A lot of eyes around the state will be focused on the sports complex next to the Armfield Civic Center tonight, as the state’s top-seeded 1A baseball and softball teams take the field within an hour of one another.
The baseball Cardinals (20-4) and softball Lady Cardinals (23-3) each claimed decisive victories in the opening round of postseason play earlier this week, with the baseballers clobbering Blue Ridge Early College 15-0 on Wednesday and the softball team blanking Alleghany 8-0 the day before. The second round will see the two teams playing almost simultaneously, and should provide better competition.
The Lady Cards will go first, with their game against Gray Stone Day (17-5) starting at 6 p.m. The Lady Knights, based out of Misenheimer, earned a state playoff berth as the No. 3 team out of the Uwharrie Athletic Conference. On Wednesday, Gray Stone Day secured the use of the nearby softball facility at Pfeiffer University, and beat Pine Lake Prep 1-0 in the first round. All of the Lady Knights’ losses are to rivals from Stanly County (two to North Stanly, two to South Stanly, and one to West Stanly), but tonight’s game will mark the longest road trip that Gray Stone has taken this year.
MaxPreps.com rates the Lady Knights as the 26th best team in the 1A ranks, and they own the 14th overall seed in the 1A West. East Surry, the top overall seed, is ranked No. 2 in the state, trailing only East Carteret.
The baseball team, like its softball counterpart, is the highest-rated team in the West according to MaxPreps. East Surry is ranked fourth overall, but the three teams ahead of the Cardinals (Whiteville, Rosewood and Voyager Academy) are all in the East. The Cardinals had perhaps been hoping for a fourth meeting with arch-rival Mount Airy in the second round, but the Granite Bears were unable to hold onto an early lead and fell 3-2 to Pine Lake Prep on Wednesday in a game that pitted the 14th and 19th overall seeds in the West.
The Pride (15-6) qualified as an at-large team out of the Southern Piedmont 1A, a conference that placed two teams with over 20 wins and two others with 15 or more into the postseason. All six of Pine Lake’s defeats this season are to conference opponents — three to Lincoln Charter, two to Cherryville, and one to Highland Tech. These were the three other teams in their league that all amassed 15 or more wins, and the Pride beat Cherryville and Highland one time each as well.
East’s game with Pine Lake starts tonight at 7 p.m., one hour after the softball gets under way.
In addition to the Cardinals’ diamond contingents, East Surry’s soccer team advanced to the second round on Wednesday with a 6-0 victory over Mountain Island Charter. The Lady Cardinals will have to hit the road for their next match, which will be against East Montgomery (15-1), the champions of the Central Tar Heel Conference. The Eagles beat Bessemer City 8-1 in their playoff opener on Tuesday. The match will be played at 6 p.m. in Biscoe.
However, East Surry isn’t the only school that has teams playing on this weekend.
Surry Central opened up the playoffs at home on Tuesday night in intermittent drizzle against one of the best prep baseball players in the state, pitcher Caden O’Brien of the Maiden Blue Devils, and did what no team had done all season, rallying for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to hand O’Brien his first loss of the season, 3-2. Furthermore, it was an earned victory, as all three runs against the UNC-Chapel Hill recruit came as a result of successful batting by the home team, not errors by Maiden.
The win advanced Central (17-7) into the second round for a date with Rutherfordton-Spindale Central, the champions of the South Mountain Athletic 2A/3A league, on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Hilltoppers (21-4) opened the playoffs with a 7-0 victory against Lexington on Tuesday night.
This is a contest where the Golden Eagles hit the road as an underdog. The Hilltoppers are the state’s ninth-ranked 2A team according to MaxPreps, and won their conference title outright as a 2A school in a split 2A/3A league. Of their four defeats, three of them are to league teams (3A Crest and Burns, 2A East Rutherford), and one came to Chesnee (S.C.), which has already completed its season as the South Carolina Class AA runner-up.
Mount Airy’s soccer team is also back in action for the second round, and they may have the toughest assignment of anyone in the field.
The Lady Bears, who routed East Wilkes 11-2 on Wednesday, earned a second-round date at defending 1A state champion and top seed Community School of Davidson (21-1). This match will be played on the field at Pine Lake Prep High School, located at 203 Lions Den Trail in Mooresville, on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Lady Spartans are the state’s second-ranked 1A team according to MaxPreps, and have won 21 straight matches since losing their season opener 5-2 at Hickory, the state’s third-ranked 3A team. They downed Avery County 9-0 in their playoff opener.