The tears shed on Cape Fear’s softball field proved the end of Heritage’s season was at hand.
But despite a 5-0 loss to a powerhouse Colts team in the third round of the state 4A playoffs, there were plenty of smiles, too, because the future of Huskies softball appears bright.
“My freshman year, we started at nothing,” senior pitcher Laura Williams said. “We won four games, so coming to the third round of the playoffs – which has never been done at our school – it’s a huge improvement. I’m very proud to be a part of this team and leaving this kind of legacy here for the (returning players) to live up to.”
The third round was the deepest run the Husky softball team has made, eclipsing the second round last year and the first in 2013.
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“It seems like each year we’ve been going further and further,” junior Jordan Gontram said. “This just builds motivation for next year.”
Williams pitched well, giving up two earned runs, but her counterpart was simply spectacular. Cape Fear senior Mary Williams – who no-hit Clayton in the previous round – gave up only two Huskies hits while striking out 10.
“The best (we’ve faced) this year, probably,” Gontram said. “But definitely not unhittable.”
That kind of confidence seeps through the entire team. Even after a wobbly fifth inning where an error brought in two unearned runs to give Cape Fear a 5-0 lead, Heritage still believed. And why not? The Huskies (20-4) put up nine sixth-inning runs in a 10-3 come-from behind win over Wilmington Hoggard in the second round.
“In the fifth inning, we staggered a little bit,” Williams said. “But I always have hope for this team that we’re going to come back because last game, we came back. Unfortunately, this time we couldn’t pull through, but it happens.”
Cape Fear (23-0) continued its roll through the playoffs by completing its third shutout. The Colts faced Greenville Conley in the fourth round on Friday.
“We knew we were up against a tough team,” Heritage coach Mark Downing said. “They started seven seniors, and we had four freshmen starting. We had a heck of a year.”
The Huskies lose a solid starting pitcher in Williams, but there are plenty of returning starters for 2016.
“We’re really only losing one starter in our pitcher (Williams), “Downing said. “We were playing juniors and freshmen the whole year, so we have (them) coming back … and I’ve got a wonderful group of young kids coming in, so I look for great things. It’s all good for Heritage right now.”
Two of the Huskies’ losses were by one run, and another was a nonconference game in which Williams didn’t pitch.
“We could’ve easily been an undefeated team,” Downing said. “Are we to the caliber of Cape Fear today? No, we’re not.”
But next year, they just might be.