In 1999, Watauga played South Mecklenburg in the N.C. 4A baseball semifinal. It’s when Sabres coach Hal Bagwell first met Watauga assistant Danny Hignight. Bagwell was impressed with the young assistant, and when the teams met in the first round in 2000, Bagwell offered Hignight a job.
It started a friendship that’s grown each year.
The men now live about a block from each other and coach teams that are often nationally ranked. Bagwell’s Ardrey Kell team (28-2) is No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, No. 1 in the state coaches’ poll and No. 12 nationally by Max Preps. Hignight’s Providence Panthers (25-4) are No. 2 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 and No. 4 in the state coaches poll. The teams will meet Friday night at Ardrey Kell in the N.C. 4A sectional championship.
“I worked with him for three years,” Hignight said of Bagwell. “He’s a good man, and I’m glad for the opportunity he gave me.”
In 2003, Hignight was hired by Providence, and he developed a rivalry with Bagwell, first at South Meck and now at Ardrey Kell.
“They’re two of the best (coaches) around,” South Mecklenburg coach Jon Tuscan said. “I’ve worked with coach Hignight as an assistant and I’ve been around coach Bagwell, and the wealth of information I’ve been able to get from those two guys over the last five years has been unbelievable. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for those two coaches. They’ve got to be two of the best you’ll find in the state.”
Friday night, Hignight and Bagwell will put their friendship on hold for a few hours.
“It’s not hard to play against him,” Bagwell said. “It’s what we do for a living. We’re educators and coaches. On game day, we’ll compete and compete hard against each other, but there’s a lot of mutual respect going on. But when the umpire says, ‘Play ball!’ you put everything aside and you just go.”
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