It came close to happening; it really did. East Lincoln and North Lincoln played some thrilling games this season. North won the Western Foothills Conference regular season title with a 12-2 record; East finished in a three-way tie with St. Stephens and Fred T. Foard at 10-4. North won the first meeting of the two on April 1st; then on May 2nd, the Knights overcame a 7-2 lead by the Mustangs, scoring three runs in each of the last two innings to win 8-7.
We had expected a rematch in the conference tournament, but alas! Both North and East lost--the Mustangs to St. Stephens 9-6 and the Knights to Foard 10-3.
Both made it to the fourth round of the NCHSAA 3A playoffs, and some fans had hoped to see another meeting of the Lincoln County foes in round five, the Western Region championship, but it wasn't to be. South Rowan, the #1 seed in the west, scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning Friday to end the Knights' season. The 7-3 loss gave North a season record of 20-6 and erased hopes of a state title.
East Lincoln, on the other hand, avenged their loss to St. Stephens in the conference tournament with a 4-1 win that puts them into the Western Region championship game against South Rowan. For the season, the Mustangs and Indians split games--St. Stephens also beat East in late March, but East won the second time they met in late April.
East got things started Friday night scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning and never trailed. They added another run in the third. St. Stephens got their only run in the top of the sixth.
Garrett Michel didn't get another home run; he was walked four times. Evan Matile, Trey Spees and Gavin Houser each went 2 for 4; Matile batting in two runs and Spees and Houser, one each. Spees and Houser each scored one of the Mustangs' runs; Michel scored one; and Mike Ross, who batted 1-3 scored the other.
The Mustangs are now 20-6. The South Rowan Raiders are 26-4.
The West Region championship is a best of three series which begins Tuesday at South Rowan. The winner of the series will advance to the state championship--also a best of three series--June 3rd & 4th.
In the 1A playoffs, Cherryville advanced to the West Region championship series with a 7-5 win over Uwharrie Charter. The Ironmen will host Union Academy in the first game of the best of three series on Tuesday (May 24th).
The spectacular season came to an end for the East Lincoln softball team on Friday. For the first time this season, the Mustangs lost. The game went 10 innings as Central Davidson beat East 2-1. The Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but East tied the game in the fourth. Neither team would score again until the 10th. Madison Currence took the loss, although she gave up only four hits in seven innings.
Betsy Eatmon batted 2 for 2 including a double; she walked in her other three plate appearances, but didn't score. The only Mustang run was scored by Autumn Keziah. Jaylen Freeston also went 2 for 4. Taliyah Thomas didn't get a hit, but she was involved in two double plays by the Mustangs.
The win belonged to the Spartans' pitching--10 Mustang batters struck out, and aside from Eatmon, East got only one other base on balls.
In another 3A playoff game involving, Crest lost to North Buncombe 1-0, ending the Chargers' season.