05/01/11 — Gators, Rebels chasing Chargers

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Gators, Rebels chasing Chargers

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on May 1, 2011 1:51 AM

Ayden-Grifton is in the driver's seat. But the Chargers are certainly aren't in cruise control ... yet.

With one week left in the regular season, the Carolina 1-A Conference baseball standings are as close as they can be. And the heat is on for three teams at the top trying to win a league title as well as three teams at the bottom trying to earn a state playoff spot.

Ayden-Grifton owns the conference's best record with a 7-1 mark which is one game better than both North Duplin and Spring Creek. The Gators handed the Chargers their only league loss, and the two split their regular-season series.

"I fell like we have put ourselves in a good position by being in the top three," Spring Creek head coach Heath Whitfield said. "Obviously we need to win out and get some help with an Ayden-Grifton loss if we want to win the league, but it is still a possibility."

A pivotal game between Spring Creek and North Duplin on Friday could very well decide the top three spots in the league. The Rebels won the first meeting between the archrivals on April 7.

"I thought we pitched a pretty good game the first time against North Duplin," Whitfield said. "Our defense just wasn't very good and we made too many mistakes to win."

As close as the race is at the top of the standings, the battle for the fourth spot is equally as tight.

Two-time defending conference champion Rosewood currently sits in that position, but long-time rival Princeton is only one game behind. Coming off a playoff run that climaxed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A East Regional championship in 2010, the Eagles are simply hoping to get into the playoffs this year.

Princeton has trudged through two consecutive long seasons.

"With the year that we have had it is hard to believe that we are still in it and still playing for something," Princeton head coach Bruce Proctor said. "It has been a challenge, but I have told my guys a few times that if we somehow get into the playoffs, I think we can do some damage."

The Eagles carry a 3-5 record in conference play into the final week of action. Princeton is just one game behind at 2-6. Unlike the teams at the top, who will each have to do some scoreboard watching to see how other games in the league shake out, the Eagles and Bulldawgs will settle their race on the field at Rosewood on Friday night.

"Pitching and defense will be the key," Proctor said. "If you pitch well and avoid errors then you can hang around and at least have a chance to win the ballgame."

Goldsboro (0-8 CC) rounds out the league standings, but with two games left the Cougars could certainly play the role of spoiler. Goldsboro will host Spring Creek on Tuesday, and then battle the league-leading Chargers on Friday.

"We are definitely not overlooking Goldsboro," Whitfield said. "They are capable, and they could very well jump up and bite somebody. We can't let that happen."