Northern Nash's Alex Cooke, right, steals second base as Nash Central's Kyle Taylor receives the ball during a Big East game at Nash Central. The Knights drew a 2-20 team in the first round.

Telegram photo / Alan Campbell

Northern Nash's Alex Cooke, right, steals second base as Nash Central's Kyle Taylor receives the ball during a Big East game at Nash Central. The Knights drew a 2-20 team in the first round.

First round of playoffs set for seven area teams

By Nick Piotrowicz

Sports Writer

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Seven local schools learned their first-round opponents for the NCHSAA playoffs, and for two Nash County teams, it was just about the best possible scenario.

Big East Conference regular season baseball champion Northern Nash (14-9) drew South Brunswick, which at 2-20 has the worst record in the 3-A bracket.

It was the same story for Big East softball No. 1 seed Southern Nash (9-11), which also drew South Brunswick. The Cougars are 1-16 in softball.

Both games will be played at 6 p.m. today.

Even with the bad record, Northern Nash isn’t assuming anything.

“Especially with the conference they play in, they play lot of 4-A teams,” Knights coach Leonard Allen said. “They’re a lot better than the record indicates.”

The strange draws were the result of the Mideastern Conference, a split 4-A/3-A league with seven teams. The conference has automatic bids for all three 3-A schools in its ranks. New Hanover finished last in both baseball and softball.

The Knights’ style lends for mostly low-scoring games, so they plan on that again.

“Most of games we won have been pretty close anyway,” Allen said. “The signature of our team is good defense and pitching. It hasn’t been the bats.”

Big East softball No. 4 Nash Central, which finished 10-10 and had slim hopes of a wild card berth, was not selected to the field of 64.

The Bulldogs had a chance to clinch an automatic berth Saturday but lost to Wilson Fike, 11-6, in the Big East Tournament championship game.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, you know?” Nash Central coach Gary Smith said. “The kids did great considering we lost six starters from last year. To finish where they did – I mean, we had a chance.”

At the same time, Smith said, the structure needs to be revised when teams with double-digit wins are sitting home and teams with fewer than three wins are going to the playoffs.

“There needs to be a better system than the way it is,” Smith said. “I don’t want it to sound like sour grapes, but if you’re in a split conference and go 0-15 or 0-whatever, you should automatically be out of the playoffs.

“But if I was 0-whatever I’d go (to the playoffs), too. You can’t blame them. There just needs to be a better system.”

The system was even more exaggerated in the 1-A soccer bracket. Four winless teams are in the East bracket, and two teams have byes in the first round.

One of them, 0-16 Pender, is a No. 15 seed which will travel to play No. 2 Tarboro.

The Nash County schools had quite the opposite luck in girls’ soccer. Northern Nash, the fourth-place team in the Big East, did indeed receive an at-large berth in the tournament, but the No. 24 Knights (9-8) drew No. 9 Chapel Hill, which is 17-1 this season.

Rocky Mount High (10-8-2) drew a No. 21 seed and will have to travel to 12th-seeded Erwin Triton (13-4-1). The Gryphons will play at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

In 1-A baseball, Two Rivers No. 2 Tarboro (13-8) will play host to Lakewood (9-13) at 7 p.m. tonight.

The Vikings also earned a softball bid. A three seed from the Two Rivers, Tarboro (6-16) will travel to North Duplin (9-7) at 6 p.m. tonight.

 

Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or npiotrowicz
@rmtelegram.com