Buses pulled up to the entrance, collected team after team and headed toward the interstate.
Two champions had been crowned and droves of fans were headed back to their respective homes.
Meanwhile, on Field 2, Parrish was just getting started.
Two school buses remained in the parking lot and only Parrish and Kinston were left under the lights.
More than four hours after the Class 3A and Class 5A champs were crowned, Parrish players were finally accepting their trophy as the Class 1A state champion.
The Tornadoes, who closed out the season with a 5-0 victory, had to work harder than any other team to get their reward.
While both Pisgah (3A) and Hayden (5A) needed just one game to finish off their foes, Parrish and Kinston locked in a battle that lasted deep into the night.
Parrish finally put Kinston away in their third, and final, matchup. The Tornadoes scored a pair of runs in the first inning on two costly errors by the Bulldogs.
The Parrish bats came through in the fifth with both Grayson Culverson and Meleah Smith coming up with RBI doubles to finally put the Tornadoes in full control.
Before the tournament began, Parrish softball coach Chris Harris said anything less than a state title would be a disappointment.
For the first time in a couple of weeks, Harris can finally rest easy.
Harris sweated out an area tournament that included two ranked teams — Sumiton Christian and Lynn. The regional tournament wasn’t any easier with the Tornadoes needing a run in the bottom of the seventh inning to nip Sumiton Christian 3-2.
Harris’ team took his challenge to heart and it showed on the field.
The Tornadoes came through in the clutch seemingly every time it mattered the most.
In the winner’s bracket final on Saturday — a game that gives the victor a huge step toward a state championship — Parrish was down to its final two outs and facing a one-run deficit.
Parrish scored two runs in the first inning, but had gone four innings without mounting a rally.
With one out and Jamie Beth Hocutt facing an 0-2 count, not many people would have predicted a Parrish comeback.
However, Hocutt singled on the next pitch and the entire game — as well as the tournament — turned in Parrish’s favor.
Two batters later, Culverson laid down a bunt that drove in Makenze Morgan for the winning run.
Culverson cemented herself as one of the top players in Class 1A during the tournament. She threw three shutouts — including a perfect game against Fayetteville — and allowed only five runs in 28 1/3 innings.
She also came up with big hits in a 4-0 victory over Decatur Heritage as well as the two wins against Kinston.
The three seniors on this year’s squad (Culverson, Tayler Winchester, Savannah Jones) were leaders for Parrish throughout the season. It’s only fitting that they go out on top and make a little history in the process.
Johnathan Bentley is the Sports Editor fo the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at email@example.com.