There were two outs with the tying run on third base in the bottom of the seventh inning as Metrolina Christian faced High Point Christian in the 2012 N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association championship game. Senior Mallory Broome was on the mound and had already pitched 22 innings that day, but she didn’t bow to the pressure, pitching the third and final strike of the game to crown the Warriors state champions.
Broome was nothing short of dominant from the mound that season. Now playing at Western Carolina, Broome was a four-time all-state selection and recorded a 24-2 record her senior season with 17 shutouts, 342 strikeouts and a microscopic 0.32 ERA. From the plate she was just as productive, batting .520 with nine home runs on the season.
But when she graduated, the senior headliner left a big hole in the Warrior lineup and the majority of an infield that hadn’t played much defense that season.
“The year we won states, we really only had strong pitching,” said freshman shortstop Sophie Ivie, who’s started at that position since the seventh grade. “No one could hit anything off our pitcher so we’d just stand out there and look pretty. We didn’t have to do much because our pitcher just carried all the weight.”
Last season, the Warriors had big adjustments to make on a team without Broome – and without a pitcher. Then seventh-grader Logan Bjorson stepped in on the mound but after two seasons going 46-8 (2011-12), the Warriors had to rebuild both their offense and defense last season as they were young and inexperienced. Even still, they finished the 2013 season with a 16-8 record and made a fourth-round state playoff appearance – and did it all with only one senior on the squad.
“When we won the state championship in 2012, it was primarily due to dominant pitching. No one would argue that,” said coach Ricky Broome, now in his seventh year as the Warriors’ coach and father of Mallory Broome. “Last year, Logan was our only pitcher and she was just in the seventh grade. That’s a big position to take on. But we went to the quarter finals in states so we knew those adjustments we had to make and worked toward them.”
This season Bjorson has varsity experience under her belt, the Warrior defense is only allowing 2.6 runs per game and the total team effort has catapulted the Warriors back to the top of conference standings and to a 9-1 league record.
“This year, the girls know that more balls are going to be hit to them and they’re ready for that,” Broome said. “Mallory had a phenomenal senior year…but with that, defense gets a little slack. You’ll notice in practice that we work on our defense a lot because we know balls are going to be hit. This season, though, there’s been the least amount of mistakes made in years. The girls have stepped up and have each others backs and they’re working together.”
With players like Sophie Ivie at shortstop, Cheyenne Bricken controlling center field, Hannah Gordon, a sophomore transfer from Sun Valley, providing pitching relief and Bjorson taking charge from the mound while her sister, Macy Bjorson, catching her the Warriors are loaded in each phase of the game – something that’s translated into wins on the field and a tighter-than-ever bond off of it.
“As a team, our bond just keeps growing stronger,” Bricken said. “That’s really helped us get stronger as a team, too, which is something we didn’t realize would happen.”
Their strength as a team has been most evident from the plate, where they’ve outscored opponents 141-40. Bricken has a team-high batting average of .500 with 12 RBIs and has yet to make an error from her position at center field. Ivie has a team-high 20 RBIs batting .475 while Macy Bjorson is hitting .429 with 15 stolen bases and six RBIs. Her sister Logan, now in eighth grade, hits .355 with seven RBIs.
From the pitchers circle, she’s 5-0 with 37 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.98. Gordon, the Warriors’ relief pitcher, is 6-1 from the mound with 45 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.60. But her bat’s just as hot – she’s hitting .328 with eight RBIs.
“This is a talented group of young ladies,” Broome said. “They’re all just really good athletes. We’ve gotten help this year in sophomore Sun Valley transfer Hannah Gordon, who’s been able to give us innings and games from the mound when Logan is out. We’re just a complete team. I’ve got two pitchers and big hitters and that can make all the difference.”
With varsity experience in Ivie, Bricken and Macy Bjorson – and each of them with a ring to their name – it’s hard not to focus on winning another state championship this season as the pieces of the puzzle seem to be coming together for the Warriors. Their only conference loss came from Hickory Grove Christian in their fourth game of the season when Logan Bjorson and two other starters were out sick. When the Warriors met Hickory Grove for the second time on April 8 with a complete roster, they won soundly, 4-2.
“Our motivation was better that game,” Macy Bjorson said. “We had all of our players back and we really proved what we could do on the field. Having Logan back with the rest of the team motivated us to do more and we never gave up. We know what we’re capable of this year.”
“Our toughest competition is Hickory Grove and we just beat them, so it’s hard not to think about states,” Ivie said. “We’re starting to see that we’ve got the potential on this team to do it
Though the Warrior team is still very young – they’ll only graduate two this season and have three freshmen and two eighth-grade starters – Broome said that thoughts of another title are still in the back of his mind. In order to get there, he’ll be counting on Ivie, Bricken and the Bjorsons to continue performing at their best.
“They all work in the off-season,” he said. “Cheyenne – if the ball is hit to her, she’s making the play… I look at Sophie and she’s the total package as far as a utility player. You can put her anywhere on the diamond and she’ll perform. She’s only a freshman and she’s been playing varsity since seventh grade. Macy has stepped up and having her behind the plate, what better person to put back there than the sister of the pitcher? It’s working really well for us. She’s really stepped up and matured and is taking command of the game. Wherever we need them, they’ve all been team players.”
The Warriors face Northside Christian Academy on April 22 and have tough games scheduled with Gaston Christian School and High Point Christian Academy before the state tournament begins. But regardless of the way the rest of this season plays out, Broome said that Metrolina Christian softball is on the rise.
“We’re going to be strong for at least the next four or five years,” he said. “There’s talent coming up everywhere and that’s exciting as a coach and for the program.”