Breaking Through

2012 Class 4A State Softball Championship

Porter Ridge softball on brink of school’s first team state title

by Aaron Garcia

The Porter Ridge softball team has a chance to earn the school’s first team state title in any sport this weekend, thanks to players such as (from left) Haley Secrest, Lexi Davis, Kayleigh Jonas and Courtney Price.

It’s been a banner year for the Porter Ridge athletic program. The football team kicked off the school year with an undefeated regular season and a run to the Class 4A state title game. In the winter, the Pirates’ girls basketball team went 24-4 and advanced to the third round of the playoffs. This weekend, however, when it faces Holly Springs in Raleigh, the Pirates’ softball program has a chance to do what no other Porter Ridge team has done: win a team state championship.

“It would be pretty exciting,” said Porter Ridge coach Lael Rorie, whose team has fallen in the third and fourth rounds of the last two postseasons.

“I think the community has been very supportive, and I think they’re ready for it. It would be nice to be the first one for Porter Ridge. I think they’re excited, and hopefully we’ll come home with (a title).”

Porter Ridge enters the Class 4A title series as the No. 3 team in the nation with a 31-1 overall record, according to ESPN’s FAB 50 national softball poll. The Pirates have outscored their opponents by 187 runs; they’ve scored 212 runs on the season while allowing just 25. Only once since April 24 have they allowed an opponent to score more than one run in a game, and it’s happened just six times all season. They haven’t allowed more than four runs in any game this season.

As impressive as the Pirates’ season has been, their championship trip almost got derailed in the state quarterfinals. On May 22, the Pirates knocked off Alexander Central, which was ranked No. 3 in the nation at the time). Alexander Central had won two of the last three titles and eliminated Porter Ridge in 2011. The Pirates emerged with a gutsy 1-0 milestone win, but Rorie said her team almost put too much emphasis on the victory.

As a result, Rorie believes, the Pirates dropped the first game in their best-of-three series against North Davidson in the semifinals. The loss snapped the Pirates’ 29-game win streak. Suddenly, the Pirates’ chances of finally breaking through and playing in the state championship were in serious jeopardy.

“It was tough, but I think they didn’t like that feeling of losing,” said Rorie. “That was not a good feeling for them. That was not a fun bus ride home for them.”

But North Davidson hardly dominated the opening game of the series. Aside from a three-run home run surrendered in the first inning, the Pirates largely kept North Davidson at bay in the 4-1 loss.

For the players, the jolt of a loss was the perfect refocusing they needed.

“Our mind-set was one-and-done,” said senior Haley Secrest. “We realized after that game that we can’t take anything lightly. We’ve got to come out and bring it and give it 110 percent each time.”

Added catcher Courtney Price: “We got a little too confident after beating Alexander Central. We decided that’s not how it’s going to be (for us). We’ve got to play to our level.”

The Pirates regrouped to win the next game, 2-1, before clinching the series with a 1-0 win, earning the program’s first trip to the state finals. It was a special time in a season filled with highlights, star Pirates pitcher Lexi Davis said.

“It was rewarding knowing that we held our own and we could handle business after they’ve seen (my pitching and) we’d seen their pitchers – it just came down to the matter of who made adjustments first,” said Davis. “We had great defense going all the way through. We had to string some hits together, and we did at the right time. Everything played into our favor.”

And it should continue to do so as the Pirates crucible-like recent stretch should leave them ready for just about anything, said Rorie.

“I think they’ve been very humble through the whole situation,” Rorie said. “They’ve had a lot of trials with it. We’ve had a tough road in the playoffs, and I think they kind of overcame a lot of that. It’s been fun to watch.

“It was a tough week, and I wouldn’t recommend that week to any coach in the state of North Carolina to have to face Alexander Central and then three times against North Davidson in one week. I think (our players) did a good job to come back and regroup.”

Now, it’s time to refocus on the squad’s – and the school’s – ultimate goal: a team state championship.

“I think we’re excited – I’m excited,” said Rorie of this weekend’s series. “The girls worked very hard this year, and I think it’s paying off. Hopefully, we’ll continue with one more step.”

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