Veteran South Johnston softball coach Mickey Bridgers predicted in the preseason that the high school softball in Johnston County would be remarkable this season.
He noted that his club, Cleveland, Corinth Holders, West Johnston, Princeton and North Johnston would all be outstanding.
South Johnston and Princeton are playing in their N.C. High School Athletic Association best-of-three semifinals this week and Cleveland and West Johnston fell one run short in their third-round playoff games.
“We play pretty good softball in the county,” Bridgers said. “We’re pretty loaded.”
South Johnston (22-3) plays Pikeville Aycock (19-2) in the 3A eastern region championship series that begins on Tuesday while Princeton (19-4) faces Whiteville (23-6) in the 1A semifinals.
South Johnston and Aycock have been impressive in the playoffs. South knocked off Fayetteville Byrd 10-0 and Southwestern Randolph 6-1 before topping Eastern Alamance 7-4. The Trojans reached the semifinals with a tension-filled 2-1 victory over rival Cleveland on Saturday despite getting only one hit in the final six innings.
Aycock averages almost 11 runs per game and outscored Erwin Triton 10-0, Hampstead Topsail 15-5 and Southern Nash 11-1 before downing West Brunswick 3-0 on Saturday night.
This is the sixth consecutive year that South Johnston has won 20 or more games and its eighth straight year making it into the playoffs.
The Trojans will face one of the best home run hitters in NCHSAA history in the series. Aycock senior Meredith Burroughs shares the state record for most homers in a season with 19 in 2012. The N.C. State recruit currently shares the state record with 42 career home runs.
Undefeated teams dominate: Middle Creek is the only team left in the 4A softball playoffs with a blemished record this season. Traditional powers Alexander Central (31-0 and three state titles in the past five years) and North Davidson (30-0 and the 2010 state champ) play in the western semifinals while Middle Creek (20-2) takes on Fayetteville Cape Fear (24-0).
Middle Creek’s losses were to Apex, 2-1 on March 11, and Holly Springs, 1-0 on May 5.
The Mustangs were dashing through the playoffs before needing nine innings to stop West Johnston 5-4 in the fourth round Saturday night. Middle Creek had dispatched Wakefield 11-1, Millbrook 4-0 and Leesville 10-0 in the first three rounds.
Middle Creek rallied for three runs in seventh to force extra innings against West Johnston. Devin Wallace, who hit a home run in her third straight game, drove in the winning run in the ninth with a walk-off double.
Middle Creek travels to Cape Fear Tuesday and is at home Thursday in 7 p.m. The third game, if needed, will be at Cape Fear.
Princeton at home: Princeton will open its best-of-three semifinal series at home Tuesday night against Whiteville at 6 p.m. Princeton (19-4) will travel to Washington (23-6) on Friday at 7 p.m., and will be back home on Saturday if the series goes three games.
The Bulldogs stopped Camden County’s 20-game winning streak with a 6-4 victory Saturday. Princeton banged out 14 hits, including three each by Charley Cox, Taylor Carroll and Kortney Edwards.
“If all of our hitting comes around, we will be great,” said Princeton coach Terry Braswell. “It seems whenever one part of our lineup doesn’t produce, the others will pick them up.”
Jay Mumford contributed to this story.