Breaking down the playoff chase for Charlotte, Triangle-area high school baseball teams

·6 min read

North Carolina’s high school baseball season typically is finished by this time of year, but a number of playoff bids are at stake Thursday and Friday in the closing days of the later-than-usual regular season.

The amended state high school athletic calendar, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has the state’s baseball, wrestling, track and field, and boys’ tennis players still competing.

Regular seasons are scheduled to end Friday, with postseason playoffs and meets beginning next week. Finals are to be completed by June 26, about three weeks later than usual.

The state’s baseball playoff pairings are scheduled to be announced Saturday.

Adding to the last-minute playoff drama is unsettled weather. Thunderstorms are forecast through Saturday, threatening to foul the schedules.

In a number of conferences, the final game of the regular season will help determine playoff berths.

A reminder that the N.C. High School Athletic Association this year is allowing one automatic playoff qualifier from conferences with six or fewer competing members; two berths for conferences with seven or eight competing teams; and three berths for conferences with nine or more. Several wild-card berths are available in each class, with 1A and 4A having the largest number of wild-card spots.

Here is a look at races in the Triangle and Charlotte areas.

Triangle area

CAP 7 4A: Millbrook’s 8-2 victory earlier this week over Broughton gives the Wildcats the No. 1 playoff berth. Leesville Road (9-3) has the No. 2 spot, but Cardinal Gibbons (8-3) could force a tie with a victory Thursday over 2-10 Enloe.

It appears as if Leesville Road, Cardinal Gibbons and Broughton (8-4) will qualify, either as the runner-up or as a wild card.

Northern Athletic 4A: Heritage (9-1) is the champion, and Wake Forest (7-2) appears solid as a wild card.

South Wake Athletic 4A: Fuquay-Varina (10-2) is No. 1. Holly Springs and Middle Creek are tied for second at 7-4 and play Thursday. The winner gets the No. 2 berth. The loser will be on the wild-card bubble.

Triangle 4A: Jordan (9-1) and Cary (8-2) have the guaranteed spots. Green Level (8-4) is on the wild-card bubble. Teams from this conference will play in the West Region.

Big 8 3A: Northern and Orange are tied at 6-1, play Thursday at Northern, and will both be in the playoffs.

Greater Neuse 3A: This race is complicated. Clayton (7-2) plays Friday at West Johnston (6-3). Cleveland (6-3) plays Friday at South Johnston (4-5). Only the league champion and one wild card appear likely to get into the playoffs, because there are only a few 3A wild-card spots.

Eastern Plains 2A: North Johnston (6-1) is home Thursday against North Pitt (6-1). Both teams are likely to get in, with the runner-up doing so as a wild card.

Mid-State 2A: Reidsville (5-1) is the champion. Carrboro is 4-2, but there are only two wild-card spots available in the East, and Carrboro’s record is a bit below several other other teams.

Carolina 1A: Rosewood and Hobbton will grab the two guaranteed berths, but Princeton (7-5) is in good shape for a wild-card spot.

Central Tar Heel 1A: Cornerstone Charter and Chatham Charter have the top two berths. Southern Wake Academy (4-4) appears to be out of the wild-card race.

North Central 1A: East Wake Academy (5-0) and Roxboro Community (4-1) have the two guaranteed spots. Voyager Academy (2-1) is a wild-card candidate.

Charlotte-area

I-Meck 4A: Hough (13-0) is the champion, with Lake Norman (10-3) getting the No. 2 berth. Mooresville (8-5) and Hopewell (7-5) are part of a very tight race for wild-card spots – race that also includes teams like South Mecklenburg, Olympic, Hickory Ridge and South Caldwell.

SoMeck 7 4A: Providence and Ardrey Kell (each 10-1) have guaranteed spots locked up. South Mecklenburg (7-4) plays Thursday at Providence. Olympic (7-4) is home against Ardrey Kell on Thursday. A loss for those 7-4 teams will really cloud their wild-card hopes.

Southwestern 4A: Myers Park and Porter Ridge (each 10-1) are playoff-bound. Hickory Ridge (7-4) plays Thursday at Porter Ridge and needs an upset victory badly for a wild-card berth.

Northwestern 3A-4A: McDowell (10-1) has the league’s 4A berth, and St. Stephens (8-3) has the 3A slot. South Caldwell (7-5) is in the 4A wild-card race.

Big South 3A: Kings Mountain (10-1) plays Thursday at Crest (11-0). Regardless of the outcome, both teams are going to the playoffs.

North Piedmont 3A: East Rowan (8-2), Jesse Carson (8-2) and West Rowan (7-3) are part of a tight race that’s made even tighter by the small number of wild-card spots (four). With six members, the North Piedmont 3A is guaranteed only one playoff berth.

South Piedmont 3A: Northwest Cabarrus (9-2) hosts Cox Mill (8-3) on Thursday. Jay M. Robinson (8-3), which plays at Central Cabarrus, also is in the race. This conference gets two guaranteed berths, so the third-place finisher will have to hope for a wild card spot.

Southern Carolina 3A: Tied at 11-2, Cuthbertson and Sun Valley are playoff-bound. Marvin Ridge (9-4) finishes Thursday at Sun Valley and could get a wild-card berth with a victory.

Central Carolina 2A: North Davidson (8-1), Oak Grove (8-1), South Rowan (7-2) and Ledford (7-2) are part of the battle for three guaranteed berths.

Foothills 2A: Fred T. Foard plays Thursday at Bunker Hill, in a meeting of 12-1 teams. Both teams are headed to the postseason.

Rocky River 2A-3A: West Stanly (10-0) has the lone guaranteed berth. Mount Pleasant (7-3) has an outside chance as a wild-card team.

South Fork 2A: East Lincoln (12-1) and North Lincoln (10-3) have the two playoff berths.

Southwestern 2A: R-S Central (10-1) and South Point (8-3) are headed to the postseason.

PAC 1A: Mountain Island Charter and Pine Lake Prep (each 10-2) have the guaranteed berths, and Community School of Davidson (7-3) is solidly in the wild-card battle.

Southern Piedmont 1A: Lincoln Charter (11-1) and Cherryville (10-1, with a Friday game at 2-11 Bessemer City) have the two guaranteed spots. Christ the King (7-4) is contending as a wild card.

Yadkin Valley 1A: Uwharrie Charter (7-0) and North Stanly (7-1) are in the playoffs.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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