Top Players, Teams Set For NCHSAA Baseball Championship Series

Some of the top players and teams in North Carolina high school baseball will be trying to add hardware to their trophy cases this weekend in the 96th annual North Carolina High School Athletic Association state baseball championship series.
The 2-A and 3-A series will get underway on Friday at Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, while the 1-A and 4-A classifications will get their series going on Friday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, home of the Durham Bulls. All the series are best-of-three games, and each of the teams in the finals survived best-of-three regional championship series.
In Durham, the first game on Friday will start the 1-A series in a battle between Durham’s Voyager Academy (20-6) and South Stanly (28-4).
South Stanly is back in the championship series for the third time in the last four years, winning the 2009 title and losing to East Columbus in three games in last year’s championship. Stephen Wallace once again leads the Rowdy Rebel Bulls of South, with eight homers, 40 RBI and a batting average of .432.
Voyager is in the finals for the first time and is coached by veteran Pete Shankle, who has also guided the Southern Durham and Northern Durham programs. The Vikings, who were 1-4 at one point early this year, are led by Chad Sykes, who is batting .450 but is also 8-1 on the mound with a 1.58 ERA.
The 4-A championship has the Mustangs of Apex Middle Creek (24-7) against Cornelius W.A. Hough (23-10), with the first game Friday at 8 p.m. Both teams are making their first trip to the baseball championship, with Hough a new school in only its second year of operation.
Jimmy Boyd is one of Middle Creek’s top players, as he is battling a sizzling .450, leads the team with four homers and 30 runs batted in, and is also 7-1 on the mound with an ERA of just 1.00. Graham Edwards is 8-1 on the mound for Middle Creek with a 1.75 ERA.
Hough was 10-15 a year ago, so the Huskies have become a team competitive at the state level in a short period of time. Hough has won nine in a row since a late-season three-game losing streak and is tough in close games, winning four one-run games in the state playoffs. Brandon Gragilla is the workhorse of the pitching staff (11-1, 1.05 ERA in 80.1 innings) and Nick Bernado’s .393 average leads a Hough attack that is batting .311 as a team.
The opening game at Five County on Friday will be in the 3-A series between Weddington (26-6) against the Golden Falcons of Pikeville Charles B. Aycock (21-9).  Aycock at one point in the season was 10-7 overall and was the fourth seeded team from the Eastern Carolina Conference in the playoffs, but has gotten hot at the right time. The Golden Falcons are led at the plate by Adam Pate’s .355 average and Collin Dubose has a pitching mark of 6-0 with an 0.69 ERA.
Weddington makes its first trip to the championship series, and the Warriors get a huge boost from Alex Bostic. Bostic is 10-0 on the mound with an 0.98 ERA but also swings a great bat, with a .404 average to go with a team-high seven home runs and 28 runs batted in.
The 2-A series will get underway at 8 p.m. on Friday with the opening game between Whiteville (24-5) and defending champion Randleman (29-4), which is actually a rematch of the 1985 championship which Whiteville won in two straight over the Tigers.
Randleman, in the championship for the third time, has limited its opponents to one or fewer runs in 18 of its 29 contests. Randleman’s Cody Trogdon is batting a whopping .512 with eight homers and 32 runs batted in, leading the Tigers in all three categories.
The Tigers will be tested by the Wolfpack, which has outscored its opposition in state playoff contests by a whopping 43-5. Nathan Hood leads Whiteville at the plate with a .413 average and Justin White is 6-0 on the mound with a 1.66 earned run average.
The Raleigh Sports Consortium and Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau are serving as host city sponsors for the games at Five County.