by Chris Hunt and Aaron Burns
With three games to go in the regular season, North Mecklenburg’s two-time defending conference champion softball team is in the unfamiliar position of looking up at another team in the standings. Lake Norman High School has taken control of the championship race with two one-run victories over the Vikings, who are 15-3 overall and 9-2 in the I-MECK. A 4-3 loss on March 11 and a 2-1 defeat on April 5 were North Meck’s only two conference losses this spring. The Vikings still have a shot because Lake Norman (11-1) has two games remaining, but the Wildcats are expected to easily handle first-year program Hough and West Charlotte.
Then again, with Hopewell and Mooresville in hot pursuit, North Meck doesn’t have time to worry about Lake Norman. The second-place Vikings have three games to hold off their pursuers, including Friday, April 29, when North Meck hosts Hopewell. North Meck also has Mooresville remaining on its schedule.
• Power hitter Sarah Mooney is batting .667 and has 13 home runs and 30 RBIs entering Friday night’s contest against Hopewell. So why is she leading off the batting order this season? North Meck coach Paul Kikta said teams would pitch around her if she was third or fourth in the order. With Mooney first in the order, the Vikings have a good chance to lead off games with a runner on first base. Mooney has done her part, collecting 20 walks this season.
“Sarah’s elevated her game at the plate and she’s crushing the ball this season,” said Kikta. “Everyone understands she’s our best hitter so we have to protect her in the order. If they walk her, Morgan (Lashley), Erin Lehnert and the rest of the lineup have been driving her in. It’s been a different hitter in the clutch each game.”