The Observer’s high school baseball preview continues with a look at Gaston County from correspondent Jay Edwards
Teams to Watch
North Lincoln: Coach Jon Carpenter returns a veteran group with nine seniors who should contribute heavily, led by college-bound standouts in catcher Tyler McPeak (Campbell University signee), shortstop Nick Solomita (UNC Greensboro signee) and pitcher/infielder Tyler Lilly (Erskine signee). The Knights’ combination of experience and talent will give North Lincoln a chance to contend in the new South Fork 2A conference and be a dangerous playoff team.
East Lincoln: The Mustangs must reload a bit after losing a lot of talent to graduation, but no one will feel sorry for Coach Chris Matile and company who annually seems to find a way to win. East Lincoln will look to seniors Caleb Burke (Surry Community College commit), Kooper Hogue (Southeastern Community College commit), Evan Pawlowski (Coker College signee), Logan Philemon (Surry Community College commit) and junior Allden Horne, to step into bigger roles and help the Mustangs be factor in the South Fork 2A conference race and into the postseason.
Lincoln Charter: The Eagles return six starters from a squad that went 21-6, tied Cherryville for the South Piedmont conference regular season title (14-2) and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. While coach Scott Clark must replace eight seniors from a year ago, he has plenty of talent, led by seniors Hunter Hess and Jackson Farnsworth to get right back in the league race and go deeper into the (1A) playoffs.
Players to Watch
Tyler McPeak, North Lincoln, Sr.: Campbell University signee is equally as important at the plate (.413, four home runs) and behind the plate (catcher) for an experienced Knights’ team that believes it can contend in South Fork 2A conference.
Robbie Cowie/Lane Hoover, Lincolnton, Sr. (both): Wolves’ senior duo in Cowie (RHP/OF, Catawba College signee) and Hoover (OF, East Carolina signee) lead a Lincolnton capable of being a factor in the South Fork 2A conference.
Evan Pawlowski, East Lincoln, Sr.: Coker College signee, senior catcher also gets it done behind the plate and at the plate (.405, 29 RBI) and now must play a lead role in the Mustangs’ success.
Hunter Hess, Lincoln Charter, Sr.: Eagles’ slugger proved he can be a major offensive weapon, hitting .345 with five home runs and 29 RBI last year, but the senior outfielder will have be even better this season is Lincoln Charter is going to stay at the top of the league standings.
Logan Carpenter, West Lincoln, Sr.: Rebels’ three-year starting catcher also excels at the plate (.281 batting average) and this West Lincoln team will need his offensive, defensive and leadership on a team with experience (six starters back) to make some noise in the South Fork 2A conference.
Can’t Miss Games
North Lincoln at Forestview, Feb. 28; North Lincoln at North Gaston, March 1; North Lincoln at Hickory, March 2: The Knights will waste no time finding out what they are made of with three road games in three straight days in the first week of the season.
East Lincoln at Lake Norman Charter, March 29: East Lincoln plays a critical, South Fork 2A conference road game the Thursday before Spring Break, which will give the winner a lot of momentum going into the second of the league race.
Lincolnton at East Lincoln, April 10; North Lincoln at East Lincoln, April 13: If East Lincoln is going to win another conference title (won SD7 regular season title last year), this will be a huge week as they host two of their major rivals in games sure to be critical in the South Fork 2A standings with two weeks to go in regular season play.
Cherryville at Lincoln Charter, April 10; Lincoln Charter at Cherryville, April 13: The Eagles and Ironmen shared the SPC 1A regular title last year and this mid-April home-and-home will likely determine who wins the league title again in 2018 with major postseason-seeding implications also at stake.
- • Former West Lincoln assistant (last three years), John Markley, now takes over as the Rebels’ head coach as Allan Chapman moves over to lead the West Lincoln softball team. Chapman had more than 300 wins in 20-plus years at the helm of the Rebels’ baseball team.
- • Coach Jon Carpenter and his North Lincoln baseball team get a good midseason test when they play four games in four days in the Myrtle Beach area. The Knights open with Petersburg (WV), April 3 at Myrtle Beach High, then play Hazard (KY), April 4 at Conway High, Penn Yan Academy (NY), April 5 at Carolina Forest High, and then finish with Plattsburgh (NY), April 6 at Conway, again.
- • Lincoln Charter senior relief pitcher, Wes Hord, is a throwback pitcher with the "submarine style" delivery, giving him a great sinker. Eagles’ coach, Scott Clark, says he will be counting on Hord to get some tough outs this season
South Fork 2A Conference
- 1. North Lincoln; 2. Lake Norman Charter; 3. East Lincoln; 4. Lincolnton; 5. Bandys; 6. Maiden; 7. West Lincoln; 8. Newton Conover.
South Piedmont 1A Conference
- 1. Lincoln Charter; 2. Cherryville; 3. Highland Tech; 4. Bessemer City; 5. Thomas Jefferson Academy; 6. Piedmont Charter.