High school sports: Playoff seeds, pairings announced
By Mike London
SALISBURY — Baseball never stops being amazing, never stops giving us the unexpected.
Carson’s Cole Hales was a .224 hitter as a junior. He pitched twice, one loss and one no-decision. His contributions to a powerful Carson squad were almost exclusively with his glove as a stellar third baseman.
As a senior, a bigger, stronger, more confident Hales has blossomed into a sensational, two-way player and shown everyone why Coker signed him. He’s been a standout pitcher (8-1, 1.38 ERA) and a pesky lead-off man (.346, 27 runs scored). And when Deacon Wike (7-1, 1.54 ERA) or Aaron Misenheimer (5-1) or someone else is on the bump, Hales is still a stellar third baseman.
Hales and senior outfielder Luke Barringer (.342, 29 runs scored, 30 RBIs, 4 homers, 12 doubles) have led coach Chris Cauble’s Cougars to a fantastic season. Cauble said in the preseason that Barringer and Hales would have to be really good. They haven’t let him down.
The unsung hero for Carson is senior catcher Garrett Alewine who handles the pitching staff, controls the running game and gets on base on almost half of his plate appearances. Alewine has been hit by pitches 12 times and has walked 10 times, to go along with 16 hits.
Shortstop Zeb Burns (.373), first baseman Logan Rogers (.343) and right fielder Dylan Driver (.345) have hit steadily.
The guy to keep an eye on in the playoffs is sophomore center fielder C.P. Pyle. He’s had a tough year offensively, for the most part, but Cauble has been patient and has kept putting his name on the lineup card every game. Pyle is starting to come around. He could be the difference-maker in the playoffs.
The NCHSAA announced seeds and pairings on Monday. Carson (23-2) is the No. 1 seed in the 3A West bracket. That’s a bit of a surprise because No. 2 seed Crest is 24-0. Carson’s MaxPreps ranking is higher than Crest’s.
Two teams in the 3A East bracket — Wilmington New Hanover and Greenville’s D.H. Conley have higher MaxPreps rankings than Carson, but in the West, Carson is top dog.
What that means is Carson has a chance to play four straight home games. Carson can reach the West championship series without leaving China Grove, and it will have home-field advantage for that best-of-three series if it can get there.
Having said all that, with a one-and-done playoff system, there’s a chance Carson could be ousted in the first round. There are very few sure things in baseball, even in the 1 vs. 32 game.
Carson hosts Central Cabarrus tonight at 7 p.m.
Central (12-9) is not bad at all, finished third in the South Piedmont Conference, and has an ace pitcher in senior Evan McGee (6-2, 1.13 ERA), who is capable of making things interesting.
Second-round games are scheduled for Friday.
More games tonight.
3A: (22) Tuscola (13-10) at (11) East Rowan (16-10) — Jake Hunter (5-1) probably gets the start for the Mustangs, and he gives them a chance against anyone. Hunter, a sophomore, leads the county in ERA (0.36) and strikeouts (98). Wayne Mize (3 homers, 20 RBIs) is East’s most dangerous hitter.
3A: (18) West Rowan (18-5) at (15) Western Guilford (18-5) — Game time is 7 p.m. Two Davie forfeits bumped the Falcons up from 16-7 to 18-5, but they’re on the road in the first round. Western Guilford is 9-1 at home. Catcher JT Fecteau has 21 RBIs for the Falcons. Lead-off man Daniel Sell (.365) is among the county leaders in batting average. West coach Seth Graham has a couple of pitching options in Cullen Davis (5-2) and Daniel Durham (4-3).
2A: (24) Salisbury (13-11) at (9) West Stanly (20-4) — Game time is 7 p.m. Salisbury has a lefty Jack Fisher (3-2, 1.06 ERA, 64 strikeouts) who can beat anyone when he’s on, so the Hornets have a chance. Slugging catcher Bo Rusher leads the county with five homers. He’s tied for second with 21 RBIs and ranks third in the county with a .377 batting average.
2A: (22) South Rowan (14-10) at (11) North Davidson (18-8) — Game time is 7 p.m. Both Central Carolina Conference teams probably would rather be facing someone new, instead of seeing each other for the third time. While North Davidson is obviously good, it’s not as terrible a draw for the Raiders as you might think. The Black Knights swept the CCC home-and-home series from South, but the scores were 5-4 and 2-1.
Jarrid Nelson (6-2, 1.81 ERA, 57 strikeouts) probably will pitch for the Raiders. South’s freshman lead-off man Nathan Chrismon leads the county with 20 stolen bases.
4A: Davie County (15-9, after six forfeits) is seeded fifth. That means a first-round bye in 4A. Davie will take the field at home on Friday in the second round against the Page/Grimsley winner.
West Rowan’s North Piedmont Conference champions are seeded No. 3 in the 3A West bracket.
That’s a nice seed, but it’s actually a little disappointing. West expected Marvin Ridge, to be No. 1 (and it is), but the Falcons had hoped to be No. 2.
West Rowan beat Central Cabarrus in the recent Civitan Tournament, but the Vikings, the South Piedmont Conference champs, edged West in the MaxPreps rankings to get the No. 2 seed. What that means is that if West and Central both win their first three playoff games, West will be headed to Central for Round 4.
But there’s not much point in worrying about Round 4, until the Falcons get there. They haven’t gotten past the second round since 2005.
West has a dominant pitcher in Whitley Arnott, lots of power (Taylor Walton, Mary Sobataka) and lots of defense. Despite the program’s recent playoff struggles, this is a team that could do something special.
West takes on No. 30 Sun Valley (8-14) tonight at 6:30 p.m.
More games tonight:
3A: (20) Asheboro (13-6) at (13) Carson (15-9) — Game time is 6:30 p.m. Carson has a lineup filled with serious bats — Katie Jewell, Kary Hales, Liza Simmerson, Kaitlyn Honeycutt — all veterans of last year’s run to the West championship series. Carson is capable of playing its best in a big game — the Cougars beat West once this year — so don’t rule out another playoff run.
3A: (21) East Rowan (13-9) at (12) SW Randolph (15-5) — Game time is 7 p.m. East is coming off two strong efforts in the North Piedmont Conference Tournament — a win against Carson and a competitive loss to West Rowan — and is capable of a first-round upset against an opponent the Mustangs have seen frequently over the years. Four of SWR’s five losses have been at home. Senior Maddie Trexler leads East’s offense, while Haley Strange has pitched very well in recent games.
3A: (23) Cuthbertson (6-10) at (10) A.L. Brown (18-4) — The Wonders finished second behind Central Cabarrus in the SPC. Lauren Ritchie provides some power for the Wonders. Tali Hagler does the pitching.
4A: (19) Davie County (10-12) at (14) Hough (14-6) — Davie scores 5 runs per game and has enough power and enough offense to pull an upset.
Mooresville is seeded third in 4A and has a first-round bye.
A No. 9 seed seems low for the Salisbury girls (19-2), co-champs of the Central Carolina Conference. West Davidson, which tied with Salisbury and lost a coin flip for the league’s best seed, is No. 11 in the 2A West bracket.
Salisbury will host No. 24 Hibriten (10-7-1) at 6 p.m. in the first round of the 2A West playoffs tonight.
The bad news is that as the No. 9 seed, you’re only guaranteed one home game, so even if the Hornets win, this could be the last game at Ludwig Stadium for four seniors.
Freshman Sutton Webb has sparked the Hornets’ offense and has put up huge numbers.
3A: (17) Asheville (16-4-1) at (16) Carson (13-5-1) — Game time tonight is 6:30 p.m. It’s a tough first-rounder for the Cougars, but at least it’s at home.
Sophomore Emma Smith has scored 21 goals for Asheville. Junior Gracie Thomason, a Catawba commit, has scored 22 goals for Carson.
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