by Chris Hunt and Aaron Burns
The Hopewell and North Mecklenburg baseball teams will play a critical game on Friday, April 29 at North Meck. As of April 25, the Titans and Vikings had similar 8-4 records in the I-MECK 4A conference, one game behind second-place Mooresville (9-4) in the win column and one game behind third-place Mallard Creek (8-3) in the loss column. Both North Mecklenburg and Hopewell have already clinched two of the league’s five automatic bids to the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs, but a win on Friday night could dramatically improve their tournament seeding.
“Friday night’s game means a lot, but we approach it as another game,” said North Meck coach Tevin Smith, whose Vikings face last-place Vance in their regular-season finale on May 2. “If we win, and get some help, it could really improve our seeding for the playoffs.”
Hopewell, which has won at least a share of the last three conference championships, can’t retain its title. With only one game remaining on its league slate, Lake Norman High School ended the Titans’ streak with an 11-2 mark in the league. Hopewell coach Chet Greeson, however, has more important concerns, such as ending his team’s five-game losing streak. Hopewell lost its last two conference games to Mooresville and Lake Norman, and was swept in three games at the East Mecklenburg Easter Tournament (May 18-20).
“We just need to figure out how to win a ball game right now,” said Greeson, whose team still has Mallard Creek (Tuesday, May 3) on its schedule. “We are in a funk and we need to climb out of it.”
Greeson said Hopewell ace Hunter Conley will take the mound against the Vikings. North Mecklenburg will counter with its top pitcher, Paul Leonard. Conley beat the Vikings 5-2 on April 1. Leonard has yet to face Hopewell this season.