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Stanly’s high school student-athletes, coaches react to game cancellations

The 2020 spring high school sports season had just reached its second week, but the threat of the coronavirus has brought the chance of athletic success to a screeching halt.

With the decision of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to suspend games until April 6 at a minimum, players and coaches reacted Thursday.

Top-Level Softball

West Stanly’s softball team, who thanks to interruptions from the weather was playing just its second game of the season, had high expectations for the season. The Colts, ranked No. 1 in the state overall and in the 2A class, were in Norwood facing the No. 3 1A team in the state, cross-county rival South Stanly.

Craig Carter, who led the Colts to the 2A state title last season, talked to his players on the field after Thursday’s win over South.

“I told (the players) I was proud of them,” Carter said, noting the team had one more game Friday afternoon before the NCHSAA ban was scheduled to go into effect.

“It’s been a tough year at this point anyway trying to get the team settled, get the team going,” the West coach added, referring to the weather and the coronavirus threat.

“It’s tough because you know how hard they’ve worked. You want them to keep that success going…maybe we’ll be lucky enough to come back on (April 6) or whenever.”

Carter also agreed it was frustrating to see the season suspended after his team played well in the win over the Bulls.

“(South) is a great team. We just got ahead and we kept our foot on the pedal,” Carter said.

As for the next few weeks, Carter said everyone has to wait and see what happens.

“I have to keep going back to the field, mowing the grass…I’ve got my fingers crossed,” Carter said regarding the April 6 date of the seasons possibly continuing.

Morgan Edwards, the Colts’ starting shortstop, said she knows her team has a big target on their back as the returning state champions in 2020. However, heading into Thursday’s game, she said she and her teammates had a similar mindset.

“Every time we step on the field, no matter if our season is about to end or not, we give it all we have… you never know when someone’s going to get hurt and it could be their last game,” Edwards said. “Who knows? Our season may be over after (Friday) so you can’t take anything for granted.”

South head softball coach David Poplin, who was scheduled to play North Rowan at home Friday afternoon, said he was going to take the next few weeks one day at a time.

He acknowledged the effects of the ban are not just for his team, but all the programs statewide.

“I’m frustrated with it, but it is statewide. There’s nothing we can do. The part that really bums me is we can’t practice. We can’t work out,” Poplin said.

He also noted the upcoming three weeks was similar to the dead weeks the NCHSAA routinely schedules every calendar year when coaches and players are not permitted to have any contact or workouts.

“I guess the powers that be will figure where you pick up and how you make up,” Poplin added in regards to the season possibly restarting.

“We’ve been working in the weight room, running in the fall and winter,” the South coach said, acknowledging the hard work his team put in during the offseason. “It’s just very depressing.”

Baseball Blues

Thursday night also saw two top baseball teams square off on the field when the North Stanly Comets hosted the West Stanly Colts. Both teams reached the 20-win mark last season and had high expectations for 2020.

The Comets earned a 5-0 win over the team’s cross-county rivals, but the mood was somber afterwards with both teams not having a game scheduled Friday.

North Stanly head coach Will Davis said his team had to play Thursday’s game like it was the last one of the season.

“We don’t know what the future holds for the games this year,” Davis said, adding it would be a “bummer” if games were cancelled because of the work his team put in during the offseason.

“The guys are disheartened, both sides. That was two good teams right there fighting it out knowing we may not play tomorrow or the rest of the year,” Davis said of Thursday’s game with the Colts.

Davis also mentioned how he felt for the seniors, noting some will have played five or six games this season and end their baseball careers.

“They are going to end their career right here without ever playing another high school game on a high school field,” Davis said. “Everyone puts in the hard work. You hate to see it pulled out of their hands.”

For North’s starting pitcher, Rhett Lowder, if Thursday was his last high school game, it would be a memorable one. Lowder, who signed to play at Wake Forest next season, reached the 105 pitch limit in the game, shutting out the Colts.

Davis called Lowder’s efforts on the mound remarkable, adding Lowder has a bright future.

“He’s been fun to watch. The guys enjoy watching him. It’s something special you’re not going to see that much. You don’t have kids that come around like that every year,” Davis said. “I’ve been here nine years and that’s the first pitcher I’ve seen like that who dominated every performance, every time he stepped on the mound consistently.”

“It’s always good to beat a country rival, but tonight, especially since the season’s up in the air,” Lowder said. “It could be our last game. If it is, it’s a good way to go out.”

Lowder said in one way it’s a little annoying to not know if the season will continue but not really, saying he and his team have put in a ton of work to get ready for the season.

“(We have) a lot of young kids this year and we’ve been down here (at the field) all year long. I know it’s the most work I’ve ever put in for one offseason,” Lowder said.

A lot of his younger teammates will play next year, but it’s a bit annoying for himself and his fellow seniors, Lowder added.

The older players on the team, having passed a great deal on down to the younger players, Lowder said, feel like their younger counterparts have a good understanding of the game and a lot of confidence.

Lowder added he hoped the younger players keep the values he learned when he was a younger player and will continue to have them moving forward.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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