The Observer’s high school baseball previews continue with a look at Iredell County schools from correspondent Jay Edwards
Teams to Watch
Lake Norman: Former Major Leaguer Ty Wigginton has transformed Lake Norman back into a state power in just two seasons, leading his team to 48 wins in that span, including a trip to the 4A West Regional finals
This year, the Wildcats are loaded with talent once again, with five starters back from a 26-5 team, led by seniors Sam Zayicek (High Point University signee), J.P. Perez (UNC Asheville signee), Isaiah Nino (Mars Hill commit) and Anthony Palma (Macalister College commit).
Lake Norman has a new challenge in the I-Meck 4A conference, where they want nothing less than a league title on their way to chance to play for the 4A state championship.
Mooresville: The Blue Devils return a strong core from last year: Brett Burchett (Brevard commit), his cousin, junior Blake Burchett plus sophomore standout Cameron Clonch (East Carolina commit). Mooresville moves back into the I-Meck 4A, one of the toughest leagues in the state. But Blue Devils coach Jeff Burchett (20th year) is a proven winner and will have the team ready to be in the thick of the conference race and a dangerous, postseason matchup.
Statesville Christian: The Lions return five starters from 13-5 team (6-0 in the Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA) that advanced to the NCISAA 1A state quarterfinals. Statesville Christian has plenty of firepower, led by seniors Josh Frye, Ty Laws, B.J. Lomax and Caleb Zarybnickey, to win another league title and go deep into the postseason.
Pine Lake Prep: The Pride return four starters from a team that won 17 games and advanced to the 1A state quarterfinals. This year, seniors Brady Tucker and Jake Merkel and juniors Grant Phillips and Michael Fea give Coach Dwight Ferguson a solid nucleus as they look to win the new PAC 7 (1A) conference race en route to making another playoff run.
South Iredell: The Vikings have improved in each of Coach Wesley Whitaker tenure with 12 wins in 2015, 14 victories in 2016 and 18 wins last year. This year, South Iredell looks to take another step with four starters back, led by seniors Dean Arriviello and Ryan Zirkle. Coach Whitaker believes his team can be a serious North Piedmont conference contender, with the likes of Carson, East Rowan and West Rowan, which will prepare them for the postseason.
Players to Watch
Sam Zayicek, Lake Norman, Sr.: High Point University signee does everything well, hitting .435 with nine doubles, 25 RBI and 13 stolen bases, while going 4-1 on the mound with a 1.33 ERA and looks to be even more productive in 2018.
J.P. Perez, Lake Norman, Sr.:
Cameron Clonch, Mooresville, So.: East Carolina commit was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA on the mound as a freshman, and should be even better as a sophomore.
Blake Burchett/Brett Burchett, Mooresville, Sr. (both): The first cousin duo are major offensive and defensive weapons for the Blue Devils with Brett behind the plate (catcher, .273, five doubles) and Blake (.259) an all-conference shortstop.
B.J. Lomax, Statesville Christian, Sr.: All-state performer does everything well, batting .422 with three home runs, seven doubles and stealing 22 bases, while also going 3-0 on the mound. Lomax will need to play a big role again for the Lions to make another deep postseason run.
Dean Arriviello, South Iredell, Sr.:
Nick Ward, West Iredell, Sr.:
Brady Tucker, Pine Lake Prep, Sr.: Pride senior can hit. 354 and pitch (2-0, 0.72 ERA) and forms a strong battery with junior catcher Grant Phillips (.390).
David Highman/Mason Staz, North Iredell, Jr.: Junior duo will be counted to contribute at the plate and on the mound \.
Can’t Miss Games
Mooresville at West Rowan, March 2: Mooresville coach, Jeff Burchett, will find out where their team is quickly with road trips to traditional powers West Rowan and Carson (March 3) on back-to-back-days in opening week of the season.
Hough at Lake Norman, March 20:
Alexander Central at Lake Norman, March 21:
Lake Norman at Mooresville, March 27; Mooresville at Lake Norman, March 29: Arch rivals will be fighting for more than county bragging rights when they play twice in three days just before Spring Break. Both teams know that better I-Meck conference and playoff position will be on line in both games.
West Rowan at South Iredell, April 10; Carson at South Iredell, April 17: If South Iredell is going to be a contender in the North Piedmont conference (NPC), they will have to hold serve against at least one of the top teams in the league, if not both.
- Statesville baseball coach, Kenny Morrison, returns to lead the Greyhounds after leading the program from 2011-13. Since then, Morrison coached the Statesville softball team and also the East Iredell Middle School squad.
- North Iredell won just 10 games combined from 2014-2016. But Coach Derrick Wishon was much improved going 7-15 (4-10 in the NPC). This year, the Raiders look to take another step in right direction.
- ItMooresville baseball team. 20-year veteran, Blue Devils Coach Jeff Burchett, has the rare opportunity to coach his son, Blake, and his nephew, Brett.
- Statesville Christian coach, Joel Frye, was just hired last month, which usually means a team/program is struggling. But Frye inherits a team with five starters back that went 13-5, a perfect 6-0 to win the NCISAA Southern Piedmont conference and advanced to the NCISAA 1A state quarterfinals.
I-Meck 4A Conference
- Hough; 2. Lake Norman; 3. Mooresville; 4. Hopewell; 5. North Mecklenburg; 6. Mallard Creek; 7. Vance; 8. West Charlotte.
North Piedmont 3A Conference
- Carson; 2. East Rowan; 3. West Rowan; 4. South Iredell; 5. North Iredell; 6. Statesville.
Northwest Foothills 2A Conference
- Bunker Hill; 2. Hibriten; 3. Fred T. Foard; 4. Patton; 5. Draughn; 6. West Iredell; 7. East Burke.
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.
Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (NCISAA)
1. Statesville Christian; 2. Carmel Christian; 3. Hickory Christian; 4. Christ the King; 5. Victory Christian; 6. North Hills Christian; 7. United Faith.