While the Topsail baseball team caught fire toward the end of the spring as the Pirates finished the 3A state runner-up, it was the West Brunswick ball club that dominated regular season play as Mideastern Conference Champions.
The Trojans cruised to their first division crown since 2008 after a 10-2 mark in league play. Postseason awards were recently handed out based on a vote by the seven coaches within the conference, using statistics from conference games only.
West Brunswick junior Jonathan Carlyle earned Mideastern Conference Player of the Year honors, while T.J. Spivey was named Coach of the Year.
“It is an honor to be chosen coach of the year in a great conference filled with a lot of well-respected coaches,” Spivey said. “It is a testament to a great group of seniors and the hard work they put in the past two seasons. I am extremely proud of this team and all they accomplished this season.”
Led by nine seniors in the everyday lineup, the Trojans came up short of their stated goal of reaching a state championship. But the ball club from Shallotte made a run into the fourth round of the 3A playoffs, finishing the spring with a 24-4 overall record. They had a 19-game winning streak this season and outscored three opponents in the state tournament 34-4 before suffering a 9-4 season-ending setback to Corinth Holders in extra innings.
Carlyle was the go-to pitcher all season for West Brunswick. The big righty went 9-1 on the mound, with a 1.20 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched.
“Carlyle was very consistent for us all season,” Spivey said. “He picked up huge conference wins over Topsail, Hoggard twice and New Hanover twice, including the conference championship clinching win. His ERA was under one all season and every time he took the mound we knew we had a great shot to win.”
Joining Carlyle on the First-Team All-Conference list was battery mate Hunter Ashburn. The USC-Aiken signee helped control the West Brunswick pitching staff all season. He finished with a .412 batting average at catcher, with a team-high in hits (33) and RBI (24).
Hoggard had two players receive first-team honors after making a run to the 4A East Regional. Robert Wilkerson carried the Vikings as the team’s number one starter, while Brad Pennington put the finishing touches on a consistent high school career at shortstop. Hoggard went 22-6 overall, with a 9-3 conference record to finish second in the division.
Throughout his high school career, Pennington played nearly every position at one point or another. His versatility landed him an opportunity to play college baseball next year at N.C. Wesleyan. Pennington capped his senior campaign as a .461 hitter. Wilkerson was 8-1 on the hill as a junior.
Seniors Payton Rice and Chase Riker represented Topsail on the All-Conference sheet. Both players have signed to compete at the college level. Rice served as one of the top pitchers across the eastern part of the state this spring, fashioning a 12-1 record and 1.18 earned run average. Rice picked up both wins during the 3A East Regional best-of-three series and guided the Pirates to a win in the opening game of the NCHSAA Championship. Riker had a .952 fielding percentage, with a .364 batting average.
Rounding out the list of first-team picks were Christian Tafoya (Ashley), Caleb Bishop (New Hanover) and Andrew Phillips (South Brunswick).
South Brunswick had its best season in recent memory and Phillips rounded out his junior year as a .397 hitter. Bishop served as the top starter for New Hanover, while Tafoya had a .292 batting average and 2.07 ERA in 50-plus innings of work.
Player of the Year: Johnathan Carlyle, West Brunswick
Coach of the Year: T.J. Spivey, West Brunswick
Team Sportsmanship Award: South Brunswick
- Christian Tafoya, Ashley
- Brad Pennington, Hoggard
- Robert Wilkerson, Hoggard
- Caleb Bishop, New Hanover
- Andrew Phillips, South Brunswick
- Payton Rice, Topsail
- Chase Riker, Topsail
- Hunter Ashburn, West Brunswick
- Johnathan Carlyle, West Brunswick