Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The world of North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoff baseball can be a strange place.
Those double-digit numbers next to teams on the brackets? They suddenly become meaningless with the right arm on the mound.
Hunt High’s Jon Smith would know. His Warriors, as a No. 12 seed, were sent out of the playoffs last season at home with a 12-6 loss to East Chapel Hill in the opening round.
One year later, only the opponent has changed as No. 21 South Johnston will come to Sid Boyette Field and attempt to knock off the No. 12 Warriors on Tuesday night.
“The whole 3-A East is loaded,” Smith said. “Seedings are just a number beside your name.”
Hunt (16-5) has won five out of its last six entering the postseason, including a 5-2 over Rocky Mount to lock down the second and final automatic qualifying spot from the Big East. If the Warriors move on, they will get the winner of No. 5 West Johnston and No. 25 Cleveland in Friday’s second round. Hunt already has experience with West Johnston’s potent pitching staff after taking a 2-0 loss in the Golden Leaf Invitational just two weeks ago.
Over at Fike, the pieces are in place for a deep playoff run as the Golden Demons, Big East champions, are assured of at least three home games as long as they remain alive. As the No. 3 seed, Fike (19-1) will get the challenge of Cape Fear (14-7) , the No. 30 seed, at Gilbert Ferrell Field. If the Demons move on, they will host either No. 14 West Carteret or No. 19 Rocky Mount on Friday. But, first things first.
“Every year that I’ve been in it, in 10 years of coaching high school baseball, there’s a high seed that’s a favorite,” Fike head coach Buck Edmundson said. “Teams have come in hungry and everything goes their way.”
Fike and Hunt represent the balance of the 3-A entrants from The Wilson Times readership area in the 2019 playoffs, as Charles B. Aycock missed the postseason for the first time since 2005. The other three qualifiers are in 2-A, where No. 32 SouthWest Edgecombe visits Midway, No. 12 North Johnston hosts No. 21 North Pitt and No. 23 Greene Central is at No. 10 Holly Ridge Dixon. All games are at 7 p.m. with the exception of Greene Central-Dixon, set for a first pitch of 6.
“As far as making a run, we’ve just got to go one game at a time,” Edmundson said. “If the pitching works out to where we have favorable matchups and the right opportunities, I feel good about our team. I believe in this team.”
North Johnston, despite reaching the 20-win plateau for the third time in the last four seasons, was left with the No. 12 seed after losing a tiebreaker game to Nash Central for the EPC’s top automatic qualifier. Should North Johnston topple North Pitt for the third time this season — NJ hasn’t conceded a run to the Pitt County squad in two meetings — it would face either No. 5 Currituck County or No. 28 Trinity Wheatmore in the second round.
Greene Central (10-10) is back in the postseason after finishing fifth in the 2-A ECC. The Rams will seek to move into a second-round game against either No. 7 Bunn or No. 26 Red Springs.
SouthWest Edgecombe (8-12) received the final ticket into the 2-A East field via adjusted MaxPreps ranking over South Lenoir and heads to Dunn to face top seed Midway (20-1).
The proprietary MaxPreps formula is not released to the public, although a modified version that eliminates margin of victory incentive is generated for the NCHSAA’s use in the seeding process.