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N.C. Challengers win PONY softball national championship

Lindsey Hilts' two-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in Jasmine Lamontagne on Sunday, and the North Carolina Challengers defeated Long Island (N.Y.) Bandits-Smith 5-4 to become national champions for the first time.

The 16U team from the Triangle-based girls fast-pitch softball organization won the 16-and-under PONY National Championship Tournament on Sunday at Thomas Brooks Park in Cary.


Sarah Hicks gets stung

N.C. Symphony associate conductor Sarah Hicks originally planned to spend some time in the Triangle conducting over the Fourth of July. Instead, she'll be in Europe conducting Sting's 30-date "Symphonicity" tour.

It's a high-profile gig, but also something of a logistical nightmare. The score is complex, and up to 17 different orchestras will play it in different cities on the tour.

"It's incredibly complicated and on the fly, but that's how it operates," said Hicks, who is in Raleigh this weekend to conduct the N.C. Symphony's performances with the band Pink Martini. "It plays to my personal strengths. I enjoy conducting and also figuring stuff out. It keeps my brain occupied."

Hicks came to Sting's attention via trumpeter Chris Botti, after they worked together with the Minnesota Orchestra a few years back. Negotiations to conduct a Sting tour of Russia last year fell through when the tour's "Russian mob financier" disappeared, Hicks said.

Hicks met Sting a few weeks ago in New York City.

"He was incredibly laid-back," she said. "His voice sounds exactly like what you hear on the records. It was a beautiful day in New York, and when he saw me to the door he asked what it was like outside. 'It's 65 degrees, get your ass outside,' I said. He laughed and confessed that as an Englishman, he prefers chilly and rainy."

Understated and lovely "Still Bill" finds singer Bill Withers

Singer Bill Withers was an understated soul man, simple and thoughtful in his lyrics, funky when he wanted to be.

That comes across in the revealing and also understated documentary "Still Bill" (Showtime, 8:30 tonight), a look at Withers' 13-year career and abrupt departure from the spotlight.

Withers came into the business in his 30s and wrote such songs as "Ain't No Sunshine," "Lean on Me" and "Lovely Day." Because he was a grown man, he was fully formed, with a full sense of who and what we wanted to be as a performer. When he felt that was being compromised, he simply walked away.

Triangle alumni watch: Geoff Edgers

My former N&O co-worker Geoff Edgers left the Triangle back in 2002 to go to the Boston Globe, where he's an arts reporter. But he is also venturing into films, and his first project is a doozy: a documentary chronicling his attempts to reunite the original lineup of The Kinks. Check out the preview trailer -- I still can't quite believe some of the folks he got on-camera for this!

ADDENDUM (1/25/09): Another friend made good.

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