High School Highlights

Scholar Athletes of the Week

22Darius McLeodDarius McLeod

Westover • Basketball/golf • Senior

McLeod has a grade point average of 3.8. He was a second team choice in the 2018 Holiday Classic basketball tournament. He played golf three years for Westover. He is a member of National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and the Academy of Health Sciences.

23alainawalkerAlaina Walker

Westover • Volleyball/softball • Senior

Walker is ranked third in her class, with a 4.18 grade point average. She has been a member of Health Occupations Students of America for four years. She is a member of National Honor Society and the Academy of Scholars. She helped the Westover softball team to its first state playoff appearance in school history, batting .400 and driving in 15 runs.

Patriot All-Conference softball

Here is the Patriot Athletic All-Conference softball team as chosen by the league’s head coaches.

Coach of the year: Stuart Gilmer, Gray’s Creek

Player of the year: Jaden Pone, Gray’s Creek

Pitcher of the year: Katie Murphy, Cape Fear

First team:

• Terry Sanford — Anna Suggs, Maddie Beard

• E.E. Smith — Kayla Parson

• Pine Forest — Zareeya Watson, Brianna Crosby, Brittany Maultsby, Korie St. Peter, Mary Lee Sullivan

• Gray’s Creek — Mackenzie Mason, Drew Menscer, Kylie Aldridge, Morgan Brady, Courtney Cygan, Jaden Pone

• Overhills — Malik’s Dones, Kiana Jones

• Cape Fear — Katie Murphy, Morgan Nunnery, Alyssa Meredith, Taylor Melvin, Aubrey Griffin, Jess Oxendine

• South View — Mia Ayers, Danielle Golcher, Alex Deville

• Westover — Alaina Walker

Honorable mention:

• Terry Sanford — Mylie Leahy

• E.E. Smith — Madilyn Hotchkiss, Abraonna Williams

• Gray’s Creek — Summer Powell, Madi Badley, Rebecca Collins

• Overhills — Taylor Nunn, Megan Maurer, Liz Mitchell

• Cape Fear — Marlin Horne, Aleiyah Payne, Lauren Adams, Ava Basket, Toni Blackwell

• South View — Faith Franklin, Raven Camacho, Bailey Lockwood, Katie Smith

• Westover — Chkylie Boado, Jasmine Kelsey, Maya Johnson

Freedom overcomes tragedy to win state softball title

15haleynelsonFreedom Christian Academy’s softball team experienced tragedy before its 2019 season ever started. But by season’s end, the coaches and players were able to move from tragedy to triumph as they bought home the school’s third North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state title in four years.

The Patriots entered this year’s NCISAA 2-A state tournament as the No. 3 seed but cruised through the double elimination portion of the playoffs unbeaten. They beat both top-seeded Rocky Mount Academy and No. 2 Halifax Academy along the way, the former on its home field in a 16-inning duel lasting over three and a half hours.

Freedom finished the season 16-4 under the leadership of first-year head coach John Smith. Smith was no stranger to the Freedom softball program. He became the school’s director of security in 2016 after his longtime friend, the late Eddie Dees, had become Freedom’s softball coach and led the Patriots to their first-ever softball championship.

Dees passed away that same year. Smith, a former member of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and the Hope Mills Police Department, continued in an assistant coaching role until he was asked to take over as head coach entering the 2019 season.

It wasn’t long after he was hired that the team experienced misfortune. Haley Roberson, the starting third baseman, died at her home in late September one morning before school.

“She was a solid defensive player and an offensive threat,’’ Smith said of Roberson. “Between the emotions of losing her, starting the season without her and trying to fill that void, it was some trying times.’’

It was reflected in the team’s record as they struggled to a 3-3 start.

“We only had five returnees and eight new girls,’’ Smith said. “The nucleus of that bunch was seventh and eighth graders. They had travel ball experience, but they hadn’t been with our program. We had to learn their skill set.’’

Smith praised the work of two veteran assistant coaches, Russell Montgomery and Jimmy Nelson. “They know the game inside out and were there to help me,’’ he said.

So were their two daughters, pitcher Haley Nelson and catcher Molly Montgomery. Nelson, a junior, is committed to play at Queens University of Charlotte. Montgomery, a senior, has a scholarship to Gardner-Webb University.

Just getting to the postseason was a brutal test for Freedom because of the tough competition it faced in its own league, the Sandhills Athletic Conference. Cape Fear Christian Academy won the NCISAA 1-A state championship. Fayetteville Christian made the final four in the 3-A playoffs, and Village Christian was a top ten seed in the same classification.

The Patriots lost at Rocky Mount Academy 4-0 in their second game of the season, so Smith knew when they faced them again in the state playoffs it was going to be a challenge.

“It was definitely a pitching duel for 16 innings,’’ he said of the rematch in the state tournament. Finally, Marissa McQueen, a seventh grader, drilled a double to right center to score a pair of runs that held up for the win.

Nelson went the distance on the mound and recorded 13 strikeouts in the win. Both she and Montgomery were selected to the NCISAA 2-A All- State team.

But those aren’t the most interesting numbers about the championship season. Roberson’s jersey number was three, her position third base, and that number kept popping up for Freedom in the postseason. To begin with, they were the third seed in the state tournament.

They won the final game of the tournament over Halifax 6-3, after scoring three runs late to break a 3-3 tie. And when the season was over, the Patriots had their third state title.

“Although Haley was not present, she was there in spirit and mind with us,’’ Smith said.

Photo: Haley Nelson

Patriot All-Conference baseball

18davidjohn HerzHere is the Patriot Athletic All-Conference baseball team as chosen by the league’s head coaches.

Coach of the year: Sam Guy, Terry Sanford

Player of the year: Davidjohn Herz, Terry Sanford

Pitcher of the year: Nick West, Cape Fear

First team:

• Cape Fear — Cade Oliver, Cole Altman

• Douglas Byrd — Edwardo Alfons

• Gray’s Creek — Landen Harris, Tyler Strickland, Aaron Smith, Ryan Miller, Dillon Taylor

•Overhills — Ricky Kelly

• Pine Forest — Justin Honeycutt, Isaac Gonzales, James O’Brien, Lance Lockamy

• South View — Riley Caudle, Damon Evans, Keshawn Dunham

• Terry Sanford — Justin Ebert, Jackson Deaver, Marcus Sanchez, Dorian Clark, Tommy Cooney, Hunter Wiggins

Honorable mention:

• Cape Fear — Nick Minacapelli

• Gray’s Creek — Hunter Smith, J.J. Rivera

• Overhills — Johnny Vickers, Richard Hooks

• South View — Caleb Shinn

• Terry Sanford — Jack Cooney

Hope Mills has good numbers for American Legion team

12LandenHarrisIf the early turnout is any indication, Mark Kahlenberg should not have a problem keeping a full team on the field this summer for the Hope Mills Boosters American Legion baseball program.

At the first official practice of the season last week, Kahlenberg had a potential roster with 23 names of players from area high schools who were either on hand at the first workout or had expressed interest in playing this year.

Even with the good turnout, Kahlenberg expects this year’s team to be somewhat young, with a number of players who will be getting their first taste of the American Legion brand of baseball. The roster is heavy with a big crop of players from Cape Fear. Gray’s Creek High School has returned to the mix, along with players from South View and Douglas Byrd.

Before it’s all over, Kahlenberg hopes to pick up some players from Freedom Christian and Terry Sanford. The Bulldogs were still involved in the state 3-A baseball playoffs when the Boosters American Legion season kicked off last Sunday with a doubleheader against Jacksonville Post 265.

“Last year we were struggling to put nine guys together around tournament time,’’ Kahlenberg said. “At our first meeting (this year), we had 14 guys, and I knew there were 10 other guys who couldn’t make it.’’

Among the players Kahlenberg will be counting on are pitcher Landen Harris from Gray’s Creek, who’s committed to play at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Another prospect is Aaron Smith, Harris’ Gray’s Creek teammate, who batted in the No. 3 position for the Bears this season.

South View prospects include Riley Caudle, who recently committed to play for Methodist University. Another promising player is Cape Fear’s Nick West, who played shortstop and pitched and could fill an important need for Kahlenberg in the heart of the lineup.

Kahlenberg doesn’t feel the team has an established pitching ace as the season begins and will have to rely on pitching by committee until things get more settled. “Hopefully we can develop those pitchers into a starting rotation,’’ he said.

Both Harris and Caudle are optimistic about this team’s chances this summer.

“I like playing with my friends from all over Cumberland County,’’ Harris said. “I think we can do pretty good if we bring it all together, hit the ball and play the game how we learned it.’’ Harris also hopes to use the Legion experience to work on his off-speed pitches and improve his velocity.

Caudle is looking forward to facing better pitching this summer, improving how he sees the curveball and working on improving his ability to hit to the backside. “We have a lot more people than last year,’’ he said. “A lot of them are going to college, so they’ll focus on Legion ball.’’

The Boosters will again play their home games at South View High School.

Following is this year’s schedule. Whiteville currently does not have a team this year, but Kahlenberg said he had seen reports on social media that the Whiteville club was attempting to get funding so it could possibly return this year. For now, its games have been removed from the schedule.

Photo: Landen Harris

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SCHEDULE

EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to some late changes in the Hope Mills Boosters 2019 schedule, portions of the version in this week's print edition are incorrect. The correct schedule appears below. 

 

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