Bertie wins NCC
WINDSOR – Everyone tired of hearing Jackie Copeland preach one game at a time can breathe a sigh of relief.
Well… not really.
The Bertie High School Head Softball Coach ended that season-long mantra Friday afternoon when the Lady Falcons clinched the Northeastern Coastal Conference (NCC) championship. Well, suspended it more likely.
“I’ve said all season long we have to take it one game at a time, but no more,” Copeland said after the Falcons took a 12-1 win over First Flight High School. “We did today what we set out to do n we won the conference championship.”
Seconds later, Copeland added with a smile, “Well, actually, we’ll start one game at a time again next week.”
The Lady Falcons improved to 20-1 on the season with Friday’s win over the Lady Nighthawks. They also wrapped up an 11-1 season inside the NCC.
The league title was something Copeland and assistant coach Jeremy Dawson believed was possible from the beginning of the season.
“When I first spoke to Jeremy about coming onboard and helping with the softball program, he said that he felt we’d make a good coaching combination,” Copeland said. “We discussed our goals and we felt like from day one we had the opportunity to win the conference.”
The Lady Falcons lone loss came to Currituck High School in the first round of league play. After Northeastern upset the Lady Knights, the Falcons needed only to win their remaining games, including a rematch at Currituck, to claim the title.
After securing the 2-1 win at Currituck, the Lady Falcons focused in on the remainder of the season and took the final three games of the season to secure the title.
“I’ve preached all season that we have to take one game at a time,” Copeland said. “We knew we had to do that coming into the final week and we did.”
The final victory the Falcons needed came Friday afternoon when senior right-hander Megan Cowan tossed a two-hitter as the Falcons rolled by First Flight.
After Cowan sat down two of the first three batters via strikeout and induced a lazy pop fly, the Lady Falcons served notice of their intentions in the home half of the first inning.
Freshman Jody Mizelle led off with a single on the infield and went to second when senior Abby Parker laid down the first of three sacrifice bunts on the day.
After Courtney Dunlow walked, Christie Brown laced a single to center to score Mizelle. Senior catcher Carla Cooper then drew a walk to load the bases.
Senior Brittany Hoggard drilled a single to center scoring Dunlow and Brown and giving the Falcons a 3-0 lead.
Cowan again struck out two of three batters in the top of the second and the Falcons again scored in the bottom of the inning.
Holly Cowand singled on the infield, took second when Mizelle reached on an error, reached third on Parker’s sacrifice and scored on Brown’s single to center, making it 4-0.
The Nighthawks scored their lone run in the top of the third when a two-base error, a groundout and a wild pitch gave them a run to trim the deficit to 4-1.
Bertie scored again in the bottom of the third when Cowan led off with a double and went to third on a wild pitch. She scored on a Cowand single, making it 5-1.
The Lady Falcons opened the flood gates in the bottom of the fourth, plating seven runs.
Brown and Cooper drew back-to-back walks to open the inning and advanced on a passed ball. Brown scored on a wild pitch that sent Cooper to third. Hoggard then delivered another RBI-single that plated Cooper.
Cowan reached on an error and stole second. Cowand then walked to load the bases to set the table for Parker’s double that scored both Cowan and Hoggard. Cowand and Parker then scored on Dunlow’s double to left.
After Brown singled, she stole second allowing Dunlow to steal home on a delay and make it 12-1.
With one out in the top of the fifth, a First Flight batter hit a shot in the hole at second base, but Brown dived to grab the ball and threw the runner out from her knees to record the second out.
Cowan struck out the final batter of the contest as Bertie recorded win number 20 on the season.
“I was happy for the team, but especially my four seniors,” Copeland said. “They worked very hard for this and they did a great job in the game.”
The seniors all had excellent outings. Parker led the way with a 1-for-1 day at the plate that included a double and three sacrifices. Hoggard was 2-for-3 on the day with three RBIs and Cowan was 1-for-3 with a run scored. Cooper drew two walks in four at-bats and scored twice.
The coach said she was pleased to see Parker and Hoggard coming in from the outfield running together foot-by-foot and laughing as they enjoyed the game.
Copeland also said she enjoyed the team’s post-game celebration where she was covered with cake rather than the traditional Gatorade bath.
“It was a welcome change,” she said. “I was worried about getting dumped with water or Gatorade and they got me with the cake, but that’s okay. We enjoyed the celebration.”
With the league title in tow, the Falcons will advance to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs.