South Charlotte

Athletes prepare for rivalry

When Providence and Ardrey Kell meet on the baseball diamond later this year, it will likely be for the conference championship and bragging rights.

They go hand in hand in one of the state's most intense rivalries.

The schools compete in every sport, but probably none more intense than on the baseball field.

Ardrey Kell's biggest threat may be Providence, which is an experienced and talented team and is in position to win the Southwestern 4A title.

The Providence Panthers knocked off the Knights to capture last season's conference championship and defeated them 11-5 earlier this year. The next meeting, the final game of the season for both teams, will likely decide seeding and could determine the regular season conference champion.

Providence boasts reigning 4A state Player of the Year Brett Austin, and Jake Fincher, both N.C. State signees and 2011 Louisville Slugger preseason high school All-Americans. The Panthers other key player is Jackson Campana, who has committed to Clemson.

The Knights have two-time All Conference selection and N.C. State signee Logan Ratledge, North Carolina recruits Chris McCue and Trent Thorton, Charlotte signee Brett Lang, Pittsburgh recruit Conner Patterson, Appalachian State's Alex Leach and Colin Keefer, who has signed with Massachusetts-Boston.

The teams are led respectively by Danny Hignight at Providence and Hal Bagwell at Ardrey Kell.

However the season plays out, it seems unlikely that the May 5 match-up between these two powerhouses will not decide the conference champion. Now that's a must-see game.