Teams to Watch
Hough: Huskies’ coach Jimmy Cochran (133 wins in the last six seasons) returns a veteran squad from a team that went 20-7 (including 12-0 to win MECKA 4A conference) that includes four college commits already in junior left-handed pitcher/outfielder J.D. Brock (Clemson commit) and three seniors -- first baseman, Seth McAulay (Western Carolina commit), right-handed pitcher, Justin Offschanka (Charlotte 49ers’ commit) and left-hander, Tyler Shingledecker (Penn State commit). Hough’s combination of experience, pitching and overall talent makes them an I-Meck 4A conference and state contender from the start.
Ardrey Kell: The Knights have another talented team led by two of the area’s top players in senior outfielder, Cam Brantley (North Carolina signee) and junior outfielder/pitcher Trey Tujetsch (South Carolina commit).
Coach Hal Bagwell and company have averaged 24 wins per season over the last decade, and there’s many reasons to believe they will be amongst the SoMeck7 conference and (4A) state’s elite again this season.
Providence: The Panthers return only three starters from a group of seniors who won 110 games in their high school careers (28 wins per season). But Coach Danny Hignight (who averages 23 wins per season in last decade) is a proven winner and has plenty of talent starting with All-American senior pitcher Timmy Townsend, and two all-conference performers, senior Will Palinkas (third base) and junior Mike Dansky (shortstop), to be right in thick of the SoMeck7 conference title race and a team no one wants to play in the playoffs.
Myers Park: Coach Erik Foor helped the Mustangs to one of the biggest turnarounds in the state last year, going 22-4 (10-2 in SW4A) a year ago after a 10-15 campaign in 2016.
Now, Myers Park is the favorite to win the SW4A this season with five starters back, led by junior, Patrick Alvarez and seniors, Donald Dockey and John Owens.
This year, the Mustangs want a lot more than a SW4A championship, and will look to prove it the postseason.
South Mecklenburg: The Sabres have to play in one of the states’ best leagues (SoMeck7 Conference) where N.C. powerhouses from Ardrey Kell and Providence are always looming. But the Sabres have a veteran team of their own, and seniors Alex Fenton (Davidson College commit), Andrew Motsinger (Wingate commit), Jacob Slattery (Roanoke College commit) and the return of classmate, Reed Hedberg (missed 2017 with injury), give them the experience to be a major factor in the SoMeck7 conference and a dangerous playoff team.
Butler: Coach Rick Sambrotto has led the Bulldogs to 58 wins in the last three seasons, including two of the last three Southwestern 4A titles. This year, Butler will have to reload a bit with a younger team, but will look to senior catcher/pitcher, Johnny Hummel (Erskine commit) to lead a team that been accustomed to winning and contending in the SW4A and into the postseason.
East Mecklenburg: The Eagles returns seven starters, including six seniors from a team that went 15-11 (8-4 in the SW4A). Seniors, Raul Beltran, Luke Little (Gardner Webb signee), Rafael Pena, Matthew Scavatto and sophomore Trey Truitt give Coach Clint Koppe the core to compete with anyone in the SW4A and into playoffs.
Lake Norman Charter: The Knights returns a veteran team and seven starters from last year’s 2A state semifinalist squad with a strong pitching staff that features senior Alex Longergan and junior Logan Ansted -- giving them the experience and talent to challenge for the South Fork 2A conference title and make another deep postseason run.
Queens Grant: Coach Dan Kerr returns eight starters, led by senior John Orlowski and juniors Bryce Gorospe and Spencer Smith on a Stallions’ team hungry to challenge for the new PAC 7 (1A) conference title and be a factor deep into the 1A state playoffs.
Players to Watch
Cameron Brantley, Ardrey Kell, Sr.: University of North Carolina signee has been one of the rare Knights to have been a four-year standout, and has proven to be one of the best offensive weapons in the state, batting .410 with two home runs, eight doubles and 19 stolen bases last year. The two-time all-state outfielder has a chance to set four different school records this season.
J.D. Brock, Hough, Jr.: Clemson commit can do it all as a left-handed pitcher (3-1, 1.75 ERA) outfielder and at the plate (.296, six doubles) but won’t have to for a loaded, Hough team that has the talent to be 4A state contender.
Timmy Townsend, Providence, Sr.: Panthers’ All-American, all-state pitcher is back to another talented team that expects to win, and their ace will play a major role in their success as he looks to better results from last season: 7-2 record, 1.86 earned-run average (ERA) with 72 strikeouts in 53.3 innings of work (allowed .194 batting average to opponents).
Patrick Alvarez, Myers Park, Jr.: Mustang standout started from day one as a freshman, but had a monster sophomore campaign, batting .492 with 35 RBI, and will likely be one of the SW4A’s best again in 2018.
Luke Little, East Mecklenburg, Sr.: Reigning SW4A player of the year is a Gardner Webb signee who gets in done at the plate (.402 batting average, 29 RBI last year) and on the mound (2.32 ERA, 76 strikeouts last year). The all-state pick now wants to help his Eagles’ team contend for a SW4A title and more in the postseason.
Johnny Hummel, Butler, Sr.: Erskine signee does a little bit of everything for the Bulldogs behind the plate as catcher, at the plate as pitcher (1-0, 2 saves last year) and at the plate, where hit .329 with nine doubles, 26 RBI, scoring 26 runs last year.
Andrew Motsinger, South Mecklenburg, Sr.: Wingate University commit (.325, 20 runs last year) is moving to centerfield from shortstop, where he hopes to help lead a veteran team back in SoMeck7 conference contention.
Tyler Barnes, West Mecklenburg, Sr.: North Carolina Central signee does it all for Hawks, batting .462 with three home runs, with 17 runs scored, 13 stolen bases, while also working himself into the pitching rotation.
Tyler White, Hopewell, Jr.: 6-foot-3 right-hander had a breakout sophomore season on the mound (6-3, 2.77 ERA) and at the plate (.312) and now looks to help lead veteran Titan team into the upper echelon of a brutal I-Meck 4A conference.
Alex Lonergan, Sr./Logan Ansted, Jr., Lake Norman Charter: The Knights’ top two returning pitchers, Lonergan (4-2, 1.62 ERA, 48 strikeouts) and Ansted (4-2, 1.41 ERA) paired with a veteran lineup (seven starters back), make Lake Norman Charter a tough matchup in South Fork 2A conference play and into the postseason.
Luke Drumheller, Olympic, Sr.: The Trojans’ standout (.346, three home runs last year) is one of eight Olympic seniors hungry to make a move in the SoMeck7 conference and in the playoffs in their final high school seasons.
Can’t Miss Games
Providence at Ardrey Kell, March 2: The first Friday of the regular season features one of the state’s best rivalries with Providence traveling to Ardrey Kell, where the winner gets a huge leg up in the brutal, SoMeck7 conference title race. The two teams meet again March 27 at Providence, just before Spring Break.
Hough at Providence, March 7: 4A state powers collide when they are still finding themselves in the second week of the season. The Huskies and Panthers will showcase two of the best pitching staffs in the state in matchup that could also be a preview of battle deep in the 4A state playoffs in May. Ardrey Kell also plays at 3A state power Marvin Ridge the same day.
Hough at Lake Norman, March 20; Lake Norman at Hough, March 23: I-Meck 4A heavyweights matchup in late March in a two-game series that will likely play a major role in deciding the league champion.
Jack Sink Tournament at East Mecklenburg and Myers Park; Top 8 Tournament at Providence and Marvin Ridge, March 31 to April 4: Two of the states’ best spring break baseball tournaments are held right here in Charlotte, pitting some of the area’s best public and private school teams.
Pine Lake Prep at Queens Grant, April 13: This mid-April series with the Pride (Queens Grant Pine Lake Prep, April 10) should play a big role in who wins the new PAC 7 conference regular season title.
Myers Park at Hickory Ridge, April 17; East Mecklenburg at Myers Park, April 20: These two games in late April will likely play a major role in who wins the Southwestern 4A regular season title and have critical postseason seeding implications in a league that gets tougher with Hickory Ridge now in the mix.
Independence at Butler, April 17: The Bulldogs and Patriots have one of the state’s best rivalries in any sport, and this mid-April contest should be crucial to their spots in the SW4A standings late in the regular season.
Providence at South Mecklenburg, April 27: Longtime rivals hope to have more than bragging rights to play for in the regular season finale.
Charlotte Catholic at Marvin Ridge, April 27: Charlotte Catholic is now in the Southern Carolinas’ conference, and the Cougars hope there is still a lot to play for in their series with Marvin Ridge in the final week of the regular season (also play at Marvin Ridge, April 24; host the Mavericks, April 25).
- Former Major League Baseball standout Tony Womack joined Myers Park’s coaching staff as assistant coach, serving as the hitting instructor and infield coach. Womack who played 13 seasons, primarily with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks (part of 2001 World Series’ champions), was a career .273 hitter and led league in stolen bases with 72 in 1999 (with Arizona).
- West Charlotte has one of the youngest coaching staffs in the state in head coach Stephen Olson, 25, and assistant Adam Golden, 23, who are both eager to build the Lions’ baseball program and say "they believe in the players." Olson and Golden’s efforts also have helped West Charlotte field a J.V. baseball team for the first time in many years, which should help develop players more effectively.
- Rocky River baseball coach, Christian Price, and his Ravens’ team have struggled winning just five games in the last three years. But with eight starters back in the lineup, and with coach Price’s first senior class to spend all four year in his system, he believes Rocky River is ready for a breakout season in the Southwestern 4A conference and into the postseason.
- South Mecklenburg senior pitcher/infielder Reed Hedberg should give a major boast to the Sabres’ lineup after 6-foot-4, 190-pounder missed his entire junior season due to an injury, according to coach Brian Hoop.
- Harding senior Dallas Russell is a rare four-year starter for the Rams and team captain for coach Quentin Gardner.
- Queens Grant transfer seniors Warren Alwran could give Independence the No. 1 pitcher and bolster the Patriots’ rotation, according to Coach Daniel Cooke.
- Garinger baseball coach Jordan Yawn has to be one of the harding working guys in Mecklenburg County sports, as he doubles as both the Wildcats’ head basketball and baseball coaches.
I-Meck 4A Conference
- Hough; 2. Lake Norman; 3. Mooresville; 4. Hopewell; 5. North Mecklenburg; 6. Mallard Creek; 7. Vance; 8. West Charlotte.
Piedmont Athletic Conference 7 (PAC 7) 1A Conference
- Pine Lake Prep; 2. Queens Grant; 3. Union Academy; 4. Community School of Davidson; 5. Mountain Island Charter; 6. Bradford Prep; 7. Carolina International.
- Providence; 2. Ardrey Kell; 3. South Mecklenburg; 4. Olympic; 5. Berry; 6. West Mecklenburg; 7. Harding.
Southern Carolinas’ Conference
- Sun Valley; 2. Marvin Ridge; 3. Weddington; 4. Cuthbertson; 5. Piedmont; 6. Parkwood; 7. Charlotte Catholic; 8. Monroe
South Fork 2A Conference
- North Lincoln; 2. Lake Norman Charter; 3. East Lincoln; 4. Lincolnton; 5. Bandys; 6. Maiden; 7. West Lincoln; 8. Newton Conover.
Southwestern 4A Conference
- Myers Park; 2. East Mecklenburg; 3. Hickory Ridge; 4. Independence; 5. Butler; 6. Porter Ridge; 7. Rocky River; 8. Garinger.