Piedmont Online; Jan 3, 2022
Due to the light calendar Of activities during the holidays, as well as health issues, Piedmont Online is issuing a small edition this week.
We are including a story from the Little Girls Dream Too series of blogs. I hope you enjoy it.
We’d like to wish everyone a happy and blessed new year.
- Stars In The House
Fans attending games at Granville Central got an extra treat as All-American Sarah Strong took a shoot around between games. Strong, a sophomore at Grace Christian in Sanford, is ranked as one of the top five sophomores in the nation. She was at the game to support travel teammate Emerson Thompson, who is also ranked as one of the top prospects in the class of 2024.
According to her dad Danny Strong, who is also her AAU coach, Sarah does not have a time frame to decide where she’ll go to college. Among the schools that are in the running are Stanford, UConn and NC State.
Sarah and Toni Hughes (also pictured)played in John Wall Holiday Tournament later in the day, edging past Heritage 40–38
The former Cooper Home on William St was converted into the local Salvation Army in 1930 where it remained until 1964. The building was torn down several years ago. The location is now the home of Four Seasons Seamless Gutters.
The annual girls basketball tournament at Granville Central was cancelled after two teams dropped out, but the school was able to salvage some games. Falls Lake and Franklinton each earned two wins by defeating Granville Central and JF Webb,
On the first day, Franklinton’s Mikayla Taborn scored 20 and pulled down 14 rebounds as the Red Rams defeated Webb 62–37. In the late game, Emerson Thompson unloaded for 32 points as Falls Lake Academy knocked off Granville Central despite being short of players including starting center Ashbee Stanbridge. Both teams won again on day two after switching opponents. Thompson played the second game with an injured foot.
Ravenscroft, Crossroads, Vance Charter and Oxford Prep had planned to participate, but CCS and the Ravens were forced to cancel, leaving OPS and VCS without opponents. Vance Charter coach Brian Howard said the cancellation actually worked out okay for him since the Knights are battling several injuries.
The regular season starts back up on Tuesday.
Fire & Ice
Aubrey Puryear rises from her catcher position during softball warm-ups and walks to the backstop to confiscate one of Bug Dickerson’s missiles. The game hasn’t started yet but it seems that Bug’s a little bit wild tonight. But that’s okay; Aubrey looks over at Bug’s parents and gives a confident grin: Bug is throwing fire today. Aubrey is very good at what she does and her confidence is a bit of a relief.
For a flame thrower like Bug, wild pitches and hard hit balls are as inevitable as night and day. But like Aubrey, Bug is very good at what she does. She has a blistering fastball and an occasional deadly change up. The deeper she goes into the game, the harder (and more accurate) she throws, always giving her team a chance to win. She is boiling with self-confidence. Cocky, maybe… but for a flame thrower, a high level of confidence is critical. It’s all part of the package that is Dakota “Bug” Dickerson.
On the flip side of the inning, Addyson Faucette is the exact opposite of Bug. While Bug is a little stick of dynamite, Addyson has ice water running through her veins. She never shows emotion; there’s never a facial expression of any kind. Everything is routine, even her batting. Before taking a pitch, she knocks the dirt from the bottom of each cleat with the tap of a bat, and she does it twice.
Instead of a fastball, Addyson relies on perfectly placed lifters and wicked change-ups that remind the baseball fan of Rick Monday’s description of a Phil Neikro knuckleball: “it giggles at you as it goes by”.
Addyson’s most noticeable habit is during the warm-up pitches at the beginning of each inning. When the umpire calls the final pitch, Addyson delivers and then falls to the ground. From the stands, it looks odd. But there’s a reason for it. Addyson’s catcher is Kaylin Gooch. She too is a very good catcher and has an accurate throw to second, but she’s much smaller than Aubrey. Addyson drops to the ground to give her a clear shot. It’s a mute point now, but it may prove to be a game changer in a high school conference where girls have become comfortable trotting from first to second without a throw.
That’s right: Bug and Addyson pitched for a middle school team where the players’ ages are 11–14. It’s still a developmental stage for Bug and Addyson, as well as Aubrey and Kaylin.
I had never seen a middle school game. A friend asked me to photograph her daughter and I was glad to. I was expecting to see something more in line with t-ball. Bug (Vance Charter) was pitching the game I was watching and Addyson (Oxford Prep) was one field over. Oxford was getting pushed around pretty badly until they switched pitchers. That’s not an insult to the first pitcher by any means; she’s actually very good. She just wasn’t on that day… all pitchers have such days. When Addyson came in, the hitting barrage ceased and batters were walking back to the dug out with a confused look. I probably had the same look: what kinda junk was this kid throwing?
While Addyson was sailing through batters quietly and deliberately, Bug was throwing harder and harder, leaving tired batters with their own confused look.
Later in the season, Bug and Addyson finally faced off against each other. The results weren’t what Bug wanted, but in all my years I’ve found that college scouts seldom (if ever) look at wins and losses. They look at competition and durability. For Bug’s accuracy and velocity to consistently get better as the game progresses is a strong selling point. For Addyson, it was a great game… she barely missed a no-hitter. The game ball was hers.
It’s all in the game, but I’m not a sports writer. I want you to meet Bug and Addyson; the two charming young ladies whom I’ve come to know over the past year.
I had never met Bug or Addyson prior to the VC-OP game that day but I had met their parents. It was through the stories their parents told and the love and support they gave their kids that I wanted to write a story about Bug and Addyson. But getting to know the two girls changed the story.
First, the game ball: Addyson apparently knew what she wanted to do and she looked toward the coach for an okay. After getting a nod, she walked over to the Vance Charter dugout and gave the game ball to Makenzie Pendergrass, a VC player who is confined to a wheelchair and had been given the chance to get a base hit earlier in the game.
Addyson and Bug both knew that I was considering writing a blog about them and they had agreed to pose together for a picture after the game. When I saw what Addyson did with the game ball, there was no question the story was on.
Now that several months have passed, I know that what Addyson did is very indicative of her nature as well as Bug’s. Addyson, who is still in middle school, is active with Grace Ministries. If it were up to her, she’d go there every day; her mom takes her there to help as often as she can. She especially wants to help when the assistance is earmarked toward children. Bug, who is now in high school, was one of several students to help me at The Salvation Army this past Christmas, but she quietly took another step. Her mom had told me to let her get two names off the Angel Tree, but Bug insisted on three. Later I learned that Bug had taken the money she makes from a part time job and purchased an entire Christmas for a child she doesn’t know and will probably never meet. It doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows her well; she does similar things with her paycheck throughout the year, helping people who are homeless or need food.
But for now, I’m about to meet Addyson, and then Bug, for the first time. After giving Makenzie the game ball, Addyson hands her bag to her mom and comes over to where I’m standing. Her pony-tail is hanging on for dear life as she slowly transforms back into a 13 year old girl. She stops a few feet from where I’m standing, and she waits.
I don’t know if her mom told her or she figured it out, but Addyson obviously knows I have bad breathing problems, and today isn’t a good day for me. Quietly, Addyson waits patiently for me to catch my breath. As I look down at her, I remember when I was her age.
Softball was a much different sport back then. For one, it was slow pitch. There were a few female athletes but most schools had little or no organized sports program for girls. A few would play with the boys in PE, but if they actually hit the ball they… well, they ran like a girl. Most 12 and 13 year old girls were more into passing notes and learning the deaf mute alphabet or pig latin in a feeble attempt to keep us boys from eavesdropping on their classified conversations about Shaun Cassidy and other life altering topics.
Oh, the times they have a-changed.
Bug and Addyson began pitching fast pitch softball at a younger age than I learned to ride a bicycle. While still at a developmental stage in sports, they are already laying out a foundation that may take them through college. Bug spent the summer traveling the east coast and pitching against the best competition she could find. Addyson made a guest appearance on a travel team, pitching three out of four games (including a shut out) and earning tournament MVP.
But somewhere inside these two fierce competitors, there is a young girl. They live in a mental state of mass confusion… tomorrow’s test, the chores at home, a job, charity, church, the trip laid out this weekend for another tournament in another city. And on top of all that, there’s adolescent social requirements and this new concept that boys may not be quite as disgusting as they once believed.
So what exactly is going on in Addyson’s mind as she looks up at me? Maybe she’s just happy with the masterpiece she just pitched. Maybe she’s wondering if she’ll be my feature picture tonight on Instagram.
No; she just waits for my breathing to settle and she looks up and smiles: “Let’s go find Bug and take a picture”.