The C.B. Aycock softball dugout was quiet, but not completely without noise. Nobody was talking, but tears were shed and hugs were offered as the sound of bats and gloves being packed away into equipment bags rang out in the background.
The mood was somber, and understandably so.
The Golden Falcons’ season came to an end minutes earlier in perhaps the cruelest way possible. They lost, 5-3, to Enka in Game 2 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A softball championship best-of-three-series Saturday.
Looking to protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, Aycock junior pitcher Taylor Waddell gave up a three-run walk-off home run to senior first baseman Addison Harris, handing Enka the title win.
A no-doubter off Harris’ bat, the ball bounced off the right field scoreboard and it triggered a series of contrasting emotions between the two teams.
Having just won their second consecutive state title, the Sugar Jets (26-3) erupted, mobbing Harris as she crossed home plate. At the same time, nine Aycock players made their way off the field, lamenting a missed opportunity at glory.
“We’re disappointed. We should have had it,” Aycock junior right fielder Connor Vinson said after the loss. “There’s nothing else but disappointment. Wishing we were them right now.”
Proud of his team’s efforts, Aycock coach Lavon Matthews couldn’t help but also be equally upset. No stranger to coaching teams in the NCHSAA championship series, Matthews noted that for the second straight game, one bad inning undid Aycock (29-4).
“Right there at the end they just came through and just got the hits at the right time,” Matthews said. “One inning in the last two games is what’s done us in.”
Held scoreless in the first five innings, Aycock looked like it might go down without much of a fight.
The Golden Falcons rallied for two runs in the top of the sixth. A single by senior catcher Abbie Walton and a sacrifice bunt by junior third baseman Tanika Powell brought the game to a deadlock.
An inning later, Aycock gained its first lead of the day and seemed poised to force a decisive third game after Vinson singled in the go-ahead run.
“We started playing short-ball,” Matthews said. “We started bunting some, moving runners up, stealing bases; putting a little pressure on them. It seemed to work out and we got the hits at the right time.”
Aycock’s momentum was short-lived as Enka stayed composed despite trailing late in the contest.
“It’s not the end,” Vinson said. “We’ll be back next year.”