Panthers settle for second place

Published 4:42 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Northside’s magical baseball and softball seasons ended just short of state championships as both programs brought home second place trophies from the 1A state championship in Durham and Holly Springs.

Friday was a mixed bag for the Panthers as Emaleigh Cherry’s three-run home run over the left field wall at Duke Softball Stadium propelled the Panthers to a 3-0 victory and one win away from a title against East Wilkes. 

Jaden Clark limited the Cardinals to four hits and retired 11 of 12 batters after working out of a bases-loaded situation in the second inning.

Shortly after that game ended the players, coaches and fans headed 30 miles south to Holly Springs to watch junior James Sawyer dominate the defending champions from Uwharrie Charter in Asheboro through six innings in the first game of the baseball title series.

Sawyer struck out nine of the first 13 batters, then Ashton Willard put him ahead 1-0 on a single to right field that scored Griffin Johnson, who had walked to begin the inning.

The Panthers were one out away from victory before the Eagles scored the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, then scored again in the eighth for a 2-1 victory.

Saturday did not go Northside’s way in all three games, as East Wilkes wiped out an early 3-1 Panther lead with four runs in the sixth for a 7-2 lead. Northside rallied for three in their last at-bat on Megan Hopkins three-run homer to set a 7-5 final score.

The Northside contingent headed back to Holly Springs, knowing a return trip to Durham for a 5 p.m. for a softball finale lay ahead. 

Uwharrie Charter made sure there wasn’t a deciding game later with four runs in the third and two more in the fifth for a 6-1 title-clinching victory.

Sawyer doubled home Jamie Corprew, who started the game with a single for the Panthers only run.

“They swung the bats really well and were solid in all areas, so hats off to them,” Northside coach Parker Boyd said. “We did the best we could and I’m really proud of our season. It’s been a special year and we’re proud of what we accomplished.”

The girls season ended a couple hours later as East Wilkes exploded for seven runs in the bottom of the fourth for a 9-3 victory and their first state championship in their first trip to the finals.

“I think we just ran out of gas,” Panthers coach Keith Boyd said. “We played really well in spots, then not so well in others, while they made outstanding defensive plays and hit the ball. It was still a great year and it was great for our school that we both made it in the same year.”

The girls ended 22-6 in their third trip to the finals in program history and first since 2001, while the boys finished 22-8 in their second trip. The 1994 team won the 2A title in 1994.