For the first time in team history, the Orange High School Panthers are champions. The Panthers held off Piedmont, 4-1, on Saturday afternoon at Dail Softball Stadium, completing a two-game sweep and giving Orange the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A softball championship.
Mia Davidson was named finals MVP, but it was Kristina Givens and Abby Hamlett who shut the door on Piedmont’s title hopes.
Hamlett drove in the third and fourth runs of the game in the top of the seventh inning while Givens pitched all seven innings, only allowing one run.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Orange coach Eddie Davidson said. “I didn’t sleep a wink last night.”
With her team leading 2-1 heading into the seventh, Hamlett stepped to the plate with two outs having just seen Mia Davidson walked for the third time. Hayley Funk occupied second.
“Every time Mia gets walked, she looks back at me and tells me to do my job,” Hamlett said.
Intentionally walking Davidson has fueled the girls behind her all season to make the opposition pay. Hamlett made them pay one last time this year, lining a double to left field that easily scored Funk and Davidson, who aggressively went home to beat the throw.
Those two runs gave Orange the breathing room it needed, and Givens shut the door.
Givens pitched out of trouble all game in a gutsy effort in what could be her last softball game. She gave up six hits and walked four, but every time Piedmont threatened, Givens had an answer.
In the bottom of the fourth, with her team leading 2-1, Givens gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. Undeterred, she got Sara Griffin and Chloe Rase to ground out to third base, getting the lead runner both times. She ended the inning by inducing Kyrah Phelix into a groundout to short.
“She’s got more heart and is the toughest pitcher I’ve ever coached,” coach Davidson said.
Givens was reportedly feeling ill in the fourth inning but battled through the sickness to finish the game.
Orange got on the board in the first inning with a single by Jaden Hurdle and a sacrifice fly by Alysann Lloyd. Piedmont cut the lead to 2-1 in the third on an RBI single by Gracie Gibson.
The Orange victory was cause for celebration for many reasons, but Mia Davidson seemed most excited watching her dad break-dancing in the dirt during the postgame festivities.
“We had a bet that if we won the state championship, he would break it down for us,” said Mia Davidson, laughing. “And that’s what he did.”
“Vanilla Ice was the big song when I was in high school,” Eddie Davidson said. “They were playing it on the bus over, and they said I had to show them my skills if we won. I tried to avoid it, but they caught me.”