Orange senior catcher Mia Davidson may be the most highly-regarded softball player to ever play in the Triangle. The Mississippi State recruit was recently ranked No. 4 among all senior players and begins this season just two home runs shy of breaking the N.C. High School Athletic Association record.
It’s safe to say that, barring injury, Davidson will reach the mark. She has 41 and the record is 43.
She belted 18 home runs (one shy of the NCHSAA record for a single season) with 49 RBIs, .740 batting average, on-base percentage of .851 and a slugging percentage of 2.060.
Note: This previews covers conferences where most of the teams are located in Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties. A regional preview covering all other teams will run Sunday.
Cap-8 4A: Heritage (18-4) won the league last year and returns Ashley Gontram (.463) and N&O All-Metro junior Imani Rochelle. Rochelle enters the season on a 20-game hit streak that dates back to last year. She hit .463 with four home runs.
Wake Forest (20-7), Wakefield (15-8) and Millbrook (11-11) rounded out the top four. Wakefield’s Bella Buccellato hit .468.
Greater Neuse 4A: The league has almost always come down to West Johnston (20-5) and Garner (20-4), but Harnett Central (15-8) and Rolesville (14-9) aren’t far behind.
Garner’s Libby Bynum (.471), Kira Jackson (.464) and Haleigh Joyner (.408) give the Trojans a solid lineup.
West Johnston is led by Lorin Lesnicky (.520) and Tatum Brummitt (.471) while Rolesville has the bats of Mercades Torres (.453) and Abby Taylor (.443) and the arm of Madison Taylor (0.97 ERA).
PAC-6 4A: East Chapel Hill (11-9) won the conference title to snap a five-year reign of Person (9-11), thanks in part to Grace Vincent (.438). Cardinal Gibbons (10-11) could challenge with a healthy Clare Zureich, who was unable to pitch last year but batted .438. Northern Durham (10-11) is led by McKenzie McCullen (.485, eight home runs) and Sarah Pleasants (.442).
Southwest Wake 4A: Fuquay-Varina (19-4) won the SWAC by one game over Apex (18-4).
Fuquay has just one senior returning in Brianna Smith, a second baseman and Howard recruit. Taylor Smith moves over to shortstop. Apex seniors Shelby Poliachik (.473) and Samantha Pesot (.484) are among the league’s top hitters.
Holly Springs (13-8) was a surprise last year and graduated only four players. Panther Creek (15-7) is led by Rachel Johnson (.508) and Sarah Aukamp (.456).
Middle Creek (13-10) is led by seniors Camryn Druga and Madison Wilson and junior Gianna Gravius. Sophomores Breck Dickey (pitcher), Tianna Langley, Christina Mitten and Claudia Penny are also back.
Green Hope (10-10) is led by pitcher Katelyn Ellard, first baseman Madison Clifford and shortstop Savannah Harrison.
Big 8 3A: Northwood (20-3) and Orange (23-4) were co-champions. In addition to Davidson, Orange is bringing back pitcher Kristina Givens, second baseman Abby Hamlett and key hitters MaryBeth Dobbins, Alysann Lloyd and Alisha Pettiford.
Northwood has Ally McKee (.423) among its returners. J.F. Webb (16-11) lost just three seniors from last year’s team. Cedar Ridge (15-7) is led by junior Rivers Andrews, who tossed seven no-hitters (243 strikeouts, 0.37 ERA) and hit .438.
Two Rivers 3A: South Johnston (13-9) won the league but it was Corinth Holders (14-11) and Cleveland (17-7) making the deeper playoff runs. Triton (12-12) and Western Harnett (13-13) rounded out the six-team conference’s five playoff teams.
There are some impressive hitters to go around: Rebecca Parker hit .427 with nine home runs for Corinth Holders, Cleveland’s Kayla Womack batted .595 and Triton’s Anna Tyndall batted .500.
NCAC 1A: East Wake Academy (16-4) won the conference but will get a strong challenge from newcomer Falls Lake Academy. Ruby Helms hit .500 for East Wake Academy.
Though Falls Lake Academy only has freshmen and sophomores, Allison Fletcher, Martina O’Briant, Taylor Young and Micki Maxson are expected to contribute heavily.
Private schools: North Raleigh Christian (18-1) was undefeated before a 4-2 loss in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A quarterfinals.