For most of the past decade, Central Cabarrus has dominated softball in the state of North Carolina. The Vikings have won four state championships in that span and more than 140 games in the last six seasons.
Last season, Central Cabarrus struggled, going only 12-7 and losing in the first round of the 4A state playoffs to Davie County.
This season, the Vikings are already back to their old ways as Central started 4-0, outscoring their opponents 34-12.
Central hopes to return to dominance, but the Vikings will have to adjust to 3A softball for the first time in their run after moving over from 4A's ME-CA 7 conference.
Central at Cox Mill
The Vikings (4-0) are led by a dominant offense that has produced nearly nine runs per contest. Seniors Lindsey Brown (Francis Marion signee) and Chelsea Hartsell (N.C. State signee) have led the way so far, but the duo has a lot of help. Sophomore pitcher Mellena Helms has taken over the mound, going a perfect 4-0 while giving up only three runs per game.
Junior Taylor Fain and sophomore Tori Cragan have also been big at the plate.
The Vikings have some big challengers in the near future, including their own Easter Tournament April 9-10, but Cox Mill probably won't be one of them.
The Cox Mill softball program started strong in the team's first season. The Chargers won their first two games, beating South Rowan and North Stanly, but now things will get a lot more difficult.
Cox Mill, who is easily the youngest team in the SPC, is led by sophomores Kristen Cella and Nikki Faust. Faust, who is the team's top pitcher, will also end up being one of their best hitters.
The Chargers (2-2 through March 18) will be fighting an uphill battle, playing in one of the toughest conferences in 3A softball in their inaugural season, but it wouldn't be surprising if they sneak up on several teams. But while the Chargers may pull a few upsets, it won't be easy against Central Cabarrus.
Robinson at North Meck
Jay M. Robinson
Like Central Cabarrus, the Bulldogs are making the switch from 4A and the ME-CA 7 conference to the 3A SPC and will also most likely be amongst the top teams in the conference. The Bulldogs (5-1) have been dominant outside of their 1-0 loss to Ardrey Kell.
Robinson, who has outscored its opponents 44-7 this season, are led by seniors Katie Zavodny and Camry Wagoner, while sophomore pitcher Dallas King is also a major contributor. The Bulldogs are used to seeing North Mecklenburg at least twice a year in conference play, so they won't be intimidated. If Robinson can keep the Vikings from scoring early, expect it to be a hard-fought, tight game.
The Vikings began the season ranked among the top 10 teams in the state (4A) and nothing has changed that, even a 1-0 loss to Lake Norman. The Vikings boast one of the state's best pitching staffs with Sara Allen, Sarah "Boomer" Mooney (also a catcher) and Morgan Lashley. Scoring on the Vikings can be brutal to say the least.
The Vikings have the talent to play with anyone and have showed it most of the time this season. If North Mecklenburg can score runs early, it will be hard for anyone to beat their pitching staff. Robinson will have to limit the Vikings' offense, or it will be a tall task to stay in the game.