Metrolina Christian Academy is growing up.
Although they will remain in the Metrolina Athletic Conference, the Warriors are moving from 2A to 3A and will open brand new baseball, softball, soccer and football fields for the 2012 season.
The 2011 softball team set a school record with 22 wins, had three all-conference players and advanced further than any Metrolina team ever had in the state playoffs.
"We had a couple of girls who had never played before, but we stayed really strong from the beginning of the year," said sophomore Bailey Bjornson. "We had a lot of really dedicated players and we practiced and played hard. We had our minds focused on the right things."
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Junior pitcher Mallory Broome, a third-team all-Observer selection, and Bjornson, a catcher and third baseman, were named all-conference and all-state this year and have played for the Warriors since seventh grade.
"They have been playing together and working together so long, that is what makes them so good," said Warriors head coach Ricky Broome, who has been coaching Bjornson and Mallory Broome, his daughter, for the last 12 years. "I call them the dynamic duo."
Bjornson hit .400 this season and clubbed seven home runs. Against First Assembly Christian, she hit two home runs and drove in six.
Broome had a .480 batting average, hit five home runs and had a team-high 34 RBIs. She was 15-3 as a pitcher, striking out 215 of the 414 batters she faced, with a 0.79 ERA.
Broome also collected her 100th base hit, recorded her 500th strikeout and threw a no-hitter this year.
"We have worked so hard the last few years to get to this point, and it all came together for us this year. It was a lot of fun," Broome said.
The Warriors will return almost the entire team next year and will be one of the favorites to win the conference and again challenge for a state title.
Losing all-conference and all-state performer Cassi Carpenter will be hard to overcome. Carpenter hit .400, stole a school-record 53 bases in just 56 attempts, recorded her 100th hit this year and had a 1.67 ERA in 67 innings on the mound.
The Warriors, who won the MAC conference for the first time, got all the way to the championship game before losing 3-2 to undefeated Arendell Parrott Academy from Kinston.
Bjornson is ready to see how good the Warriors can be next year.
"We will have to work really hard next year and get even stronger," she said. "We have to come out from the beginning and be strong because a lot will be expected of us. As older players and leaders, Mallory and I will have to show the way. I am excited for next year."
Metrolina Christian is anticipating a new era.
"This is the first year we have ever had to make cuts, and we have a young and good team that is still growing," Ricky Broome said. "The 3A public school division is going to be very good, and we will be challenging for the top spot this year and into the future."