Softball conference champs; advances to second round playoffs

Junior softball player/catcher Avery Moffitt was named FHS April Athlete of the Month. Pictured with Avery are (L-R) Bobby Bishop, Head Varsity Softball Coach; Matt Bradley, Co-Athletic Director; Moffitt; Cori Sellers with Matt Corbin Dental; and Hank Hodge, First Citizens Bank.
Junior softball player/catcher Avery Moffitt was named FHS April Athlete of the Month. Pictured with Avery are (L-R) Bobby Bishop, Head Varsity Softball Coach; Matt Bradley, Co-Athletic Director; Moffitt; Cori Sellers with Matt Corbin Dental; and Hank Hodge, First Citizens Bank.

Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer

Panther softball wins regular season conference title; advances to second round of the NCHSAA State Playoffs 

The Franklin High School (FHS) softball team finished up an 18-3 and 11-1 conference season last Thursday. With their final 11-0 shellacking of 3A/4A T.C. Roberson, the Lady Panthers put the stamp on an outstanding regular season and ensured the top seed in the upcoming Mountain Seven Conference (MSC) tournament. Additionally, junior outfielder/catcher Avery Moffitt was named FHS Athlete of the Month for April. Moffitt has been integral to the team’s 14-game winning streak with a .407 batting average since mid-March. She has also logged 14 of her total 16 runs batted in (RBI) since the team’s last (and only conference) loss against Tuscola, in mid-March. 

In their past two games, the first on May 2 at West Henderson, and their last, against the aforementioned Rams, FHS has completely dominated the competition. In the latter, many players made contributions: freshman Ashlynn McConnell went 3-for-3 with an RBI and scored four runs; senior Tori Ensley had two hits in four at-bats, one a triple, and scored two runs; junior Avery Moffitt went 4-for-4 at the plate, scored four runs and also had one RBI; junior Bree Carver went 1-for-3 hitting but drove in a team high three RBI; freshman. Kendall Rummans, in addition to her stellar pitching, also went 1-for-3 with one run scored and two RBI; senior Tessa Dehart had two hits in four at-bats, including one double. She also drove in three runs. Rummans threw for six innings, allowing but one hit, two walks, and seven strikeouts in an equally dominant pitching performance. 

Perhaps the most notable performance of the evening was senior Abby Carpenter – out for most of the year after shoulder surgery – coming on in the last inning and having an at-bat, where she could only swing with one arm. Predictably, she did not get a hit, but it spoke volumes about what she wanted, and she agreed to take a final at-bat for the season. 

In their conference-clinching victory over the Lady Falcons, FHS scored 13 runs in the seventh inning alone to overwhelm them, 20-3. With 16 total hits logged for the game, the Lady Panthers top performer was senior Tori Ensley. Ensley had five hits in six at-bats with a double and a homerun, scored five runs, and drove in six. Junior Laura Holland also went 4-5 with four runs scored and two RBI of her own.

Junior Delaney Stiles bats against North Buncombe May 9 playoff game.
Junior Delaney Stiles bats against North Buncombe May 9 playoff game.

On Tuesday, May 9, the West Regional Tournament, which is the semi-final round for State, began. FHS hosted the first round, which pitted the Lady Panthers against North Buncombe. The final score was 11-1, and the Panthers win means they will move onto the next round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Championships (3A). The victory increased their winning streak to 15 in row. The Lady Panthers will host conference foe, West Henderson, this Friday, May 12. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

Tennis advances in Playoffs

FHS Tennis had a successful day participating in Regionals at Hickory on Friday and Saturday, May 5-6, as did the Mountain Seven Conference as a whole. On Friday, conference champions Jack Sgro and Mica Jacobs were selected as the fourth seed in the draw for doubles. They first played a team from Fred T. Foard High School (HS) and won 6-3,6-3. 

“In the second round, they faced a team from South Point that had a different style of play, which gave us fits,” said Head Coach Sammy Gunter. “Losing 2-6 in the first set and trailing 4-5 in the second, we finally adjusted by chipping and charging the net to finally take control and won the last nine games to qualify for state.” 

On Saturday, playing for regional seeding purposes, the same pair played the top-seeded team from Hickory, losing 6-0, 6-2. The third and final match was against the #2 seed from St. Stephens High School. In the first set, Sgro/Jacobs got off to a slow start and were down 0-3 before fighting back to 3-3. The set went back and forth from there to 6-6, whereby the St. Stephens team won. In the second set, the Panthers got out front early to win 6-2. The third set was again close as both teams traded excellent shots and untimely errors to reach a 5-5 score. 

“We played steadier to pull out the victory to qualify as the #3 seed from the region to advance to the 3A state playoffs in Burlington this Friday,” added the coach. 

FHS will send a men’s doubles team to the state playoffs for the first time in recent memory.

Earlier in the week, the West Regionals Men’s Tennis Duals were held at Central Davidson High School in Lexington, N.C. on May 3. The Panthers won 6-3 in very windy conditions. 

“After a long bus ride, I didn’t know how we would perform against the Mid-Piedmont Conference Champions with a 9-1 record,” said Gunter. In singles matches, Sgro, Jacobs, Gavin Rinker, and Conner Baldwin all won their matches. In doubles, Eli Adams and Rinker won along with Sgro/Adams. 

“Jack, Mica, and Gavin played through their opponents with relative ease with just a few rough bumps. Conner had a long, physical match with long rallies and momentum shifts before winning the first set. However, this took a toll on the Central Davidson player, who developed leg cramps and could not continue,” the coach added.

In doubles, the top-seeded Sgro/Adams team overpowered their opponents and had better placement at the net to get their doubles win. Second-seeded Rinker/Adams played their best match of the season as they set each other up at the net and then volleyed away balls with authority to run away with the match. 

“I was proud of the effort produced by our guys, but we have to keep working if we want to keep advancing in the playoffs,” said Gunter.

Track and Field take first in conference meet

The Mountain Seven Conference Track Meet took place at North Henderson High School on Tuesday, May 2, where the Panthers swept the championship. The girls beat out West Henderson by a score of 209 – 183, while the boys also bested the Falcons, 228 – 201. Of the five silver “elite performances” called out on the NCRunners MileSplit NC report, three were Panthers: Charley Seagle, for the girls with her 38-1 in the shot-put finals, and both Blake Cassada and Adam Rogers in the pole vaults with 14-0 marks. FHS actually took first through third in the pole vault events for boys’ and girls’ events, with Cassada winning along with Boston Stringer for the girls. 

Sophomore Laura Covarrubias and senior Cal Drake were both named Field Event Most Valuable Player (MVP). Girls’ Head Coach Melissa Ward was named Mountain Seven Girls Coach of the Year. Some other standout performances included Covarrubias breaking the FHS school record in the 200-meter (m) dash with a 25.68 time. Drake is now seventh all-time at FHS, also in the 200m; Claire Ballard won the girls’ discus (95-08); and Talon Smith won the long jump with a personal best (by almost two feet) of 20-09. Seagle had a personal record in her shot-put throw (38-01) and is now #2 all-time for FHS.

Next up for the team is the 3A West Regionals at North Lincoln this weekend.

Golf Season Ends

Coach Ryan Raby and his golf team participated in Regionals May 8 at the River Bend YMCA in Shelby, N.C. Their season ended there where they shot 345 as a team but failed to make the top three cut to advance on to the state round. 

“The kids had a great learning experience this weekend. It wasn’t our best performance, but it wasn’t all bad,” said Raby. 

The advancing team scores ranged from 294 to 303. By comparison, FHS’ best round the entire season was 333. For their final round of the year, the Panthers scored as follows individually: Tanner Jones, 80; Ashton Shope, 83; Max McClure, 88; Cameron Trubicza, 94; and, Owen Jenkins, 96.