STANLY COUNTY — The West Stanly and North Stanly baseball teams each squared off with their first-round opponents on Tuesday night for the first round of the state playoff tournament.
The No. 2 Colts (13-2, 10-0 Rocky River Conference) suffered a 6-2 home loss to No. 15 South Rowan (13-3, 7-2 Central Carolina Conference), while the No. 9 Comets (8-5, 6-1 Yadkin Valley Conference) came up short in a 3-2 road loss to No. 8 Mountain Island (11-2, 10-2 PAC 7 Conference).
The matchups were revealed when the North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced its 2021 state championship brackets on Sunday — the Colts were included in the 2A tournament and the Comets made the 1A tournament.
“My sophomore year was the last year we were able to go into state playoffs, so I’m pumped up to be back there,” senior Colts pitcher Michael Crayton said Monday.
Crayton, holding a 6-0 record for the season, has played a big role in West Stanly’s 12-game winning streak, a run that helped the Colts win their conference’s regular season and tournament championships. West Stanly closed out the RRC tournament with a 16-2 home win over Montgomery Central last Thursday.
“It’s definitely been a great experience. It feels good going out and competing with your teammates and coming home with a win at the end of the day,” Crayton said. “The team chemistry we have is like no other. We jell together and it all works because we feed off each other’s energy. We’ll get one base hit, a big two-out hit, a big two-out RBI and keep throwing runs up on the board, then we try to go out there and dominate on the mound.”
The RRC announced last week that Crayton is the 2021 conference pitcher of the year, an honor he said came as a “surprise.”
“It was something I’ve looked forward to for four years of high school, and it was a huge blessing to have the votes from so many coaches,” Crayton said.
While the Colts are fresh off a conference tournament win, North Stanly fell short in a winner-take-all YVC matchup against Uwharrie Charter Academy that gave the Eagles the regular season conference title.
Because the YVC elected to skip its postseason tournament, the Comets instead finished their regular season with a nonconference game versus Pine Lake Preparatory, notching a 6-5 win to head into the playoffs on a positive note.