- Thursday, 29 August 2019
- Written by Stephanie Crider
Stan Bagley knew his Cumberland Post 32 Bombers had no shortage of talent this season, but even he was surprised by the way the team coasted through the rest of the field at this year’s North Carolina American Legion Lady Fastpitch state tournament in Shelby.
Cumberland, in its first season of American Legion softball field, cruised through the double elimination event with a 3-0 record and outscored the rest of the field 30-10 en route to the title. They finished the season with an 18-2 record.
“I was a little shocked that we hit the ball as well as we did late,’’ Bagley said. “In all three games, seeing those pitchers the second and third time, they really zoned in and showed me what they were capable of doing.
“I knew they had the potential. Just to watch it click when we needed it was awesome.’’
Among the leading hitters for Cumberland in the three games in the state finals were McKenzie Mason with a .727 average, Alyssa Norton .556, Alexa Glemaker .500 and Courtney Cygan .455.
Bagley credited the top of the Cumberland order — Jaden Pone, Cygan and Mason, for setting the table with their speed and putting the ball in play.
In the championship game, he praised Ashton Fields for sparking a huge rally that put the win away for Cumberland.
Most Valuable Player honors for the tournament went to Glemaker for her pitching, mostly in a relief role. She came on in the championship game after Cumberland fell behind early and pitched scoreless relief as the Bombers rallied for the win.
In 11.1 innings for the tournament, Glemaker recorded seven strikeouts, allowed no walks and just one earned run.
“All year long, when we needed that relief off the bench she stepped up and came through,’’ Bagley said of Glemaker. “It seemed like she knew the pressure was on and she pitched better for us.’’
Glemaker, a freshman, will enroll at Cape Fear High School this fall.
“I know some people thought we weren’t going to be as good because we were a first-year team,’’ Glemaker said. “Watching some of the other teams,
I thought we had a good shot.’’
If no one else in Cumberland County decides to field an American Legion softball team next year, Bagley could potentially return everyone on this year’s team for the 2020 season. If another team is formed, a decision will have to be made on how the county schools will divide the players between them.
Bagley said with the success of this year’s entry, he expects Legion softball to continue growing around the state.
“The ultimate goal is to have one team in every county in North Carolina, then grow this thing in the Southeast and eventually the whole nation,’’ he said.
Photo 1: Alexa Glemaker
Photo 2: Makenzie Mason, Jaden Pone, Courtney Cygan, Megan Cygan, Becca Collins, Carey Dees, Emma Cobb, Madison Bagley, Alyssa Norton, Ashton Fields, Korie St. Peter, Catie McGrath, Alex Deville, Sarah Edge, Alexa Glemaker, Coach Stan Bagley.
Fayetteville Academy and Terry Sanford both enjoyed outstanding success on the soccer field last season, the Academy capturing another North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state title while Terry Sanford went unbeaten in the Patriot Athletic Conference and made the third round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs.
But look for things to be much different at both schools this season. For one, both suffered major graduation losses, especially the Academy, which lost 12 seniors, 10 them starters.
Terry Sanford will be much younger with only three seniors back along with 14 juniors and three sophomores.
But the biggest change for the Bulldogs will be the loss of head coach Karl Molnar, who is taking over as the school’s varsity boys basketball coach.
Replacing him will be another veteran coach in the Terry Sanford program, Steven Barbour.
“I’ve got big shoes to fill,’’ Barbour said. “There’s a winning tradition at Terry Sanford and its always daunting to come in behind a coach who was so successful.’’
Terry Sanford’s Jarred Miller and Andrew Troutman were the offensive and defensive players of the year in the Patriot Conference last season, but both graduated.
Barbour knows he’s got a lot of work to do to build chemistry and make use of everyone’s talents.
“We’ve got a deep pool of talent,’’ he said. “If we get everyone to work together and utilize their ability, I think we can be competitive.’’
Barbour expects the midfield to be the heart of the team with Davis Molnar, Alex Fox and newcomer Graham MacLeod leading the way.
Another returning forward expected to contribute heavily is Ever Aguero Aranda.
With the coaching change plus having to play all home games at Reid Ross High School while Terry Sanford’s stadium is being rebuilt, Barbour expects a challenging season.
“I feel we’re in the crosshairs of a lot teams,’’ he said. “Gray’s Creek, Cape Fear and Pine Forest all have their sights set on us. It’s going to be a fun season to rise to the challenge.’’
Fayetteville Academy’s Andrew McCarthy may have an inexperienced group but said they are working hard to get better every day.
“We’ve got players playing positions they’ve never played before,’’ he said. “They are certainly improving and that’s all we can ask for.’’
At this point, McCarthy said he can’t claim the Eagles are either a strong attacking or a strong defensive team, just a work in progress.
“The two captains, Cortez Herring and Davis Saint-Amand, are our two seniors,’’ he said. McCarthy said the two midfielders have been around the Eagle program for a number of years and will be counted on to provide needed leadership.
Pictured from top to bottom: Davis Saint-Amand, Cortez Herring, Ever Aguero Aranda
With a pair of All-Sandhills Conference players returning, new Jack Britt volleyball coach Jess Grooms is hoping she can continue in the tradition of former coach Leigh Ann Weaver in leading the Buccaneers to the top of the league volleyball standings.
Meanwhile, in the Patriot Athletic Conference, veteran Cape Fear coach Jeff Bruner will be looking to retool his lineup after major graduation losses following the Colts’ latest conference title.
Grooms said maintaining communication will be a key to success for the Buccaneers this season as she hopes to build on the foundation established by Weaver.
“Our libero, Ilena Hall, has done a phenomenal job all summer,’’ Grooms said. “She’s grown so much and has become more of a vocal leader on the floor.’’
Kaiah Parker, who like Hall was all-conference last year, will be counted on to be a top hitter for the Buccaneers.
“I think I’m going to move her outside because she’s such a dominant hitter,’’ Grooms said. “I think she’s going to be a big impact player.’’
Grooms thinks Britt returns enough talent to contend for the Sandhills Conference title again this season. She got a chance to see a number of the teams Britt will face this season in preseason scrimmages and saw signs of improvement in all of them.
“This year we genuinely have a group of girls that likes each other,’’ she said. “That makes my job a whole lot easier when there are no issues between the girls on the team.’’
Cape Fear’s Bruner lost nearly all of the offense from last year’s conference championship team but does return the core of his defense in Taylor Melvin and Marlie Horne.
“They have always kind of been our back row and done everything for us,’’ Bruner said. Another key returner is Tori McGowan, who frequently came off the bench last season but will be pressed into a starting role this year.
“We’ve made her a full-time setter,’’ Bruner said. “She’s always been able and capable to play for us.’’
So far this season Bruner has been focusing on his team’s defense. “We’ve always had the concept of anytime we get the ball over the net, we’ve got a good enough defense someone is going to get a hand on it,’’ he said. “Essentially if we’re all playing and we’re all aware after someone touches it and everyone’s helping, there’s no reason in our mind that a ball should ever hit the floor.’’
He expects the Patriot Conference to be highly competitive this season. “Cumberland County has improved its level of play,’’ he said. “Across the board, there is no easy game.’’
Pictured from left to right: Ilena Hall, Kaiah Parker, Taylor Melvin, Marlie Horne