Skyland – T.C. Roberson is driving foes batty with its baseball offense and pitching, while North Buncombe Lady Hawks are similarly destroying foes in their softball playoffs.
Tenth-seeded T.C. Roberson (21-6) is in gear offensively, scoring in double digits in its first three playoff wins. “One through nine, we’re having good at-bats,” Ram head coach Eric Filipek said. “There are no holes in our lineup. Our guys are more confident in the box. We’re ‘grinding.’ We’re making pitchers work in their counts. We’re making it tough on them. I like the way we’re swinging it.”
The Rams clobbered Mooresville (14-11) by 10-1, then won 12-4 at 4A West seventh seed Greensboro Northwest Guilford (21-6) last Thursday. They thumped recent two-time state champ Marvin Ridge (18-10) by 11-5 Tuesday at home. The Rams scored nine runs in their final two at-bats. They edgd those Mavericks 8-7 in ’21 playoffs.
The Mavs last week KOed Weddington (11-15) which upset Asheville Cougars 4-3 in round one. The Warriors homered back-to-back to deep left to swipe the lead in their final at-bat.
Asheville (21-4), the West 4A second seed, was the Mountain Athletic Conference champion by one game over TCR. These teams split their regular-season ending series. Roberson won the finale 10-2. “We put up some runs in that game, and the first two playoff games,” Filipek said. “We rallied around what happened in the first (close) Asheville game. We don’t like to lose. We felt some things (ump calls) could have gone our way.” He noted, “we’re getting hot at the right time.”
Eighth seed Enka (12-10) doubled up Erwin (11-10) by 6-3, lost 8-1 at East Rowan, but ended with their first winning baseball season in seven years.
Friday, May 20 is slated for round four games. TCR will be at home versus Myers Park (21-4) or Reagan (21-6), if victorious Tuesday. The weather is forecast to be dry Friday and near 90 degrees — as hot as the Ram offense. Baseball and softball winners on Friday play in best-of-three series for both the West Region title and — if they prevail — then for the state crown.
In softball, Karlyn Pickens hurled a no-hitter as powerhouse North Buncombe (22-1) shut out Tuscola 4-0 in its opener. Pickens fanned 18 of the 21 batters she faced. She registered her third perfect game of the regular season on May 4, winning 4-0 at Erwin. She hit a home run, and struck out 16 batters. Pickens fanned a season-most 20 Enka Sugar Jets, winning 10-0 on April 29. Senior Cheyenne Cable is her new catcher, after a season-ending knee injury to star junior Juliana Mendoza.
In the playoff opener, freshman Ali Jo Rice singled in seniors Cable and Kenzie Jones with the last two runs of the victory.
Tiffani Ferguson is the NBHS head coach. Her Lady Hawks won three rounds a year ago. They dispatched North Lincoln 4-1 last Thursday in round two, in a typically low-scoring game. Best NBHS scoring was 20-2 and 17-1 over Asheville.
The Hawks thwarted high-scoring Rockingham County (24-3) Tuesday. Peyton Whitson blasted a three-run homer in the fifth. NBHS plays at second seed Crest (24-2) on Friday, May 20.
North Buncombe went 12-0 to win the MAC by four games over A.C. Reynolds (13-8; 8-4). ACR edged Reagan 5-4, then lost 5-0 at Providence in round two. Enka tied McDowell at 7-5 for third in the MAC. Enka (11-9) in 3A and 2A Owen (12-8) lost softball openers.
Tenth-seeded Roberson clobbered Mooresville 10-1 at home in round one. The visitors homered in the first. But the Rams answered right away. Sophomore Reno Jeter slugged a three-run shot to left-center. Coach Filipek called it a “towering no-doubter.” The 3-1 lead held up. Roberson bunched hits to score six runs in the fifth frame and KO the talented starter, and tacked on a run an inning later. Jeter was the starting pitcher.
In round two, junior Nick Parham similarly “did it all for us” in batting, pitching and defense at shortstop. The leadoff hitter had three hits and “set the tone.” He threw three and 2/3 inning in relief against veteran NW Guilford with 10 seniors and “one of the better lineups we’ve seen in years,” Filipek said. “I’m ecstatic about how our pitching did.”
Jake Parham, Nick’s freshman brother, smacked a two-run double to make the score 6-3.
Nick Parham was “our go-to guy” last season — often as the closer — and was clocked at up to 91 mph, Filipek said. Nick reaches the upper 80s now, in recently returning to the mound after dealing with tendinitis. For two recent weeks all he did in games was bat as the DH.
“Nick felt strong, and had good velocity” last Thursday. “He wanted to keep going,” said Filipek. He kept the East Carolina commit in longer than usual, against the strong Viking lineup. “We needed to extend him” to win.
Parham felt no soreness afterward, Filipek said. “Nick is available to us this (new) week. It’s great to have him back in the mix.” He said, “we have a plan to use three or four guys” pitching per game.
Parham relieved freshman Micah Simpson in the third inning, with TCR clinging to a 3-2 lead. The Vikings got the tying run in from third, on a sacrifice fly off of Parham. But Filipek noted Parham “shut the door” after that. Parham secured an out in the seventh before departing with an eight-run lead. Portly Zeb Swangim got the final two outs.
Jeter throws up to 89 mph. “When he gets his slider over for a strike, he’s tough,” Filipek said. In game one Jeter was followed by a freshman trio of Simpson, Jake Parham then Swangim each going one inning. The freshmen “command their pitches, and mix in sliders and (slower) breaking balls well to keep batters off balance,” Filipek said. Husky side-arming senior Wyatt Dupree threw the final inning. He induces many ground balls. Dupree has been in 21 of the 26 Ram games in ‘22.