North Lincoln swept the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference’s individual softball awards with a Player of the Year honor for sophomore Courtney Trickle and a Coach of the Year award for second-year coach Kristen Bryson.
North Lincoln (13-1 SPC) took regular-season and conference tournament championships and exited the 2A state playoffs in the second round. East Lincoln and West Lincoln, the SPC’s two other entries into the 2A brackets, both also exited in the second round.
Trickle, North Lincoln’s catcher, was a key player for the team both at the plate and behind the dish. She said her favorite moment from the season came in the Lady Knight’s 7-3 victory over North Henderson in the first round of the playoffs when she hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the third to tie the game at 3-3.
“It’s really exciting and surprising,” Trickle said about being named Player of the Year.
Trickle said she enjoys her position at catcher as the only player looking out from behind home plate.
“I like always getting the ball and seeing everything from a different angle,” she said. “I see a lot more than people realize.”
The Lady Knights lost one senior to graduation last year and this year they’re also losing just one senior — powerhouse All-Conference selection Payton Bruce. Trickle said she thinks the team may be even stronger next year as a result of keeping so many players.
“I think we should be even better because we’ll have been together for even longer,” she said. “A lot of us have been close friends before softball.”
Trickle led North Lincoln in several statistical categories. She had team-highs with 40 hits, seven home runs, 21 singles, 12 doubles and 32 RBIs. She had a .455 batting average, second behind All-Conference selection Peyton Wilson’s .458 and led the team with 18 hits with runners in scoring position.
She also led the team with 193 putouts and she caught six runners stealing.
Bryson praised Trickle for her leadership on the field.
“She’s very poised,” she said. “She’s very aggressive and she’s very competitive but she seems to be able to control the pace of the game at all times. She can slow things down, she can speed things up. Baserunners don’t run on her. They know they don’t have much of a chance. And she’s such a threat at the plate that we can almost always count on her to put the ball in play and to really make something happen. I think that comes from the way she can stay calm and stay poised.”
Bryson said she was surprised to be selected Coach of the Year, considering the level of expertise of the SPC’s other coaches.
“We have a lot of really great coaches in the conference and coaches who have done a lot over the last few years,” she said. “I was surprised and flattered that they nominated and voted for me. I’m really excited about it.”
Bryson said she was sorry to be leaving the SPC for the split 3A/4A North Piedmont Conference after starting to form relationships with the other SPC coaches, but that the new conference should offer new challenges.
:I haven’t really had a chance to get to know them yet beyond softball related stuff but it’s been great for me to get to know them,” she said. “Now that we’re moving to a new conference, it’s kind of a bummer now that I’ve started to develop relationships with them. They’re mentors in certain ways sometimes. (The North Piedmont Conference) is going to be really good. It’ll be a good challenge for us to see some new teams. It’s going to be a really good level of competition and I think the girls and all of the coaches are ready for that level of competition.”
North Lincoln’s other nominees to the All-Conference team, beside Trickle, Bruce and Wilson, were Jayden Maddox and Hollyn Franklin.
West Lincoln added Courtney Clark, Madison Ferguson, Rylee Marsh and Brittany Ormand. East Lincoln’s selections were Taylor Wilson, Haley Meza and Carly Johnson. Lincolnton’s Sydney Devine also made the list.