Josh Ladowski was a seventh-grader when Lake Norman High’s baseball team won its first, and only, North Carolina High School Athletic Association state championship.Now that he’s a senior at Lake Norman High, Ladowski believes that this year's Wildcats team could make a run at another state title.“I was a big fan then,” Ladowski said of Lake Norman's 2009 3A state title-winning team. “I went to every playoff game, and I knew coach (Robert Little) at the time because he coached me. His son, Zach, and I played together on the same travel team.“We can get back to that level. This year, we’ve got a lot of players, a lot of guys who have been with us for a while.”The Wildcats lost just three players to graduation from last year's team, which finished 17-10 and advanced to the second round of the 4A playoffs before losing to Asheville’s A.C. Reynolds High.Ladowski is one of 11 seniors on this year’s team, which opens its season Feb. 26 at West Rowan, and one of Lake Norman's leaders last season.Ladowski, who has verbally committed to play at North Carolina next season, is the Wildcats’ leading returnee in batting average (.356), hits (21), doubles (seven) and runs scored (11), and is second to returning teammate Devin Renfroe in RBIs (13).In addition, Ladowski, Lake Norman's starting shortstop, makes up the Wildcats’ middle infield defense with junior second baseman Zach Little.“He's meant a lot to this team,” said Little, who has coached Lake Norman’s baseball program since the school opened in 2005. “He’s helped the team take its game up a notch. Being around a Division I signee has people paying a lot of attention to our program, and our kids want to be seen. So they practice and work just as hard (as Ladowski).”According to Little, where Ladowski really stands out is not in his athleticism – he can play multiple positions on the baseball field and was an AP All-State selection in football this past season.“His desire to win probably goes further than his being an athlete,” Little said. “He really wants to win. If you saw him play football or baseball, his hustle is evident right away. He never gives up. That separates him from a lot of kids.“Being as good a football player as he is, and being as good a baseball player as he is, but he is a great competitor. His desire and will takes him above all of it.”Lake Norman faces a new challenge this season – a new conference.After spending the past four seasons in the old I-MECK 4A, playing against the likes of Mecklenburg County teams Mallard Creek, Hopewell, North Mecklenburg and Hough, the Wildcats are playing this season in the new North Piedmont 3A-4A.“I’d say the challenge will come from Mooresville and Alexander Central,” Ladowski said, referring to the conference's other two 4A teams. “They've both got a lot of good players.“But my goal is to win the state championship. That’s the highest goal a team can achieve.”
Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014
Lake Norman looks to return to championship
Five to Watch
Josh Ladowski Lake Norman
North Carolina baseball commit was AP All-State in football, is Wildcats’ top returning hitter with .356 batting average in 2013.
Will Welborne Pine Lake Prep
Was among state's leaders with a .519 batting average for the Pride; also led team in hits (27), doubles (six) and RBIs (22).
Seth Hubbard Bandys
Trojans’ leading returning hitter, was second in batting (.380) and led team in runs scored (40), hits (35), triples (five) and home runs (five).
Logan Beegle Bandys
Last year’s middle reliever becomes the Trojans’ top pitcher this season, went 4-0 with 1 save, 1.48 ERA.
Tommy Bullock Mooresville
Led Blue Devils’ starters with .316 batting average, hits (18), runs scored (13) and doubles (five); also went 3-1 with a 0.58 ERA.
Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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