That’s why Takia Nichols became the latest softball Twitter sensation recently. At the Baseball Rebellion training facility in Durham last month, Nichols became the first high school softball player to hit a ball 300 feet. It went 308 feet.
It was eerily reminiscent of the video from the fall of 2017 featuring former Orange High star Mia Davidson handling a softball bat like a twirler tosses a baton in her early days at Mississippi State, a foreboding sign of Davidson’s dominance of Southeastern Conference pitchers.
On a team already stacked with experiences power hitters like Tori Dalehite, Kymberlie Thacker and Kara Wagoner, Nichols has been a surprise sensation for the 9-2 Cedar Ridge softball team. Nichols, a third baseman, is hitting .407 with a team-high four home runs and 15 RBIs.
Often, Nichols hits ninth, giving head coach Allan Byrd essentially two leadoff batters. Nichols, who has played softball since she was four years old at the Orange Parks and Recreation Department, had 4 RBIs in one inning in her first varsity game on February 28 against Bartlett Yancey. On March 28 against Person, she hit two home runs as the Red Wolves defeated the Rockets 12-11.
As Orange and Cedar Ridge start this week tied for 1st place in the Big 8 Conference, Nichols is just one of the freshmen who have been instrumental very early in their high school careers. They will also likely decide which side of Hillsborough will celebrate the Big 8 Championship next month.
In addition to Nichols, Cedar Ridge head coach Allan Byrd has started freshman Ava Lowry in right field. Lowry is currently hitting .370 with ten hits and three doubles. In the circle, freshman Olivia Aitkin has made seven pitching appearances. She earned her first varsity win on March 5 against Cardinal Gibbons, coming on in relief of starter senior Taylor Barnes in the 2nd inning with Cedar Ridge trailing 10-4.
Aitkin held the Crusaders to five runs as the Red Wolves scored ten runs in the final three innings to win 18-15. She also finished out the win over Person by throwing the seventh inning for her 2nd career win.
Freshman pitcher Gracie Walker has started in Orange’s three biggest wins this season. Her first varsity start came in Orange’s Big 8 Conference opener against East Chapel Hill on March 12. Walker threw a four-hit shutout over five innings in a 10-0 win.
On March 28, Orange had a rematch against Cedar Ridge only 48 hours after the Red Wolves dominated their crosstown rivals 11-1. Walker gave up a three-run homer to Cedar Ridge’s Tori Dalehite in the first inning, but settled down to allow only one more run in the final six innings.
“Gracie is going to be really good in time,” said Orange coach Henry Horn. “She has the heart of a lion. She really competes. She has a great mound presence. I don’t think she gets rattled. She really gets after it.”
Behind the plate, Orange freshman Lauren Jackson has emerged as a steady force behind home plate, something they lacked last season after the graduation of 2017 Gatorade Player of the Year Mia Davidson, now setting home run records at Mississippi State. Jackson went 4-for-4 against Northwood as Orange rallied from a 5-2 deficit to defeat the Chargers 6-5 in eight innings.
In addition, freshman Mary Moss Wirt has broken into the starting lineup at 2nd base. Wirt, who was a regular starter for the Orange women’s basketball team during the winter, has played in all nine of Orange’s games this season.