Approaching the last month of the high school spring season, teams and individuals are beginning to rise to the top in several sports, while division races are heating up on the baseball diamond and soccer pitch.
After playing six games during the last two weeks against some of the best competition the state and nation has to offer, the Topsail ball club was able to get a few days of rest to close spring break in Pender County. The much needed time off is just what the doctor ordered as the Pirates look to bounce back following a pair of tough losses to 4A powerhouse North Davidson.
At 2-0 in the conference, Topsail looks to be refocused and energized heading back into league play this week. Payton Rice has been their best pitcher so far, fashioning a 4-0 record.
West Brunswick has a 12-1 overall mark, unbeaten at 3-0 in conference. They’re coming off an impressive week riding an 11-game winning streak. The Trojans will be tested over the next five days with games against Ashley and New Hanover on the horizon. West Brunswick has a senior-laden team with Tristan Lewis at shortstop, Tyler Stanley in centerfield and Hunter Ashburn behind the plate. Zack Johnson and Austin Turner provide some life to the lineup, while junior Jonathan Carlyle has given big innings on the mound along with freshman Dylan Jeffries.
The Wildcats are the only other team in the division with 10 wins overall, while Hoggard and Ashley look to turn their fate around sitting at 1-2 in conference.
The Topsail softball team has been in cruise control since the start of the year, with a two-game lead over Hoggard, West Brunswick and Laney. The Pirates are 5-0 in conference and 12-1 overall.
Victoria Elder has been lights out in the circle for Topsail. The junior right-hander has a 5-1 record with 98 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched. The team has a combined .398 batting average and leads the league in runs scored. Topsail and Hoggard square off on Friday, April 8.
This upcoming Tuesday, April 5 will feature a highly anticipated match between division leaders Hoggard and Laney. The preseason favorites in the Mideastern Conference have lived up to expectations thus far, with dominating results thanks to a ton of talent up and down both rosters.
The trio of Baley Edwards, Anna Rae Porcelli and Haley Shand has combined for 32 goals through 10 games for Laney. The Bucs have outscored opponents 43-13 this season and have won five in a row leading into their contest against Hoggard.
The Vikings stand at 3-0 in the division and 7-1-3 overall. As reigning conference champions, Hoggard also has ability at nearly every position. Siara Southerland has become a premiere forward in the area as a junior, while seniors Emma Haywood, Aimee Darrow and Mary Ormsby provide experience on the pitch to go along with an impressive back line led by juniors Tara Poteat and Rebekah Fry.
Ashley has also shown life in conference under first-year Coach Greg Marinich. Tess Cairney and Carly Higgins have helped propel the Screaming Eagles to a 5-3-1 overall mark and 2-1 record in conference.
As forecast during season previews, the New Hanover boys tennis team has dominated the local circuit so far this spring. The Wildcats are unbeaten at 5-0 in conference and 7-0 overall.
Seniors Marshall Waren, Taylor Gaines and Jack Cooper have gone a combined 11-1 in singles play, while juniors Lucas McClatchy and Patrick Seniors solidified themselves as top-of-the-rotation competitors at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively. Freshman Wesley Gaines has also emerged as a rising star within the local tennis ranks with a perfect 4-0 mark as an individual. He’s also 2-0 alongside his brother Taylor Gaines in doubles play.
Gunner Philipp and Luke Frankeny have been at the forefront of Hoggard’s success over the last few seasons and once again have the Vikings in position to claim a division title. Hoggard is 6-0 in conference, with a two-game advantage over Laney and Ashley.
The race in the girls’ division has Hoggard at 5-0 in conference. Kendall Goldblum and Lindsay Yelton are a pair of elite scorers. Goldblum has tallied 28 times this season, while Yelton has 14 goals. Maxpreps.com has the Vikings listed at No. 6 in the state. Laney and Ashley are behind in the division and both 5-1 overall.
New Hanover has quickly risen to the top of the Mideastern Conference after capturing individual medalist honors at two events this season to go along with three team victories.
Jackson Tyler posted a 74 to capture first place in the most recent tournament held at Rivers Edge Country Club. He led by five shots over West Brunswick’s Tucker Vaughan. The Wildcats cruised to their third team win at River’s Edge following an impressive performance at Echo Farms on March 14. Brad Mickle took top spot on the leaderboard for New Hanover at Echo.
Laney’s Jackson Young won the first event of the season back on February 29 at Belvedere Country Club in Hampstead. Mideastern Conference golfers resume play today (Monday, April 4) at St. James Plantation.