Josh Ladowski was a seventh-grader when Lake Norman High won its first, and only, N.C. High School Athletic Association state baseball championship.
Now a junior , Ladowski said he believes that this year’s Wildcats could make a run at another state title.
“I was a big fan then,” Ladowski said of the 2009 3A champs. “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 17-10 team, which advanced to the second round of the 4A playoffs before losing to Asheville’s A.C. Reynolds High. They open the season Wednesday at West Rowan.
Ladowski, a North Carolina committ, is backed by 11 seniors and one of Lake Norman’s leaders from last season. He is the leading returner in batting average (.356), hits (21), doubles (7) and runs scored (11), and is second in RBIs (13) to Devin Renfroe.
In addition, Ladowski, the 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 the 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 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.”
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 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.”
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