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Quartet seeking regional berths

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D.H. Conley's Robbie O'Neal pitches during a playoff game against J.H. Rose on May 10, 2019. (Molly Urbina/The Daily Reflector)

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By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 17, 2019

As the high school state playoffs progress, nights at most other schools have become less and less active as remaining teams are forced out after each round, their seasons ended, and preparations for next season already begun.

Such is not the case for the D.H. Conley Vikings, who have three teams on the brink of reaching the 3-A East Regional finals. While the Vikings continue their home-field advantage at Hollywood Crossroads, the top-seed South Central Falcons softball team continues to push on as well, looking to reach and then surpass the East finals.

BASEBALL

No. 3 Fike at No. 2 D.H. Conley (7 p.m.)

The Vikings baseball squad has been feeling it at the plate, having won all three of its playoff games by three or more runs.

Head coach Jason Mills found his preferred batting order early, placing outfielder, speed demon and Pitt Community College commit Cam Jackson in the leadoff spot. Jackson and Jake Lysaght, the Vikings’ top two batters, are followed by powerhouse UNC Greensboro commit Robbie O’Neal, who has had no trouble bringing home runs, currently holding a .346 batting average with 31 RBIs and four home runs.

Breakout freshman pitcher Matthew Matthijs also has continued to shine. Matthijs (9-0) dominated in the Vikings’ third-round win over Jacksonville on Tuesday. He posted a final stat line of 6.1 innings pitched, one hit allowed, and seven strikeouts using 83 pitches. While Matthijs shines as the team’s ace, Mitchell Hoffler has proven himself to be the top option in relief. Hoffler (4-1) currently holds a team-low .070 ERA over 30 innings pitched, including five saves. 

The 3-A Big East Conference champion Demons place their emphasis on defense. Fike recorded six shutouts in the regular season. Opponents scored five or more runs only five times when facing Fike, and the Demons’ standout defense has held all three of its playoff opponents to no more than two runs. 

The winner will face the winner of top-seeded New Hanover and fourth-seeded Terry Sanford for a three-game series to determine the East’s state championship contender.

PREDICTION: Conley downs Fike and advances to the East regional finals. 

SOFTBALL

No. 5 Southern Alamance at No. 1 D.H. Conley (7 p.m.)

DHC has prided itself on brilliant pitching, particularly from Lauren Wiles. The sophomore hurler allowed just three hits in a complete-game effort against third-round opponent Harnett Central, holding the Trojans hitless until late in the sixth inning.

The dynamic duo of twin sisters Lexi and Alexis Phillips have continued their 100 percent-effort style of play. No matter if it’s warm ups or game time, the Phillips sisters are throwing as accurately and as powerfully as they can. The energy pays off, and with Lexi at thrid and Alexis at shortstop, batters rarely have a shot to sneak a ground ball past either sister.

While that pair also excels from the plate, a new face has jumped out in the stat sheet in freshman Anna Sawyer, who enters the game with a .595 batting average and 62 RBIs. The young outfielder has plenty of speed as well, making her a threat to move around the basepaths quickly. 

Conley head coach Wayne Deans described the fourth round as the program’s “Achilles heel.” DHC has ended its season in the fourth round the past two seasons, putting an extra emphasis on earning the win for the current senior class. 

The Patriots ended the regular season as champions of the 3-A Mid-Piedmont Conference, which featured a three-way tie between Southern Alamance, Ashboro and Southwestern Randolph, all of which finished 10-2 in the conference. 

Southern Alamance defeated 28-seed Lee County, 5-1 in Round One, 21-seed Pearson 3-2 in the second round, and four-seed Topsail Tuesday to advance to face the Vikings.

PREDICTION: The Patriots’ confidence allows them to stick around, but the Vikings ultimately shut the door and get over the fourth-round hump.

No. 4 Hoggard at No. 1 South Central (7 p.m.)

South Central enters the fourth round on a high note, dispatching the reigning state champions, Jack Britt, 10-3 on Tuesday night. After gaining revenge for their 2018 4-A East Regional Final loss, the Falcons will look to topple Hoggard in order to return to the same place as last season.

Speed and power are the name of the game for head coach Cotton Nicholson’s squad. Seniors lead the way for this group, including the stolen base threat of Madison Deanes and the power of PCC commits Amya Evans and Marissa Roach. Evans and Roach both boast bating averages higher than .500, with Evans at .513 and Roach at .519. The pair has 10 home runs combined, including Evans’ eight. Both of Roach’s homers, however, have been grand slams, padding her team-leading 48 RBIs.

The Vikings finished third in the 3-A/4-A Mideastern Conference, but that might be misleading. The conference also holds very familiar names used to success such as conference champion Topsail, West Brunswick and E.A. Laney.

Leading the charge for the Vikings is sophomore Icess Tresvik who holds a team-high .405 batting average. SC pitcher Izzy Moore should have the advantage on getting ahead of the Vikings lineup, as only one other batter has an average over .350 (Sydney Short, .373).

The Falcons lineup is full of experience, which could prove useful should the team wind up needing any late-game heroics. 

The winner will take on the winner between three-seed Heritage and two-seed Holly Springs in the East finals. 

PREDICTION: SC pulls away late to return to the east finals for the second straight season. 

GIRLS SOCCER

No. 5 Clayton at No. 1 D.H. Conley

Midfielder Gabby Kirkman and goalkeeper Maeve English were the heroes in Conley’s 1-0 win over Chapel Hill Wednesday, and the challenge only gets harder when five-seed Clayton comes to town. 

English has had a stellar season in goal for the Vikings, while other experienced faces such as Kirkman and Jenna Rupp have helped facilitate the attack on the other end. After an emotional victory Tuesday, the Vikings must regroup to face a traditionally highly skilled Clayton squad. 

Leah Rodgers (33 goals) and Maggie Gaskins (29) lead an explosive Comet attack that finished 21-5 overall, 10-0 and on top of the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference.

Clayton has allowed just one goal through three rounds of play, as 12-seed Grays Creek fell to the Comets, 3-1 in the second round. 

The winner will face the winner of seven-seed Jacksonville at six-seed East Chapel Hill. 

PREDICTION: Conley takes a narrow win and moves into the regional finals. 

Contact Jake Keator at jkeator@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.

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High Schools

June 24, 2019

Prep teams from all over North Carolina and Virginia took the fields at North Recreation Complex on Saturday with bragging rights on the line during East Carolina football’s annual Beast of the East 7-on-7 tournament.

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June 23, 2019

BETHEL — North Pitt head football coach Greg Watford became the fourth coach of the Panthers in as many years prior to the start of the 2018 season, as the program looked for continuity and stability to begin a top-to-bottom rebuild.

Watford also has a personal history with the school, which…

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June 19, 2019

FARMVILLE -- It was a time of celebration at Farmville Central on Tuesday night, as team members from this year's Jaguars' 2-A state champion boys' basketball team received their state championship rings.

FC defeated Forest Hills, 86-71, on March 16 to claim its second title in four seasons.

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June 17, 2019

Post 39 slugger Caleb Morris' two homeruns, and team high five RBIs, led his team to victory in the final game of the Pitt County American Legion Showcase Sunday night. Post 39 defeated Pleasure Island Post 129, 10-1.

Morris (3-for-3, 2 HR, 2 Rs, 5 RBIs, FC) kicked off a six-run fourth inning with…

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June 16, 2019

Saturday night saw another edition of one of the top American Legion battles in Eastern North Carolina, as Post 39 hosted Wayne Post 11 in a conference makeup game. Post 11 walked away victorious, 9-4.

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June 16, 2019

D.H. Conley freshman pitcher Matthew Matthijs walked into high school baseball with plenty of expectations already set. The former Greenville Little League star had all the hype in his first season, and delivered.

He went 9-1 in 14 appearances, striking out 86 batters in 58.1 innings pitched. He…

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June 16, 2019

The following players were selected to The Daily Reflector’s All-Area baseball team. 

FIRST TEAM

Matthew Matthijs, D.H. Conley: Pitcher of the Year

Grant Charles Jarman, J.H. Rose: Batter of the Year

Cam Jackson, D.H. Conley: Jackson was a solid performer at the top of the Vikings lineup,…

061619-All Area

June 16, 2019

Grant Charles Jarman wrapped up an outstanding high school athletic career this season. After four years of football and baseball Jarman walks away with one final award, The Daily Reflector’s All-Area Batter of the Year. 

“One thing that will stand out to me is the guys last…

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June 16, 2019

It was yet another successful season for the D.H. Conley baseball team, led by longtime coach Jason Mills.

Mills led DHC to a 26-5 overall record, going 11-1 in the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference. The Vikings season culminated in a trip to the 3-A East Regional Finals, where it lost to…

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June 14, 2019

Athletes from three local schools learned if they received the honor of being named to their sports All-Conference list in the 3-A/4-A Eastern Carolina Conference. Take a look at who made the cut. 

BASEBALL 

11 players received all conference honors, with D.H. Conley leading the way with…

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