The ECC Baseball and Softball Power Poll
North Lenoir’s Malik Dixon dives to second base before Ayden-Grifton’s Jackson Upchurch could apply the tag in a contest March 26. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
Enjoy the Easter break, because there’s business to handle when you get back.
Although some teams will play in Easter tournaments in the upcoming week, conference play is paused, particularly in the Eastern Carolina Conference. There are numerous implications coming, but before getting there let’s take a look at what will be the final Power Poll.
As always, there will be updates from Arendell Parrott Academy, Bethel Christian and Jones Senior. Let’s get into it.
Washington (12-5, 8-2)
This week’s results: Defeated South Lenoir 10-0 Tuesday, fell to Williamston Riverside 13-0 Wednesday
The Pam Pack may have taken a bad loss to the Knights, but that wasn’t a conference game. Washington will go into Easter needing wins against Kinston at home April 30 and at West Craven May 3 to give the ECC its first non-North Lenoir conference winner. The biggest trend for the Pam Pack this season is this: the team allows 2.3 runs in victories and 10.6 in losses. Simply put, if Washington keeps the runs down it’s over.
North Lenoir (14-4, 7-3)
This week’s results: Fell to Bunn 3-2 Tuesday, defeated Ayden-Grifton 5-4 Thursday
Just when I thought the Hawks’ five-year conference championship streak was coming to an end, Garrett Brock’s walkoff keeps hope alive. North Lenoir still needs to win its final two games and get Washington to drop one, but there’s at least a chance. The Hawks do need to clean up in the field (eight errors in the past two games), but the pitching has been strong as the team has allowed three runs or fewer in 12 games.
Ayden-Grifton (13-7, 7-3)
This week’s results: Defeated Kinston 9-1 Tuesday, fell to North Lenoir 5-4 Thursday, defeated Pamlico County 11-1
Unbelievably, we could see a three-way tie for the ECC crown if Washington drops a game, North Lenoir wins its two and the Chargers beat West Craven on the road April 30 and Greene Central May 2 on Senior Night. Ayden-Grifton squandered a golden opportunity against the Hawks Thursday, but the Chargers are still a top-tier ECC squad with their ninth consecutive year of 13 victories or more.
West Craven (11-7, 7-3)
This week’s results: Defeated Greene Central 10-1 Tuesday, Kinston 20-2 Thursday
Quietly, the Eagles aren’t out of the ECC race themselves. West Craven will look to garner momentum in Myrtle Beach next week for the Cal Ripken Easter Tournament, then play Ayden-Grifton and Washington to close out conference play, both games at home. The Eagles boast the best offense in the ECC (7.8 runs per game) and are turning into the team nobody wants to face late after shaking a 2-5 skid with three straight wins.
Greene Central (8-8, 5-6)
This week’s results: Fell to West Craven 10-1 Tuesday, defeated South Lenoir 10-9 (9 innings) Wednesday, North Pitt 5-3 (8 innings) Saturday
The Rams’ final four games are paramount to qualifying for the postseason. The Rams defeated a 16-4 Panthers team Saturday and their last three opponents — Roanoke Rapids, Pamlico County and Ayden-Grifton — have a combined record of 31-20. If Greene Central can go at least 2-2, they should be in and toughened by the ECC to cause havoc to any opponent on the road. Time will tell.
South Lenoir (4-10, 2-9)
This week’s results: Fell to Washington 10-0 Tuesday, Greene Central 10-9 (9 innings) Wednesday
The Blue Devils have lost nine of 10, including two to Greene Central and one against Washington by one run. With a few breaks South Lenoir would be in great shape for the playoffs, but this has been a gauntlet of a conference to say the least. The Blue Devils do face North Lenoir and the team should be amped to try picking up their first win against their rivals since 2016.
Kinston (1-15, 0-10)
This week’s results: Fell to Ayden-Grifton 9-1 Tuesday, West Craven 20-2 Thursday
The Vikings have had a tough season, but did play the Chargers well for most of the game, trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth. It’s still a process with Kinston, but anything is possible and the team could hand out a tremendous upset (or two) with contests against Washington and North Lenoir to close out the year.
Arendell Parrott Academy (10-4)
The Patriots haven’t played since an 11-4 win over Cary Christian on April 10 to get back on the left side of the column after two straight defeats. APA’s offense has been stellar for most of the season, averaging 10.0 runs per game and while the number has dipped over the past four contests (7.3), as the temperatures warm up, the bats will follow suit.
Bethel Christian (2-7)
It’s been tough for the Trojans, who haven’t been able to play since an April 8 6-3 loss to Faith Christian Academy. Bethel Christian will look to snap its 5-game skid against Wilmington Christian on April 29 as a roster with only two seniors has been keeping it close with a lot of teams. The Trojans’ last three losses were by three runs or fewer, including a game that went into extras.
Jones Senior (10-8, 3-7 Coastal Plains Conference)
This week’s results: Defeated Chocowinity Southside 11-1
The ECC can be a bloodbath, but the Trojans are sixth in the CPC despite already garnering 10 wins. Jones Senior should get in due to its success outside of arguably the toughest 1A conference in the state and the experience will make them a very tough out in the postseason, especially knowing only two games were by more than four runs.
Washington (17-0, 10-0)
This week’s results: Defeated South Lenoir 5-4 Tuesday, Topsail 4-3 Saturday
The Pam Pack clinched their second straight ECC championship Tuesday and are currently ranked No. 3 in the state according to Maxpreps. Take away the 13-10 win over Greenville Conley March 8 and Washington has allowed 21 runs in 16 games, although the Blue Devils did match Conley with the most runs in an inning (4) anyone has garnered against the Pam Pack.
South Lenoir (9-6, 8-3)
This week’s results: Fell to Washington 5-4 Tuesday, defeated Greene Central 7-1 Wednesday
The Blue Devils showed great resolve bouncing back 24 hours after Washington spoiled their Senior Night celebration to get a road win over a dangerous Rams team. South Lenoir’s slow start is ancient history and with a 7-1 record over the last eight games, the Blue Devils are peaking at the right time heading toward the playoffs.
Greene Central (10-4, 7-4)
This week’s results: Defeated West Craven 5-2 (10 innings) Tuesday, fell to South Lenoir 7-1 Wednesday
The Rams are tied for the best offense in the ECC (averaging 8.9 runs per game), but the team has only posted seven runs total in their four losses. Greene Central is still a playoff threat and getting healthy again after losing a pair of starters to injury. The team allows the second-fewest runs in the conference as well (3.9 per game).
Ayden-Grifton (11-7, 6-4)
This week’s results: Defeated Kinston 16-0 Tuesday, North Lenoir 9-2 Thursday, New Bern 11-0 Saturday
The Chargers broke out of a four-game skid this week to pick up their second straight double-digit win season after 13 victories in 2018. Ayden-Grifton is a very dangerous team still, as even in the losing streak, two losses came by one run, a third in extras and the other to the No. 5 team in the state in Greenville Conley 9-3.
North Lenoir (5-12, 3-7)
This week’s results: Feel to C.B. Aycock 5-3 Wednesday, Ayden-Grifton 9-2 Thursday
The Hawks may not reach the postseason, but they have made tremendous strides from last year’s one-win team and despite a four-game skid, the team has continued to remain competitive. There’s only one senior on the roster, so the best days are certainly to come for North Lenoir.
West Craven (3-12, 1-8)
This week’s results: Fell to Greene Central 5-2 (10 innings) Tuesday
Another young team with intrigue for the future, the Eagles hung with a powerful Greene Central team, which should continue to provide confidence in the future. There’s only one senior on the roster with 14 underclassmen, so this team could be a problem in 2020 or 2021.
Kinston (1-10, 0-9)
This week’s results: Fell to Ayden-Grifton 16-0 Tuesday
The Vikings are another young team with solid pieces and only two seniors. Although the record may not reflect it, a tough conference doesn’t help matters in the slightest. The team has looked dedicated toward the program and trying to make a change.
Arendell Parrott Academy (3-5)
The Patriots’ last game was a 5-2 victory over Village Christian, so there’s no telling how the team will come out on April 24 at Harrells Christian, who they beat 5-4 on March 13 in a walkoff. APA has the youngest team in the area with no seniors, one junior and four middle schoolers on the roster.
Bethel Christian (0-5)
The Trojans, who haven’t played since April 9, will get a second crack at New Life Christian Academy April 30. Bethel Christian lost the first meeting in Rocky Mount 14-9 on March 19 and a roster with only one senior has high hopes of ending a 19-game skid dating back to 2017.
Jones Senior (7-10, 3-7 Coastal Plains Conference)
This week’s results: Defeated Chocowinity Southside 10-9 (8 innings)
The Trojans were able to break a four-game losing streak this week and still have playoff hopes. Jones Senior does have three nonconference games scheduled for next week before taking on one-win South Creek and the Pinetown Northside juggernaut in CPC play. A 3-2 record should solidify the postseason.