Baseball teams from across Union County are kicking off their 2018 season within the week. The county has had unparalleled success of late, with Weddington winning the 3A title in 2012 and 2013, Piedmont in 2012 and Marvin Ridge staking their claim to the 2015 and 2016 titles. Last year, the Mavs beat Cuthbertson in the fourth round to advance to their third straight Final 4 before falling to Crest. There is once again a lot of talent at the top, but we have you covered with our preseason Super 7.
1. Marvin Ridge
The Mavs have gone 84-18 – including 40-5 in Southern Carolinas play – over the past three seasons combined, winning two titles and advancing to a regional final in the process.
They may be hard-pressed to repeat that stellar of a conference record with Charlotte Catholic moving in and the loss of a cachet of pitching including all state aces Jason Cornatzer and Jake Kuchmaner.
But the Mavs will open as No.1 anyway.
Matthew Helms will likely assume the opening day and big-game pitcher role and star infielder Stephen Ridge is a big bat to anchor an always potent lineup.
The Warriors have had a good run on pitching over the past few seasons and will need to once again to stay near the top of arguably one of the state’s toughest 3A baseball conferences.
Juniors Anthony Casciola and Cooper McKeehan will keep the Warriors in most games with their prowess on the mound, but Weddington will need another starter and a reliable arm or two in relief to hold onto this spot.
The Warriors are always well coached defensively and take advantage of moving runners over when needed on offense and will do all of the little things that win games well again this year.
3. Sun Valley
The Spartans broke a streak of six consecutive losing seasons last year under first-year coach Jared Barwick, but it was no fluke.
Sun Valley is good and loaded with talent.
The Spartans have their batting order set as nine of their top 11 run producers return. Josh Schwartz, who could be the conference’s top player, does everything well and will lead the charge offensively. Also expect big seasons from Zack Budzick and Caleb Burke, who will lead a very potent offense.
It’s hard to project a team that finished one win from advancing to the Final 4 last year fourth in its own conference standings, but the Cavs lost seven of their top eight offensive weapons.
While there are plenty of questions surrounding the Cavs, two constants will be junior Aaron Dawood and senior Ben Gilks, who is Cuthbertson’s leading returning RBI guy.
5. Porter Ridge
Every third day, the Pirates are in great shape with probable Major League draft pick Brennan Malone taking the ball. On most days, he’s simply untouchable, giving the Pirates an obvious advantage. How they fill in around him will be the key.
Price Hargett and Zack Burdette have experience and good stuff on the mound and could do so admirably, making Porter Ridge a surprise contender in the Southwestern 4A.
6. Metrolina Christian
The Warriors went 16-11 in the Metrolina Athletic Conference and had a very good year a season ago. Expect more of the same this time around.
Ben Polpin, Noah Jordan and Dalton James will get their chance to lead the rotation, giving the Warriors a formidable threesome that can go in every series and provide little letdown between them.
The Rebels went 13-11 last year, but they return almost intact and should be much improved.
On offense, guys like MJ Lucas, Jordan Parr, Jesse Harkey and Jordan Harley will carry much of the load as each of those four drove in double figures last year. The foursome combined to hit nine home runs and have big bats that will anchor a very formidable lineup one through nine.