Sports

Softball BlackHawks, Soccer Rockets Shine

Karlyn Pickens.

Fairview – North Buncombe softball and Reynolds Lady Rocket soccer each came within a victory of reaching the state finals, bowing out of playoffs on the same day last week.

In West Region 3A finals, North Buncombe lost 3-0 at Alexander Central. Also on Tuesday, May 11th, Reynolds fell 2-1 at home to Cox Mill. That foiled dreams of winning a second state soccer title in seven seasons.

Cox Mill (17-0-1) won the state title match 1-0 over two-time reigning champ Chapel Hill on Saturday, allowing merely four shots. The Chargers yielded merely five goals all season and registered 14 shutouts. They slow down the action and picked spots. That worked to win at Reynolds (15-3).

Daring senior goalkeeper Jillian Ginn veers far in front of the net to cut down shooting angles and intercept passes. She made big saves in the first half on Katie Purnell and then Vanderbilt-bound Addie Porter.

The first Charger goal was a header off of a free-kick nine minutes in, into the net’s top right corner beyond the reach of junior ACR keeper Grace Laws. The Chargers led 1-0 at halftime, then doubled their lead with an assist from Lady Luck. Having to clear out a loose ball herself, Laws wisely kicked the ball to the right — away from her goal. But the ball bounced off of Charger Emily Mooney’s midsection back to the ACR goal. The ricochet was over Laws’ reach, into the net. (Mooney scored the sole goal in the title win.)

Eleven minutes later, Reynolds got on the board and within a goal. Porter, often tripled teamed, would not be denied. She took Kennedy Holgate’s pass in the top of the box. Porter charged right, dribbling closer. She drilled a shot to the left of Ginn, and past her for her team-most 26th goal.

Reynolds head coach Patrick Gladys consoled sad-faced Rockets with reminders of their camaraderie and how they beat others’ expectations to excel.

Pickens, NBHS Shine

Softball player Karlyn Pickens and North Buncombe reached the West Region 3A finals where their undefeated season ended in a 3-0 road defeat. Alexander Central (15-3) beat NBHS (15-1) at its own pitching-dominant game, with Faith Carrigan’s four-hit complete-game shutout.

Pickens (12-1), the superstar pitcher who has verbally committed to Tennessee, was brilliant in mowing down 17 Cougars in six innings. She struck out the first 14 Cougars. The 15th batter swung and missed for strike three. But the third strike sailed wide, enabling the batter to reached base.

The lanky six-foot junior’s fastball typically clocks in the low 70s, maxing at 72 — which some observers equivocate to a blazing 101 mph baseball pitch. She has assorted pitches, to go with the “high heat.” No wonder it is usually “slim pickings” to get on base off of Pickens. She led NBHS to shutouts in nine of her 12 wins.

Karlyn Pickens ranks among elite college prospects. For instance, ExtraInnings.com rates her as the best high school softball pitcher and sixth-best player overall.

Pickens hits well, too. She batted .519. She swatted five homers in a five-game, mid-season stretch. She scored 27 runs, had 16 RBI (one per game), and stole 22 bases.

Pickens got out of trouble in the second inning against ACHS. She fanned three in a row to strand a runner at third who had walked and advanced on two wild pitches.

But ACHS broke through with a three-run fourth inning. Carrigan singled. The next batter was hit by a pitch. A run at a time was scored on a single, wild pitch, then a passed ball.

Addie Porter scored her team-most 26th goal in the state semifinal match. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Addie Porter scored her team-most 26th goal in the state semifinal match. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Dominant Hawks

Head coach Tiffany Ferguson’s North Buncombe squad was a perfect 12-0 in the Western Mountain Athletic Association. Pickens shut out Enka, the conference’s recent dynasty, in all three meetings including 4-0 on May 5th in round two of playoffs. In that victory, Pickens scored twice and knocked in a run on two hits.

Pickens pitched in all four playoff contests. North Buncombe opened with a 1-0 walk-off win over Cox Mill, the school that eliminated Reynolds from soccer playoffs. Pickens struck out eight of the first nine Chargers and 14 overall, in a one-hit shutout.

Cheyanne Cable, who plays at third, scored the sole run in the seventh and final inning. She led off with a single, went to third on an error, and beat the throw home to score on Shayna Higgins’ bouncer to second base.

The Hawks blanked Enka, then edged West Rowan 3-2 in round three on May 7th as Pickens struck out 11 batters. She tripled in shortstop Scottlyn “Scottie” Eubanks for the first run and scored the second run.

The Lady Hawks scored 9.2 runs per WMAC game. Their outbursts include 20-3 over Erwin on April 19; also scoring 12, 11, and 10 runs. But against elite pitching, the Hawks averaged merely two runs in four playoff contests. Yet they won three of four.

The Hawks went 20-5 two seasons ago, also reaching round four of playoffs.

The current squad starts merely two seniors and thus can return its nucleus — eager for another deep playoff run in 2022.

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