No getting softball out of my system anytime soon

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By Jackie Torok, Managing Editor

Friday night marked the first time in my life I wasn’t cheering for a Cleveland team.

Unfortunately, the Cleveland softball players — wearing Carolina blue uniforms, as if to add insult to injury to this proud UNC-CH alumna — defeated our hometown West Brunswick High School team in what I believe is the lousiest way to lose: at home by just one point in a one-and-done tournament.

There’s no question the Lady Trojans, with a 24-2 record, was the better team. But their bats just wouldn’t generate the hits they needed to come back by the end of the seventh inning May 18.

Believe me, I know how disappointed these players are, and not just because my hometown Cleveland sports teams have been breaking my heart all my life (save for my Cavalier’s glorious 2016 NBA title).

Soon after my family moved from Ohio to North Carolina, my parents signed me up for the local YMCA girls’ softball league. The only position I ever played was catcher.

I was never much of a hitter; most of the time, I didn’t have to be because I’m so short that my strike zone is extremely narrow. I’d get walked most often, or else I’d strike out or lay down a base hit — perhaps a double, if I found a groove or the fielder made an error. If I got on base, a runner would always come in for me so I could put on my gear in time for our last out. Good thing, because I’ve never been much of a runner, either.

I was a pretty good catcher, though. I had a decent arm, I was aggressive, I could get up quickly from my knees, and I was willing and able to sprint and dive for pop fouls and errant throws.

During one remarkable win toward the end of my high school career, I made the last out in a triple play. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how great that felt for as long as I live.

My teams made several title runs my 12-year softball career, but always fell short. Those losses stung.

My kid brother was far better at playing baseball than I ever was at softball and, although I was injured at least once every season, I sure loved it. I still have my glove, bat and mask (and crutches), just in case.

Last spring, I covered the Lady Trojans when I briefly took on the role of interim sports editor. I was not only thrilled to have Sam Hickman rejoin the Beacon as our sports editor, but also delighted that for the remainder of the season I could be a spectator and cheer for them unabashedly. I expect to continue this tradition in 2019.

I’m really hoping I can get up to Leland at least once next year to see North Brunswick High School’s Lady Scorpions in action, as well.

I’m already preparing to rearrange my schedule to be there when the first pitch is thrown at the first home game for Brunswick Community College’s brand-new softball team next spring.

I think you should, too.

Jackie Torok is managing editor of the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or editor@brunswickbeacon.com.