40319-st-stephens-@-hickory-girls-5

David Scearce/Record File Photo: Hickory's Jess LaFrancis (5) and the Red Tornadoes face a pivotal match at Watauga on Tuesday. It's one of numerous games this week that will shape conference races as the regular season starts to wind down for most spring sports.

With the exception of girls soccer, conference schedules are down to the final two weeks of the season. Some of the races have been decided while others look to be coming down to the end. Whether the rain will cooperate this week, however, that is truly the story. At this point, the forecast looks iffy for several days. As always, check with the school’s athletic department in case of inclement weather as events may be rescheduled, or in some cases, moved ahead to beat the rain.

With that being said, here is a look at the top events this week:

Mark Parker headshot

Mark Parker

1) Maiden baseball vs. West Lincoln (Tuesday)

Arguably, the best conference race left among any of the spring sports is in the South Fork 2A Conference baseball standings. Despite a loss to Bandys on Thursday, Maiden remained in first place at 8-2 in the league. The Trojans moved into a three-way tie for second with North Lincoln and West Lincoln, all at 7-3. North Lincoln, the defending conference champion, got back into the race with four straight wins in conference play, which included victories last week over Bandys and West Lincoln.

Of the top four teams, the only two that play each other this week are West Lincoln and Maiden. The Blue Devils already own a 4-2 win over the Rebels back in March.  A victory by the Rebels would give them a share of first with three games left. The only question is will that share be among two, three, or four teams? While the Blue Devils host the Rebels, North Lincoln goes to sixth-place Lake Norman Charter, while Bandys hosts seventh-place Newton-Conover.

The regular-season championship could come down to the final week, when Maiden hosts North Lincoln a week from Tuesday and West Lincoln travels to Bandys two days later.

2) Fred T. Foard baseball at Bunker Hill (Tuesday), vs. Hibriten (Friday)

With Foard and Hibriten each having three Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference games remaining, the two have separated themselves from the rest of the league and are on course to decide the regular-season title Friday night. Both are at 8-1 in the conference, 3.5 games ahead of third-place Bunker Hill (4-4 conference). Either one can clinch one of the league’s two automatic berths in the state playoffs with a win or a Bunker Hill loss.

Foard is the hot team in the conference right now with seven wins in a row. The Tigers already have a win over Hibriten on the road. Before they host the Panthers on Friday, however, they have a score to settle at Bunker Hill on Tuesday.

The Bears have had Foard’s number for the past decade. Bunker Hill dished out the Tigers’ only conference loss with a 15-2 romp at Foard’s field a month ago. That was its third straight win in the series, giving the Bears a 21-4 mark against their cross-county rival since March 2009.

Another Foard loss to Bunker Hill wouldn’t damage the Tigers’ chances for a conference title and the league’s top seed in the conference tournament as Hibriten is off until Friday. But Foard would certainly love to exorcise that demon on Tuesday. 

3) Hickory girls soccer at Watauga (Tuesday)

The Red Tornadoes travel to Boone on Tuesday for the second of their two regular-season matches against Watauga. Barring an upset in the five matches to follow, this will likely determine whether the Pioneers win the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference title outright or share it with Hickory.

The two squads have dominated league play to this point. Watauga (10-3 overall) is 8-0 and has outscored its opponents 61-2. The Red Tornadoes (11-2-1) are 7-1 and hold a 57-6 scoring margin.

In their first meeting, Hickory had more scoring chances with an 8-6 edge in shots on goal. But Pioneers goalkeeper Magali Turner was nearly unbeatable, giving up just a penalty kick and making a save on another that was a turning point in that match.

Hickory dominated the series for many years, but in recent times Watauga has taken control with three wins in four tries. The Pioneers have won the past two played in Boone and they’ll look to the mountain air to try to sew up the league title outright. A Hickory win likely sets up a winner-take-all match after the regular season to determine the conference’s top seed in the state tournament.

4) Bunker Hill softball vs. Fred T. Foard (Tuesday), at Draughn (Friday)

Just over a week ago, Bunker Hill was in cruise control. The Bears, who were sitting atop the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference at 5-1 at the time, were sailing along 5-0 in the sixth inning of a game at last-place Patton. But with the help of a grand slam, the Panthers pulled even in their half of that inning. After Bunker Hill scored three in the ninth, Patton responded with four runs for the walk-off win that provided arguably the most shocking result from this area to date.

Last year’s 2A West runner-up, Bunker Hill had its conference bye last Tuesday before resuming play Friday at Hibriten, but the Bears’ woes continued with a 10-0 mercy-rule loss. Currently at 6-4 overall, they should still be a lock for the 2A state playoffs, yet this is a crucial week for them. They’ll have a tough pair of opponents against which to get healthy – second-place Foard and first-place Draughn.

After a tough stretch, Foard (9-5 overall, 7-2 conference) appears to be on a roll again after five wins in a row. And Draughn (11-2, 6-1) looks to be the class of the league this year. That’s what makes this week so important for Bunker Hill. A win or two would get the Bears back on track. But losses in both games could set them up for a much lower seed in the state playoffs.

5) Fred T. Foard softball vs. Hibriten (Friday)

Speaking of Foard, the Tigers got healthy against the teams at the bottom of the standings and now the defending conference champs hope to carry that momentum into this week. Along with Tuesday’s game against Bunker Hill, Foard will host Hibriten (11-3, 7-2), a team it is currently tied with for second place.

Prior to the first meeting in March, Foard had held a 12-4 advantage in the series since 2012. The Panthers scored two in the bottom of the seventh, however, for the walk-off win in their first matchup this season. Friday’s game is crucial for both as each gets Draughn the next week to close out the conference regular season.

6) South Fork boys tennis tournament (Tuesday-Wednesday)

The first conference championships during the spring sports season will be awarded this week as North Lincoln hosts the South Fork 2A Conference individual tournament. The tournament will not only award championships in singles and doubles play but also determine participants in the regional individual tournament to be held May 3-4. As of April 6, the NCHSAA had not determined the number of berths from each conference that will advance to regionals.

While seedings for the conference tournament will be determined on Tuesday prior to the start, it figures that Newton-Conover’s Brann Reid will be the top singles player. The back-to-back defending 2A state champion is 11-0 overall during his junior season. He has combined with four different doubles partners during the season in building a 10-0 mark there. Red Devils freshman Timothy Eustice is 7-2 in No. 2 singles and Ben Henshaw is 7-1 in No. 3 singles.

Bandys’ top two players are Graham Warlick and Sam Owensby. Warlick, a senior, is 11-4 in No. 1 singles play, while his junior teammate Owensby is 10-5. The pair has teamed up for a 10-3 record in No. 1 doubles.

7) Hickory boys tennis vs. St. Stephens (Tuesday)

Although South Caldwell can win the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference regular-season title outright with a victory over Alexander Central on Tuesday, the 3A state dual-meet tournament participants are still up for grabs. That will come down to the final match between Hickory (7-2 overall, 5-1 conference) and St. Stephens (8-4, 4-2).

As of April 6, the NCHSAA had not determined the number of bids each league will receive for the 32-team 3A tournament. Based on last year’s brackets in which the league got two 3A berths (Watauga and Alexander Central), if the same scenario holds for 2019, Hickory will clinch the top bid with a win. Watauga (5-2, 4-2) would likely get the second bid as the Pioneers’ final match is at winless West Caldwell on Tuesday. If St. Stephens wins, though, that would create a three-way tie, leaving the conference to determine the two bids.

8) St. Stephens boys lacrosse vs. Patton (Friday)

In their first meeting this season back in March, the Panthers got close to handing St. Stephens its first conference loss since 2014. But the Indians were able to pull out a 9-8 win. They’ve now won all 10 meetings against Patton, but the gap between the two programs has closed from the double-digit routs from as recently as two seasons ago.

The schools will meet again at St. Stephens on Friday and if both win conference matches earlier in the week, this game will decide if the Conference 16 title is to be shared or won outright by the Indians. St. Stephens plays at T.C. Roberson on Tuesday, while Patton hosts Asheville that same night.  

Others To Watch

Baseball: Hickory at Watauga (Tuesday), vs. Alexander Central (Friday)

After an 0-5 conference start, Hickory (8-6, 4-6) nearly pulled to .500 before surrendering a walk-off win at first-place South Caldwell on Wednesday. The most recent MaxPreps adjusted ranking had the Red Tornadoes at No. 59, putting them on the bubble for the 3A state playoffs. Wins this week over teams above them would enhance their postseason standing.

Girls Soccer: Fred T. Foard vs. Hibriten (Friday)

A win over West Iredell last week placed Foard all alone atop the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference. Not only are the Tigers (12-2-1) unbeaten in the league at 7-0, they have yet to surrender a goal, posting a 33-0 scoring margin. They get the defending conference champs at home on Friday and a win would give them the season sweep and march them closer toward a title. 

Softball: Alexander Central vs. McDowell (Tuesday), vs. Draughn (Wednesday)

With South Caldwell holding a three-game lead in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference with five to play, the battle is for second place. That will come down to Alexander Central (12-4, 7-3) and McDowell (7-7, 6-3). The Titans won the first game between the two in extra innings, but the Cougars have won nine of their past 11. Following that, the defending 3A state champions will host Draughn, the current leader in the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference.


HIGH SCHOOL VARSITY SCHEDULE

Week of April 8-13

Most varsity baseball, softball and girls soccer games follow a junior varsity contest. Starting times are approximate as varsity games follow shortly after the conclusion of JV games, regardless of time.

All schedules compiled from individual school websites as of 4/4/19 and are subject to change due to weather. For further information, contact the individual school’s athletic department.

MONDAY, APRIL 8

BASEBALL

Northwestern Foothills 2A

West Iredell at Draughn, 7 p.m.

Nonconference

Hibriten at Wilkes Central, 6:30 p.m.

Patton at Avery County, 6 p.m.

BOYS GOLF

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference at Quaker Meadows Golf Course (Morganton), 3 p.m.

BOYS LACROSSE

Conference 16

Patton at Asheville, 6 p.m.

GIRLS SOCCER                                    

South Fork 2A Conference

Newton-Conover at Lake Norman Charter, 6 p.m.

Nonconference

Fred T. Foard at Crest, 5 p.m.

Wilkes Central at Hibriten, 6 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A

Hickory at South Caldwell, 5 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A

West Iredell at Draughn, 6:30 p.m.

Nonconference

East Burke at West Lincoln, 6 p.m.

Hibriten at Wilkes Central, 6 p.m.

North Iredell at St. Stephens, 5 p.m.

BOYS TENNIS

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

McDowell at Freedom, 4 p.m.

TUESDAY, APRIL 9

BASEBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Hickory at Watauga, 6:30 p.m.

McDowell at Alexander Central, 6:30 p.m.

South Caldwell at Freedom, 6:30 p.m.

St. Stephens at West Caldwell, 6:30 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Draughn at Patton, 7 p.m.

East Burke at West Iredell, 7 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at Bunker Hill, 7 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Newton-Conover at Bandys, 7 p.m.

West Lincoln at Maiden, 7 p.m.

BOYS GOLF

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference match at Marion Lake Club, 3 p.m.

BOYS LACROSSE

Conference 16

St. Stephens at T.C. Roberson, 5:30 p.m.

Watauga at Hickory, 6 p.m.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Conference 10

Watauga at Hickory, 4:30 p.m.

GIRLS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Hickory at Watauga, 6 p.m.

McDowell at Alexander Central, 6:30 p.m.

South Caldwell at Freedom (Catawba River Soccer Complex), 6 p.m.

St. Stephens at West Caldwell, 5 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Draughn at Patton, 6 p.m.

East Burke at West Iredell, 6 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at Bunker Hill, 6:45 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Maiden at West Lincoln, 6 p.m.

Newton-Conover at Bandys, 6 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Hickory at Watauga, 5 p.m.

McDowell at Alexander Central, 6 p.m.

South Caldwell at Freedom, 5 p.m.

St. Stephens at West Caldwell, 5 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Draughn at Patton, 6 p.m.

East Burke at West Iredell, 6 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at Bunker Hill, 6:30 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Maiden at West Lincoln, 6 p.m.

Newton-Conover at Bandys, 6 p.m.

BOYS TENNIS

South Fork 2A Conference

Conference tournament at North Lincoln, 11:30 a.m.

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

South Caldwell at Alexander Central, 4 p.m.

St. Stephens at Hickory, 4 p.m.

Watauga at West Caldwell, 4 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Draughn at Patton, 4 p.m.

East Burke at West Iredell, 4 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at Bunker Hill, 4 p.m.

TRACK AND FIELD

Fred T. Foard, Patton, South Caldwell, West Caldwell at Porter Relays (Hibriten), 3:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10

BASEBALL

Nonconference

Bunker Hill at Newton-Conover, 4:30 p.m.

Chase at East Burke, 6 p.m.

Hibriten at Watauga, 6:30 p.m.

BOYS LACROSSE

Nonconference

Patton at Davie County, 7 p.m.

GIRLS SOCCER

Nonconference

Draughn at Alexander Central, 5 p.m.

Patton at East Rutherford, 6 p.m.

South Caldwell at Maiden, 6:30 p.m.

West Caldwell at Hibriten, 6 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Nonconference

Draughn at Alexander Central, 5 p.m.

Freedom at Patton, 5 p.m.

St. Stephens at Hibriten, 5:30 p.m.

West Caldwell at North Wilkes, 4:30 p.m.

BOYS TENNIS

South Fork 2A Conference

Conference tournament at North Lincoln, TBA

Nonconference

Freedom at Patton, 4 p.m.

Watauga at Hibriten, 4 p.m.

TRACK AND FIELD

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Alexander Central, McDowell, South Caldwell at West Caldwell, 4:30 p.m.

Freedom, Hickory, South Caldwell at Watauga, 4:30 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

East Lincoln, Lincolnton, Newton-Conover at Bandys, 4:30 p.m.

Maiden, North Lincoln, West Lincoln at Lincolnton, 4:30 p.m.

THURSDAY, APRIL 11

BASEBALL

Nonconference

West Caldwell at Bandys, 7 p.m.

BOYS GOLF

South Fork 2A Conference (9 holes) at Deer Brook Golf Club (Shelby), 3:30 p.m.

BOYS LACROSSE

Conference 16

T.C. Roberson at Hickory, 5 p.m.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Conference 10

Lake Norman at St. Stephens, 5 p.m.

GIRLS SOCCER

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Lincolnton, 5 p.m.

Lake Norman Charter at Maiden, 5 p.m.

Newton-Conover at West Lincoln, 6 p.m.

Nonconference

R-S Central at East Burke, 6 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Nonconference

Bandys at Lincoln Charter, 5 p.m.

Fred T. Foard at Charlotte Catholic, 6 p.m.

Newton-Conover at West Iredell, 5 p.m.

South Caldwell at Enka, 6 p.m.

BOYS TENNIS

Nonconference

Hickory at Statesville, 4 p.m.

FRIDAY, APRIL 12

BASEBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Alexander Central at Hickory, 6:30 p.m.

Freedom at Watauga, 6:30 p.m.

St. Stephens at South Caldwell, 6:30 p.m.

West Caldwell at McDowell, 6:30 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Bunker Hill at Draughn, 7 p.m.

Hibriten at Fred T. Foard, 7 p.m.

Patton at East Burke, 7 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Lincolnton, 7 p.m.

Lake Norman Charter at Maiden, 7 p.m.

Newton-Conover at West Lincoln, 7 p.m.

BOYS LACROSSE

Conference 16

Patton at St. Stephens, 5:30 p.m.

Nonconference

West Forsyth at Hickory, 7:15 p.m.

GIRLS LACROSSE

Nonconference

St. Stephens at Glenn, 5:30 p.m.

West Forsyth at Hickory, 5:30 p.m.

GIRLS SOCCER

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Alexander Central at Hickory, 6:30 p.m.

Freedom at Watauga, 6 p.m.

St. Stephens at South Caldwell, 5 p.m.

West Caldwell at McDowell, 5 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Bunker Hill at Draughn, 6 p.m.

Hibriten at Fred T. Foard, 6:30 p.m.

Patton at East Burke, 6 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Northwestern 3A/4A Conference

Alexander Central at Hickory, 4 p.m.

Freedom at Watauga, 5 p.m.

St. Stephens at South Caldwell, 6 p.m.

West Caldwell at McDowell, 6 p.m.

Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference

Bunker Hill at Draughn, 6 p.m.

Hibriten at Fred T. Foard, 6 p.m.

Patton at East Burke, 6 p.m.

South Fork 2A Conference

Bandys at Lincolnton, 6 p.m.

Lake Norman Charter at Maiden, 5 p.m.

Newton-Conover at West Lincoln, 5 p.m.

TRACK AND FIELD

South Caldwell at Bojangles Track & Field Classic at Spring Valley High (Columbia, S.C.), 5 p.m.

SATURDAY, APRIL 13

GIRLS SOCCER

Nonconference

Hibriten at South Caldwell, 2 p.m.

SOFTBALL

Nonconference

Hibriten at South Caldwell, 2 p.m.

TRACK AND FIELD

Alexander Central, Bunker Hill, East Burke, Fred T. Foard, Freedom, Hibriten, Hickory, Patton, St. Stephens, West Caldwell at Lenoir-Rhyne Invitational, 10 a.m.

South Caldwell at Bojangles Track & Field Classic at Spring Valley High (Columbia, S.C.), 9 a.m.

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