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Trojans lose in fourth round of state softball playoffs

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By Michael Paul, Sports Editor

 PIKEVILLE — C.B. Aycock beat West Brunswick 3-0 May 23 in the fourth round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association class 3A state playoffs.

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Aycock, 19-2, advances to the East Regional. The Trojans finish 17-9.

Aycock scored two of its runs on homers: Sophomore Keeley Fulghum homered to center in the second inning.  For Fulghum, batting .571, it was her fourth homer of the season. Senior Meredith Burroughs homered to right field in the sixth inning. For Burroughs, who nearly homered in the first inning against Caroline Gore (the foul ball landed in the baseball field), the homer was her ninth of the season and gave Aycock a 2-0 lead.

Aycock scored another run in the inning on a double and a single.

Winning pitcher Allie Phillips (12-1) gave up three hits, walked none and struck out 10 batters in six innings.

Coach Emily Burke said her pitcher was eager to pitch in the playoff game.

“I have her second period,” Burke said, “and that’s all she talked about was the ballgame. I was really struggling to get her to focus on her work.

“She did an awesome job. She doesn’t have very much playoff experience at all, and to be able to go this deep her sophomore year is awesome.”

West coach Joe Noble praised his pitcher.

“I knew Caroline coming in here had been tested a lot more than any of the other teams that they had seen,” Noble said. “I felt very confident with her coming in here that she was going to be able to manage the game. And she did an outstanding job.”

For West, Maddi Emmons had two hits and Haley Long one hit.

“We had three freshmen and two sophomores in the lineup,” Noble said. “It’s exciting for what’s going to happen for this team down the road.”

West proved to be Aycock’s toughest foe in two weeks. Burke said her team had not played a full seven-inning game “in a couple of weeks.”

Aycock won the 3A state championship in 2012, and three players on that team were in the lineup against West: Cierra Harris, Katie Gay and Burroughs. Burroughs, a sophomore in 2012, hit two home runs and drove in five of Aycock’s runs in its 7-2 victory in the state title game. She has continued to star for Aycock. Entering the game against West, she was batting .571 with 30 RBIs and eight home runs. The Aycock team is batting .416. The lowest batting average among the starters is .286.

The regionals are next week. The winner advances to the state title series June 6-7 at Walnut Creek Softball Complex in Raleigh.

West reached the fourth round by winning 6-3 May 20 at Swansboro. Emmons was 3-for-3 with two RBIs. Leilani Emile had three hits and three RBIs. Randaisa Daniels had three hits. Ariana Thomas had two hits. Nicole Phillips had one RBI.

Gore was the winning pitcher, throwing all seven innings and giving up three hits. She gave up a home run in the final inning. She walked five and struck out eight.

Swansboro finished the season 19-4.

“It was a comfortable victory,” West assistant coach Mike Cronin said.