The trees were what Ken Akers II thought of first. The last time Akers was on the grass and dirt at Wiley Warren Field, he was a senior at Broughton High School. Those Leyland Cypress trees next to the dugout were there too – only they were a lot shorter then.
Akers remembers the trees because he and the rest of Broughton’s 1987 baseball team planted them. Since then, the Leyland Cypresses have grown to be taller than 25 feet. And 25 years later, the boys of 1987 team have grown into men and legends at their school.
Akers and seven of his teammates from the 1987 season were honored by the school Friday afternoon for the 25th anniversary of the Caps winning the NCHSAA Class 4A baseball championship. It’s still the only state title the school has won in the sport.
“When I was on the field,” Akers said, “I thought about how much time I spent on this field. It was a lot.”
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Besides the trees, Akers, 43, noticed everything about the field was the same. Only now, the park will feature a 1987 championship billboard, which the eight players saw for the first time.
The team received a nice ovation from the crowd during the ceremony before this year’s Broughton team hosted Enloe. Before walking off the field, Akers talked to the Caps.
“I wanted to tell these guys to go win,” Akers said.
The Caps did. They defeated the Eagles 10-1. Akers thought he would leave the game after the first inning, right around the time he and his teammates would stop receiving congratulations from people about what they accomplished 25 years ago.
But Akers, a senior who played third base that year, stayed to watch his alma mater, which brought back memories.
The best one for Akers: The 1987 team won the state title over Asheville A.C. Reynolds on its home field.
“That was the last time I played baseball really well,” said Akers, who is now a commercial printer in Raleigh. “It was cool to go out like that.”
When the Caps recorded the final out in their 5-2 win in the third and decisive game of the championship series, Akers watched his father, Ken Akers I, grab the third base. Akers II has the base in his home.
Clark Womack, a senior pitcher in 1987, remembers the Caps not being the most talented team. Womack said they won by doing the right things. The Caps hit singles. They bunted base runners over. And they didn’t make errors.
Womack, 43, and Jason Smith, 43, were the only pitchers on the team.
“We constantly worked on fastballs up and down and pitching to the corners,” said Womack, now a commercial real estate broker in Raleigh. “We really wanted to control the game.”
The pair did control the final game. Womack pitched into the fifth inning. Then, Smith relieved Womack to secure the title.
Chris Newton, 43, watched every game that season as the team’s student manager and statistician. Since then, Newton has been an assistant coach at Broughton for 17 years.
“At the time, I really didn’t appreciate what we did,” Newton said. “Now that I’m a coach, you really appreciate what those guys did. You always dream about winning your last game. That was something special.”