Stepping Up: Favorite sports stories from 2017

Published 11:05 pm Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Beaufort County may be a quieter area compared to neighboring Greenville or nearby metropolitan areas like Raleigh. I learned that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s any shortage of stories to tell on the sports front.

That was quite true of 2017. I got to watch some great games, witness some heart-warming moments and even made a fool of myself for everyone’s viewing pleasure.

So, as we all look forward to seeing what kinds of stories unfold in 2018, I’d like to take a look back at my personal favorite stories from this past year. In no particular order, here they are:

Getting embarrassed by Beaufort County’s finest pitchers

I decided it would be fun to get a first-hand look at Beaufort County pitchers before the playoffs. As part of a breakdown of pitching staffs from Washington, Northside and Southside, I had a handful of players throw to me while recording from the viewpoint of the catchers behind me. It helped me better analyze than I would from the dugout. The video accompanying the story was also hilarious as it was mainly a montage of me striking out.

Washington natives Ben Fox and Hatteras Brooks hug after East Carolina’s club baseball team won the national championship back in June.

Fox, Brooks walk off with club baseball national championship

East Carolina’s club baseball team put together another stellar season, which has become the norm in recent years. Head coach Ben Fox and pitcher Hatteras Brooks, both Washington natives, were crowned as national champions in an 10-inning, 1-0 walk-off win over Central Florida on June 1. The game was one of the best baseball games I’ve ever had the pleasure of covering. The raw emotions from players, coaches and fans afterwards made it that much better.


Washington’s boys’ swim team wins its second-straight title

I didn’t risk jinxing anything, but I could feel it coming when Washington won the opening event of the 1-A/2-A state-championship meet back in February. The Pam Pack swimmers could too, apparently. They brought home a bevy of medals to go along with a second-straight state title. It was incredible to tell the story of the win, as well as detail the decade-plus of hard work put in by the seniors.

Terra Ceia wins a home playoff basketball game

The atmosphere at Terra Ceia basketball games has become one of my favorite things about Beaufort County. Something about the small barn-like setting and the use of the Undertaker’s WWE entrance music during pregame gives me chills every time. Combine that with the Knights hosting a first-round state-playoff game and you have a recipe for an electric crowd. The game lived up to the hype, too, as Terra Ceia emerged with an 80-79 win over Wayne Christian to advance.


Southside and Northside go head-to-head in football playoffs

I can get pretty excited for just about everything I cover, especially once the postseason rolls around. It’s not often that I get as excited for a game as I did for Northside vs. Southside in the first round of the 1-A football playoffs. It was a spectacle — even though the game was somewhat lopsided — because it seemed like the majority of Beaufort County converged on Chocowinity for the game.


Eminey Redmond wins gold in Greensboro

Hard work pays off. Southside’s Eminey Redmond proved that on May 20 in Greensboro when she won the 1-A state championship in the long jump at the track and field championships. I get to see Beaufort County’s athletes compete all the time. However, seeing Redmond — modest as they come — go up against the best that North Carolina has to offer and claim a state title was surreal.


Bam Adebayo is drafted 14th by the Miami Heat

Speaking of hard work, I’m not sure I’ve come across a more diligent athlete than Bam Adebayo. I’ll never forget driving back to the office from a Washington summer baseball game on draft night. I didn’t think Adebayo would be selected until around the 20th pick, so getting the notification that Miami had taken the Pinetown product was a pleasant surprise. I got to see Adebayo play in Charlotte, but it’s still hard to wrap my mind around the fact that he’s in the NBA.

Jason Pastore suits up for Northside

Speaking of Northside, the Panthers produced arguable the best feel-good story of 2017. Jason Pastore, the team’s manager, dressed for Northside’s senior night on Fab. 10. He didn’t just get on the court in the final minutes of a 92-54 win over Southside; Pastore contributed as he drew two shooting fouls and went 3-for-4 at the free-throw line. I’ll never hear a gym get that loud for foul shots again.


East Beaufort 16U softball plays in Babe Ruth World Series

East Beaufort’s 16U softball team was loaded. It won the state title in pretty convincing fashion to earn a trip to the regional championship. It’s sometimes hard to guess how teams from small areas like Beaufort County will stack up against elite teams from larger areas. East Beaufort left no doubts as it advanced to the Babe Ruth World Series in Florida and finished runner up.


Jon Blank named Washington football head coach

I was just as surprised as anyone when Sport Sawyer announced his resignation shortly after Washington missed the playoffs, thus ending the 2016 football season. I wasn’t working for the WDN when the Pam Pack went to the state championship, but I still knew about the history of Washington football. It was great to report Jon Blank as the program’s next coach. It was even better to watch the team grow into a playoff squad in his first year at the helm.