Preview: 2A State Championship Series


Brandon Hall
North Carolina Director of Scouting

The NCHSAA State Tournament has reached its finale, a best of 3 to decide a State Champion.  As we prepare for the State Championships, we will take a look at each matchup and a detailed look at each team still playing.

 

Game Schedule – Five County Stadium, Zebulon, NC

Game 1: Friday, June 1st at 5:00pm
Game 2: Saturday, June 2nd at 11:00am
Game 3 if necessary: Saturday, June 2nd at 5:00pm

A Look at Ledford

Record:  28-3
Central Carolina 2A Conference: 16-2 (2nd)   

PBR/NCBCA Coaches Poll Rankings:
03.13.18          2nd
03.27.18          1st
04.10.18          3rd  
04.24.18          1st  
05.08.18          2nd

Path to the State Championship Series

Round 1: Walkertown (8-0)
Round 2: West Stanly (7-1)
Round 3: R-S Central (2-1)
Round 4: North Davidson (2-0)
West Regional Final: 2-0 Series win over North Lincoln (11-4, 2-0)

Key Players

Logan Whitaker,RHP,2018-NC State commit
Chris Villaman, LHP/OF, 2018-NC State Commit
Will Bethune, RHP,IF, 2019
Cameron Mills, SS,2018
-Catawba Commit
Avery Cain, C,2018- Winston-Salem State Commit
Noah Soles, OF, 2019
- NC State commit

Inside the Panthers

Expectations can be a dangerous hurdle for young players.  The Panthers were ranked No. 2 in the first PBR/NCBCA Coaches poll of the year and climbed as high as No. 1, twice.  With two big arms fronting the rotation there is, and was, a target on the Panthers as other clubs looked to put a big notch in their belt. 

Whitaker and Villaman have lived up to expectations throughout 2018.  In the state title run, the combination has given up less than 4 runs total, as several runs have been scored when games were put away and the bullpen was called on.  While the two NC State commits attract a lot of the attention, their work has allowed their bullpen to create depth, gaining confidence in games that were secure. 

Offensively, there are a number of ways for the Panthers to score.  They can score quick with power coming from Whitaker and Villaman.  They can also create with Cameron Mills and Noah Soles creating some havoc when on the bases.  Opportunistic at times, the one flaw may be the gas pedal is not always at full throttle, knowing a 2-0 lead can play bigger with their dominance on the mound.  Whiteville’s offense may create some pressure throughout games and the Panthers may need to stay in gear for a full seven innings this weekend.

This club goes as the arms and defense go.  Playing in a pro stadium, high school power does not always translate but the ability to throw strikes and catch routine ground balls will travel.  Ledford has enough talent to win a slugfest but they may feel uneasy playing in that type of game.  Expect low scoring affairs where execution will decide if the Panthers are celebrating at the end. 

A Look at Whiteville

Record:  27 - 1
Three Rivers 1A/2A Conference – 18-0 (1st)

PBR/NCBCA Coaches Poll Rankings:
03.13.18          7th
03.27.18          6th
04.10.18          2nd
04.24.18          3rd
05.08.18          1st

Path to the State Championship Series

Round 1: Richlands (11 – 1)
Round 2: Dixon (6 – 1) 
Round 3: North Carolina School of Math & Science (16 – 0) 
Round 4: South Granville (2 – 1)
East Regional Final: 2-0 series win over North Lenoir (4-2, 4-1)

Key Players

Brooks Baldwin, SS/RHP, 2018 – UNCW commit
Will Hinson, INF, 2018

Dylan Hamilton, INF, 2019
Dylan Lawson, RHP, 2019
Jake Harwood, SS/RHP, 2020
 – NC State commit

Inside the Wolfpack

The Wolfpack enters the final weekend in May / first weekend in June and they are still playing… again.  Winning is a culture and it is very difficult to teach.  When players get a taste for winning, and begin to understand what has to happen on a daily bases to play at a high level, you begin to see those teams become powers.  State championships in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017, along with 5 consecutive Regional Final appearances make Whiteville a power.

The thought was if you were going to get the Wolfpack, this may be the year as they jumped to the 2A classification and saw MacKenzie Gore, PBR’s National Player of the Year in 2017, move on to the San Diego Padres.  At the end of the year, the only loss Whiteville has suffered is to New Hanover HS who will be playing for the state title at the 3A level. 

There are star-type players on the field with Brooks Baldwin and Jake Harwood, but the way the Wolfpack wins is a next man up mentality.  When they need a big pitching performance, they get one, like Baldwin in the 4th round, 8-inning win over South Granville.  When they need to score runs, they can.  The consistency is the biggest factor.  The Wolfpack will throw strikes and catch the baseball.  They expect to win and execute in tight games.

Whiteville is getting a big test with a team that is similar to them in many ways.  How will they score against the two big arms?  Who will matchup on the mound and keep Ledford from pulling away?  We may not have the answers prior to the series, but Whiteville will have a plan and from past history, expect them to execute that plan.