It’s tournament time for the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference base sports, with the Titans opening play in the league baseball tourney and the Lady Titans hosting the semifinals and finals of the softball tournament.
The Lady Titans (10-10 overall, 9-5 NWC) are the third seed behind conference champs South Caldwell, who ran the NWC table with a 14-0 mark, and second-place Alexander Central. McDowell will host sixth-seeded West Caldwell today at 6 p.m. in the first round.
A win would put the Lady Titans into the semifinals Thursday against the winner of Tuesday’s game between second seed Alexander Central and No. 7 Freedom. That game would have a 4:30 start at MHS. The finals are set for Friday at 6 at McDowell.
The Lady Titans split with West Caldwell during the regular season, winning 9-2 in Lenoir March 19 and then losing 6-4 at home Apr. 12.
Senior Candace Cooper leads the Lady Titans with a .459 batting average. Cooper has a home run, five doubles and 12 RBIs. Cooper has also pitched a team-high 59 1.3 innings and has a solid, 2.24 ERA with 44 strikeouts.
Fellow senior Dezi Williams is batting .418 with five doubles, 14 runs batted in and nine stolen bases. Sophomore Jada Cannon is hitting .415 with team-highs of nine doubles, six triples and 16 RBIs.
Meanwhile, the Titans enter the NWC baseball tournament playing their best ball of the season, having won eight of their last nine, including three in a row.
The fifth-seeded Titans (15-8, 6-8) are on the road at fourth seed Freedom (15-9, 8-6) tonight at 7 p.m. The winner advances to Thursday’s semifinals at M.S. Deal Stadium in Granite Falls against the winner of Tuesday’s first-round game between top seed and conference champion South Caldwell, who won the title with a 12-2 mark in league play, and eighth-seeded West Caldwell. That semifinal is set for a 7 p.m. start as well. The finals are Friday at 7 at Deal.
Freedom won both games against the Titans in the regular season. The Pats beat McDowell 10-3 at home March 26. Freedom later snapped a five-game McDowell win streak with a 5-4 victory in eight innings in Morganton.
“Freedom is a really good team,” said Titans head coach Alex Smith. “Their three outfielders are all outstanding athletes and they cover a lot of ground out there. They have a real good pitcher in Lyle Holland.”
Smith said he isn’t sure who will start on the mound for the Titans, but the club’s top two options will be available.
Senior Juan Campos is coming off a solid outing that saw him limit the Asheville Trailblazers to one hit over four innings of work in a 12-0 shutout win in the regular-season finale last Thursday. Campos is 5-3 with a team-low 1.91 earned run average and a team-high 75 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings.
Senior Brycen Seymore has been on fire of late. Seymore has pitched three consecutive complete games, winning all three and recording a 1.05 ERA over that 20-inning stretch. For the season, Seymore is 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings. Earlier in the season, the senior struggled with his command, but has corrected that problem to the tune of only nine walks in his last three outings.
Third starter Chapel Matson (4-2, 4.27 ERA, 27K) is also available.
Seymore is also in the midst of one of the most impressive offensive seasons by a Titan in recent memory. He leads the team with a .431/.564/.653 slash line and an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of 1.217. Seymore is also tops on the team in hits (31), doubles (8), home runs (2), stolen bases (10) and RBIs (28).
Senior leadoff hitter Josh Maddux is batting .345 with 30 hits, five doubles, a homer, eight stolen bases and 14 runs batted in, while leading the team in runs scored with 33.
Sophomore outfielders Three Young (.344 BA, 17RBIs) and Ethan Hamm (.320 BA, 4 doubles, 16RBIs) and junior Gage Gentry (.293 BA, 20RBIs) have also contributed heavily at the plate.