HUNTERSVILLE – It’s baseball teams playing leapfrog.
The race for top spots in the I-MECK 4A conference, as it has the past two seasons, features several teams jockeying for the top spots. There’s no clear favorite or dominant squad, which makes every game vital.
A good week against conference teams has propelled teams into the top two or three in the standings. A bad week sends them toward the bottom. It also means nothing will be decided until the final scheduled day of conference games on April 26.
Here’s a look at area teams:
• HOPEWELL – The Titans are 6-2 in the I-MECK 4A conference and in second place, a game behind Mallard Creek (7-1). Hopewell is 11-6 overall, but lost tournament games to Marvin Ridge and Weddington during spring break.
The Titans are averaging 6.2 runs, led by senior shortstop Ivan Acuna, who is hitting .447 with seven doubles and 14 RBIs. Craig Zalewa, a senior, has a .439 batting average and sophomore Joey Hill is hitting .326.
Wayne Shaffer, a junior, is Hopewell’s power source. He has three home runs, 17 RBIs, a .422 batting average and is 6-for-6 in steal attempts. Alan Smith, a left-handed senior, leads the pitchers with a 3.12 earned run average and 37 strikeouts in 33 innings.
• HOUGH – The area’s hottest team. The Huskies have won seven straight games to improve to 10-7 overall and 5-3 in the I-MECK 4A conference. They’re among three teams tied for third place, a game behind second-place Hopewell.
Hough went 3-0 in the East Mecklenburg Spring Break Classic and outscored opponents 33-10.
Pierce Suttles, a senior catcher, is hitting .500 with five doubles, two triples and 17 RBIs. Brandon Gragilla, a senior pitcher/first baseman, is hitting .447 with seven doubles, four home runs and 19 RBIs. He’s 2-2 with a 1.66 ERA on the mound. Brandon Casas, a junior pitcher, is 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA.
“It’s a tough group of guys,” Hough coach Jimmy Cochran said. “They have matured and grown into a better ball club over the first half of the season. They’re starting to realize some of their potential.”
• NORTH MECKLENBURG - The Vikings (7-7 overall) are tied with Hough and Mooresville with a 5-3 record in I-MECK 4A. They’re in the thick of the playoff race, and have a dominant player in junior Ryder Ryan. He’s 3-1 with a 0.25 ERA, and 45 strikeouts in 28 innings. He’s hitting .621with three home runs, five doubles, eight steals and 14 RBIs.
Zach Ruttkamp, a catcher/pitcher, has a .344 batting average with nine RBIs.
• DAVIDSON DAY – The Patriots are flourishing under new coach Matt Neville. They’re 8-2 overall, 4-0 in N.C. Independent School Athletic Association 2A games and 4-0 in the Southern Piedmont Athletic Association. Davidson Day is No. 2 in the NCISAA poll and will play top-ranked Westchester Country Day on April 17.
“The team has done an amazing job learning a new system and executing at a very high level thus far this season,” Neville said. “Our pitching as a collective staff has been outstanding across the board.”
Jack Kolls (2-2) has a 2.50 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 22 innings. John Goss is 2-0 with a 0.41 ERA in 17 innings.
The offensive stars are Lamar Briggs (.400 batting average, 10 steals), Will Reid (.429, 10 RBIs), Will Grier (.419, five home runs, 20 RBIs and seven steals), Tyler Stevens (.450), Tommy Lawley (.393, eight RBIs) and Kendon McLaurin (.533, eight RBIs).
• SOUTHLAKE CHRISTIAN – New coach Mike Causey’s squad is 10-2 and has a 5-2 mark in the Metrolina Athletic Conference. The Eagles are averaging 9.6 runs per game, and have solid hitters in sophomore Josh Hiatt (.512 batting average, three home runs and 16 RBIs), juniors Bradley Hallman (.410, 10 RBIs) and Kaelin Fuller (.375, 16 RBIs) and Devin Bagwell (.371, six extra-base hits).
SouthLake has depth on the mound, too. Fuller is 3-0 with a 1.94 ERA and Bagwell is 2-1 with a 1.47 ERA. Hallman is 2-0 with 30 strikeouts in 17 innings.
• LAKE NORMAN CHARTER – The Knights (6-8 overall) are 3-4 in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference, and still have a chance at the postseason.
The hitting leaders are Michael Dorsainvil (.356 batting average, eight steals), sophomore Zac Queen (.357) and Jake Williams (.333). John Creel has a team-leading nine RBIs, and is 3-2 with a 1.75 ERA as a pitcher.