Softball state championship preview: Northside meets East Wilkes

Published 5:53 pm Monday, May 27, 2024

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Northside, 21-4, defeated North Moore, 12-2, arch-rival Pamlico Co., 3-1, Perquimans, 7-3, top-seeded North Duplin, 12-5 and Roxboro Community 9-7 & 15-5 in the East regional final to advance to the state tournament finals. The #13th-seeded Panthers have won nine in a row. Including road playoff victories over four higher seeded opponents.

The Panthers conference losses were to East Carteret and Pamlico Co. along with non-league losses at Bear Grass, 3-1, and Perquimans, 7-5.

Northside features a high-powered offense that averages 10 runs a game and a .387 team batting average. Senior outfielder Taylor Willard leads the team with a .520 average and 39 hits. Senior Bella Boykin batted .425 with a team-high 29 runs batted in, 40 hits, 29 runs batted in, nine doubles and three home runs. Junior Megan Hopkins hit .406 followed by senior Jaden Clark at .400 with 23 RBI and eight doubles. Junior catcher Samantha Braddy (.441 with 20 RBI) will miss the series with a broken hand.

The Panthers have depth in the pitching circle with Boykin, Clark and junior Londyn Keech combining for all 21 victories. Boykin has a 2.26 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 55.2 innings, Clark is at 2.52 with 40 strikeouts in 50 innings and Keech has a 2.54 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 30.1 innings.

Veteran coach Keith Boyd started the Northside softball program in the 1990’s and won the East title in 1999 and 2001 with losses to East Surry and Cherryville in the final game. He coached baseball for 15 years before returning to softball this spring.

“We’ll do our best to make sure the girls have fun and enjoy the experience, but they also know it’s not a field trip,” Boyd said. “We’ll try to keep our routine as normal as possible and play the way we have all year. I expect our seniors to show leadership and keep everyone focused on what we’re going up there to do. I’m very proud of what this team accomplished on the road in the tournament so far and look forward to a fun final series.”

East Wilkes, 27-3, is from the Wilkes Co. town of Ronda and advanced with victories over Andrews (15-0), Starmount (14-5), North Stokes (4-0), Union Academy (6-0) and Robbinsville twice in the West finals 4-0 & 9-6 to advance to their first state tournament championship series.

The Cardinals did not provide any individual stats to