orange has won nine of its last ten games. Leathers has two home runs while starting at first base. On Friday night, the Lady Panthers will travel to Western Alamance, the defending 3A Eastern Regional champions. It will start the second half of the conference slate for Orange. Earlier this year, Orange defeated the Warriors 16-6 in six innings in Hillsborough. The Lady Panthers will host Person on Monday.

Orange softball’s Katie Carden and Mia Leathers discuss win over Eastern Alamance

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