State champs! Aynor softball takes title with dominant performance in series finale

Aynor High School’s softball team took a two-hour bus ride to the central part of the state Friday and returned to Horry County with a state championship trophy.

The Blue Jackets (31-2) defeated Crescent, 8-2, in the third game of the best-of-three series to win the S.C. Class 3A state championship. The winner-take-all game was played at White Knoll High in Lexington County.

The bus ride included a postseason tradition that began last season for the Aynor team: a quick stop at the year-old Buc-ee’s travel center in Florence.

“We get in there and get us some snacks, take some photos,” Aynor coach Tony Mills said. “It’s all about the memories.”

Aynor added to the on-field memories as well, one year after falling short in a Game 3 loss to Broome High in the state championship series.

Aynor won the 2023 series opener, 7-1, on Monday, with Crescent taking the second game. 1-0, on Wednesday. White Knoll High served as the neutral-site stadium for the decisive series finale. Community members, students and family packed the stands Friday to support the Blue Jackets.

Freshman Alivia Hess pitched a complete game, striking out two while allowing no walks, three hits and one earned run. She had three hits as a batter — and ate a Buc-ee’s brisket sandwich as part of her pregame meal.

“It means a lot because last year we were in this position and we worked so hard to get back here,” Hess said. “We knew that we were going to win. We just had a feeling.”

Katie Goff, Ryan Ellis and Riley Rabon each drove in two runs for Aynor, which got out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first inning. Caroline Gaskins stole three bases. The Blue Jackets added two runs in the third and sixth innings.

“Alivia could’ve thrown seven more innings, the way she finished,” Mills said. “She felt it. Everything was working.”

Aynor has now won three softball state titles in three different classifications, the others coming in Class A (1990) and 2A (2015).

Crescent (27-5) has 19 state titles to its credit, the last of which came in 2013.

“People are going to look back one day and say Aynor won the state championship,” Mills said. “They’re not going to know what year it was, but they’re going to remember the memories. They’re going to talk about going to Buc-ee’s. They’re going to talk about that bus ride. At the end of the day, that’s what life is all about.”

Baseball: Catawba Ridge 7, North Myrtle Beach 3

Catawba Ridge baseball won the school’s second state title in less than 24 hours in defeating the Chiefs on Friday in the deciding game in the best-of-three Class 4A championship series.

The title comes after the Copperheads defeated South Florence to win the 4A softball title on Thursday. It’s just the fourth year in operation for the school located in Fort Mill.

The loss ends the Chiefs’ season at 28-7 and caps the best season in program history.

North Myrtle Beach won the opening game of the series, 5-3, on Monday before losing 4-1 on Wednesday. The deciding game was held at Hartsville’s Jimmy White Park.

NMB jumped out to a 2-0 lead on first baseman Luke Roupe’s two-run homer in the first inning. Roupe finished with two hits in the game. But the Copperheads answered with two runs each in the second and third innings before adding three more in the sixth.

Brennan Helms led CR with two hits and three RBIs. Britton Nash, Jackson Mullen and Ben Wilson each had an RBI for the Copperheads.

CR’s Jackson McCoy struck out nine and allowed two earned runs in six innings to get the win.