Local teams get state playoff assignments

May 7—Some little-known stipulations in the NCHSAA rules hurt Southern Lee when the state playoff brackets for baseball and softball were announced today, while Lee County baseball received an even higher seed than had been originally anticipated, and is the only team of the four that will open postseason play at home tonight.

Grace Christian is in the state playoffs for baseball, softball, and women's soccer. The baseball and soccer teams have a double-bye all the way to the state quarterfinals. The softball team is the No. 2 seed in the Division II championship and will start play on Friday. We will have more on the Crusaders' prospects later this week.

Lee Christian softball starts today in the Division III tournament and will travel to Northwood Temple Academy for the first round today. The baseball team travels to Crossroads Christian today for its first-round game.

Southern Lee

Both Southern Lee teams were caught on the vagaries of certain NCHSAA rules and ended up not being placed as expected. For the softball team, this merely meant that they have to go on the road for the first round, when they had been thought likely to host in the first round. But for the baseball team, it meant the season was over.

Southern baseball (10-15) had been hanging around the 30th position in the NCHSAA RPI for the final days of the regular season and in the conference tournament. However, results on Friday pushed them down to the 32nd and last position that would normally qualify. This still would not have mattered, except for a rule that was added several years ago and which is interpreted in a way that pushed No. 33 Fike ahead of the Cavaliers.

Because Southern lost both regular-season meetings against Scotland, the Fighting Scots were considered the No. 4 team in the Sandhills Athletic Conference even though both teams were 5-7 in conference play and Southern beat them in the SAC tournament. A provision called the "Leap Frog Rule" meant that Southern could not make the playoffs unless Scotland also did so, even though if they did, Southern could be seeded higher. The Scots had appeared to be safely in the field until finishing with an eight-game losing streak. They finished 35th in the RPI—in part because they lost their last game to the Cavaliers—and in this ironic fashion, Southern was frozen out in part because of their own win.

As for the softball team, they finished 16th in the RPI and would have ordinarily been the last team to host, but were pushed down to 17th by an odd circumstance. Vance County won the 3A half of the Northern Lakes Athletic Conference, although it finished second overall to 2A South Granville. As the top 3A team, the Vipers (13-4) were treated as a conference champion and moved up from 19th in the RPI to the 11th seed, the lowest-seeded champion by RPI.

The Lady Cavaliers will visit Havelock (14-7) tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round of the playoffs. The Rams finished fourth in the Big East 3A/4A this season. The teams had very similar seasons and are not that far apart in the power ratings, but faced no common opponents this season. Whoever wins will likely face top-seeded Scotland in the second round later this week.

Lee County

The Yellow Jackets were easily into the playoff field and clinched a first-round home game when they won the 3A half of the Sandhills. Lee then made a strong statement in the SAC tournament by winning it, stunning 4A Richmond and then Pinecrest. These wins moved them up two more RPI spots, and meant the Jackets (18-9) were able to claim the No. 9 seed in the state playoffs, and will host South Johnston (12-10), the third-place team from the Quad-County 3A, tonight at 7 p.m.

The winner will face either South Brunswick or Triton in Friday's second round. No matter who wins what, South Brunswick will host if it wins and Triton would be away if it wins.

As for the Trojans, they did not face Lee during the regular season although the teams are not that far apart. The Quad-County does not play a conference tournament and South Johnston ended its regular season with two losses to rival West Johnston, the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. The Jackets have a higher power rating, but not massively so.

As for the softball team, they held their ground in the final RPI accounting and the Lady Jackets came away with the 28th seed and a date at South Brunswick, also at 7 p.m. tonight.

The Cougars (19-4) are the No. 5 seed and won the 3A half of the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference title this season. Although they play some distance away, the teams both played Scotland, and South Brunswick's performance against the Fighting Scots shows their strength. While Lee struggled in both games against the top seed, the Cougars lost 1-0 at home on April 8 and then won 2-0 at Scotland a week later, handing them their only loss of the season to date. They lost twice by a run to Laney, the Mideastern's 4A champion, and once to Topsail, the 12th seed in the 4A tournament.