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NL, EPC posts banner year

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 3, 2005 2:59 PM

North Lenoir's double assault in the Class 2-A baseball championship series and softball final four this weekend will undoubtedly cap an outstanding season for Eastern Plains Conference teams.

The baseball team begins a best-of-3 series Friday against Western champion J.D. Owen on the Wakefield High diamond. North Lenoir is the third EPC program to appear in a state championship final since 2000. Greene Central and SouthWest Edgecombe, the 2004 runner-up to East Rutherford, are the other two participants.

Greene Central won the state title in 2000.

Meanwhile, the Hawks softball team puts its regional title on the line against Pender at Walnut Creek at noon Saturday. Should North Lenoir claim the title, it will be school's first and just the league's third overall since 1986.

Greene Central grabbed the 1-A/2-A slow-pitch title in 1986 and the 2-A crown in 1992. Tim Corbett coached both teams at the time.

"That's great for the school and our county," said fourth-year North Lenoir softball coach Heather Humphrey. "Everyone is talking about it at school and it's nice to have both of them there (in the finals).

"It really does give respect to the conference."

In addition to the Hawks' current run, three other EPC programs competed for N.C. High School Athletic Association titles this year in men's and women's tennis, and women's basketball.

SouthWest has emerged the lone state champion at this point. The Lady Cougars defeated East Rutherford 72-50 and finished 30-1 overall. It was the program's first -- and only -- title on the 2-A level and fourth overall since 1981.

SWE has been realigned into a 3-A conference beginning next fall.

Greene Central's men and women each fell to Charlotte Catholic in dual-team championship play. The two programs have combined to win 11 regional titles, but have come up empty each time in the final match.

Every EPC school had at least one participant in either the fall, winter or spring playoffs.

In fact, the eastern regional dual-team title matches in men's and women's tennis turned into an all-EPC affair. Greene Central defeated Tarboro in the fall (women), while the Rams knocked off the Hawks in men's action just one week ago.

EPC teams -- in fall, winter and spring combined -- have fashioned a 38-23 playoff record at this point. Baseball teams, due to North Lenoir's 5-0 record, has the best winning percentage at .833. That includes South Lenoir's 0-1 mark after an opening-round loss against Pittsboro Northwood. Women's and men's tennis, and women's basketball each posted 7-2 marks for a .778 winning percentage.

Honestly, it's no surprise that North Lenoir claimed the EPC Wachovia Trophy. The Hawks' regular-season title runs in baseball/softball and women's soccer, and a runner-up spot in men's tennis helped them amass a league-best 32 points in the spring.

North Lenoir finished with 67.75 points, compared to runner-up SouthWest with 66. Greene Central ended up third with 63, followed by South Lenoir (56.5), Tarboro High (51.25) and North Pitt (41.5).

The Wachovia Conference Cup is a statewide award given to schools with the best overall performance within their respective conferences. In most conferences, points are awarded based on participation and standings in conference play.

Wachovia has sponsored a conference awards program since 1980.