Winner in 1 p.m. game is champion of Northwestern Foothills 2A
By CHRIS HOBBS
The baseball game that will determine champion of the Northwestern Foothills 2A has been moved up one day — to Thursday — and will be played on a neutral field.
Bunker Hill (12-1) was scheduled to play at Fred T. Foard (12-1) but the schools first announced the game set for Friday was moving to Thursday. Late Wednesday, they announced they’re going to LRU to play.
Foard set up a showdown by beating Bunker Hill 6-1 on the road on Tuesday night, snapping a Bears win streak of 13 games that dated back to last season.
The Tigers started 11-0 and fell 8-4 last Wednesday at Patton.
Thursday’s winner at LRU gains the league’s No. 1 bid into the state playoffs and the loser is left with the conference’s No. 2 bid. The conference gets only two automatic bids; other teams could get in via wild card spots, based on best in-conference winning percentages in a large pool of teams.
The Northwestern Foothills 2A had more than its share of blowout wins this season. In 52 league games played to date, the winner in 28 of them scored 10 or more runs.
A breakdown of how many games each team was involved in where the winning team scored at least 10 runs — West Iredell 8; Bunker Hill, Draughn and West Caldwell 7; Fred T. Foard, Hibriten and Patton 6; East Burke 5.
East Burke, which closes the regular season at home on Thursday at 6 p.m. against West Iredell, has won three straight after snapping a 27-game losing streak that dated back to 2019.
West Caldwell, at home on Thursday night against Hibriten, has lost 21 straight games dating back to 2019.
Other games moved from Friday to Thursday
These South Fork 2A games have been moved from Friday to Thursday with 7 p.m. starts: Newton-Conover at East Lincoln, 7 p.m. on Thursday; North Lincoln at Bandys on Thursday, 7 p.m.
Championships and state playoff bids
Through games of Wednesday night, the scenario in each of the Greater Hickory area conferences:
— South Fork 2A: East Lincoln wrapped up the South Fork 2A title and the league’s No. 1 postseason bid by beating Newton-Conover 12-2 in five innings on Wednesday in Newton.
At 12-1, the Mustangs can’t go worse than 12-2, and the best second-place North Lincoln can do is 11-3.
If North Lincoln falls to Bandys on Thursday night and Lake Norman Charter defeats West Lincoln on Friday, North Lincoln and Lake Norman Charter tie at 11-3. North Lincoln swept Lake Norman Charter and would get the No. 2 state playoff bid via that.
— Northwestern Foothills 2A: See details above, everything pretty much decided by Thursday’s outcome at LRU.
The Tigers have outscored opponents 122-20 this season and Bunker Hill has outscored its 119-16.
Bunker Hill is 28-11 since Todd Setzer took over as head coach three seasons ago while Foard is 156-137 under Channon Vogel, in his 13th season guiding the Tigers.
— Northwestern 3A-4A: The lone 4A state playoff bid has been won by McDowell (12-1), which has a 10-game win streak under head coach Alex Smith (141-120, 12th year).
St. Stephens, under first-year head coach Jimmy Bowman, has wrapped up the lone 3A postseason bid.
The Indians (9-3, 8-3) face McDowell in Marion on Thursday night, and win or lose St. Stephens will have the best 3A record in league play.
Of note in the leagues
— Alexander Central (3-9, 3-8) is at Watauga (8-5, 6-5) on Thursday night with Cougars head coach Pete Hardee chasing 448th (unofficial) career win.
Hardee, who came to Alexander Central from Watauga, is 83-50 with the Cougars in six seasons.
— Hickory (4-9, 3-9) has completed head coach David Craft’s 31st season there and his 33rd overall. The Red Tornadoes are 463-294 under Craft, a former HHS catcher who then starred at Wingate, and his career record is 483-313.
— Unless South Caldwell (8-5, 7-5) gains a wild-card bid into the state playoffs, a 7 p.m. home non-conference game on Friday against Lincoln Charter will close head coach Jeff Parham’s 21st year as Spartans head coach. His unofficial record is 430-103.
In records dating back to 1997 (so the streak could be even longer), South Caldwell will post a winning record for the 24th consecutive season.