The Observer’s high school baseball preview continues with a look at schools in Rutherford County.
Teams to Watch
R.S. Central: Coach Chadd Fowler and the Hilltoppers had one of the best seasons in school history going 26-6 and falling just short of a state title as 2A state runner-up (to Edenton Holmes). R.S. Central has a chance to be as good or better in 2018 with six seniors starters back, led by Jace Crowe, Cameron and Keaton Snethen (cousins) and Wesley Smith. Fowler and company look to contend in the new Southwestern 2A conference, but ultimately want a chance to get back to the state championship series and win it all this time.
East Rutherford: The Cavaliers have 59 wins in the last three seasons, including the 2016, 2A state championship. Hall of Fame coach Bobby Reynolds and his team are hungry to get back on top in the SW2A and make another state title run led by senior Josh Searcy. East Rutherford’s main competition may come from their own county in R.S. Central, as both teams have championsip expectations (conference/state).
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Players to Watch
Jace Crowe, R.S. Central, Sr.: Hilltoppers’ standout will need another strong season at the plate (.465, three home runs last year) and on the mound (9-2, 1.02 ERA) if R.S. Central is going to be state contender again in 2018.
Cameron Snethen and Keaton Snethen, R.S. Central, Sr. (both): First cousins are Brunswick Community College commits and play big roles at the plate as Cameron looks to improve on hit .300 batting average last year, while Keaton looks to better his .275 and 23 stolen bases (last year) in 2018.
Josh Searcy, East Rutherford, Sr.: 6-foot-5, all-state performer is an opposing force on the mound, in the outfield and at the plate and will need to be at his best for East Rutherford to be a conference and state contender in 2018.
Chipper McGinnis, Chase, Sr.: Trojans’ lefty is the team’s top returning hitter and pitcher and looks to lead a young, but improving Chase team into the mix in the brutal, new SW2A conference.
Can’t Miss Games
East Rutherford at R.S. Central, March 2: The Cavaliers and Hilltoppers meet on the first Friday of the season with both teams looking to grab the early season momentum in a rivalry with league, playoff and maybe even (state) championships implications. R.S. Central travels to East Rutherford March 20 and complete the series March 23 with the Cavaliers at the Hilltoppers.
South Point at Chase, March 13; R.S. Central at Chase, March 16: If Chase is going to improve in 2018, they will have to be competitive at home against the league’s top teams early on to gain confidence and momentum.
South Point at R.S. Central, April 13: R.S. Central and East Rutherford aren’t the only teams with SW2A conference expectations and this matchup with Red Raiders should also be critical in the league standings with just two weeks left in the regular season. East Rutherford and South Point also meet March 6, 27 and 29.
- • Chase baseball coach, Tony Wall, believes his team can be much improved after struggling last with a 2-18 record. The Trojans will need the battery of senior pitcher (and OF) Chipper McGinnis and junior catcher, Heath Waldrup, to help lead the way for a young team.
- • East Rutherford senior, Josh Searcy, is one of the county’s best athletes as he is not only an all-state baseball player, but also averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per contest this season for Cavaliers’ basketball team this season.
- • East Rutherford coach, Bobby Reynolds has been one of the most successful leaders in regardless of classification in the last 25 years, leading the Cavaliers to six state championships in that span (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2016).
South Piedmont 1A Conference
- 1. Lincoln Charter; 2. Cherryville; 3. Highland Tech; 4. Bessemer City; 5. Thomas Jefferson Academy; 6. Piedmont Charter.
Southwestern 2A Conference
- 1. East Rutherford; 2. R.S. Central; 3. South Point; 4. East Gaston; 5. Shelby; 6. Chase.
**East Rutherford and Thomas Jefferson Academy had not responded to requests for preseason information when this story was published.