North Stanly has three spring teams among state’s elite

Published 3:07 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

The spring sports season for North Stanly has included many conference championships since the school opened in 1962.

With new playoff procedures in place in North Carolina high school sports, much now depends on a team’s MaxPreps ranking as much as conference titles.

This season, North may have had its most successful, with three of its spring sports teams (baseball, softball and men’s tennis) all ranked among the best in the 2A West regions.


North’s varsity baseball squad entered this last week of the season having already won the 2024 Yadkin Valley Conference regular-season title.

The Comets (21-3, 10-0 YVC) opened the season with a nine-game winning streak, then split a home-at-home series with county rival West Stanly. North is seventh in the 2A West, with the Colts right behind them at No. 8.

North then reeled off nine more wins before losing non-conference games to Uwharrie Charter and East Rowan. The Comets ended the regular season with an 8-3 win Tuesday at A.L. Brown.

Leading hitters on the team include senior Chance Blake (.476 avg., .568 OBP), sophomore Charlie Shaver (.448 avg., .527 OBP), senior Connor Lupole (.446 avg., .588 OBP, 34 stolen bases) and senior Trey Gibson (.429 avg., .501 OBP).

On the mound, North is led by senior pitcher Cole Smith (7-0, 0.53 ERA, 44 IP, 88 K), Gibson (5-1, 1.74 ERA, 33 IP, 61 K) and Shaver (4-0, 2.04 ERA, 23 IP, 42 K).

“Anytime you have three arms like that in high school, you’re going to be competitive,” head coach Scott Clemmons said.

North Stanly has a .389 batting average, while on the mound the team’s ERA is 2.12. North has outscored opponents 195-64.

The Comets have six seniors on the roster, including Blake, Cole, Gibson, Lupole, Cole Smith and Jacob Smith, which Clemmons said shows how experienced the team is.

Clemmons said the team’s philosophy of baseball is “throw strikes and play good defense. If you do that, even if you don’t have an arm like Cole’s…you’re going to win more games in high school.”

North’s coach said the Comets have been good at limiting teams from big innings, with the rare exception coming in a non-conference loss at East Rowan.

He said North’s strikeouts are “way down from last year,” and his team “can bunt the ball, I would say, maybe better than any team in the state. One to nine, we can bunt. Two strikes, two outs, it doesn’t matter.”

He said North has the potential to make it to the state championship, but added, “winning a state championship is one of the hardest things to do, because you have to have a little bit of luck. You have to catch teams on the right night.”

Along with small ball, Clemmons added, North is aggressive on the basepaths and has stolen close to 100 bases this season.


North’s fortunes on the softball diamond after winning the 2017 1A state title grew in difficulty as the season rolled on.

After season records of 16-8 and 15-7 in 2018 and 2019, respectively, the next two full seasons of 2022 and 2023 saw the Comets post just one state playoff win, with season marks of 12-9 and 12-11.

What a difference a year has made.

This season, North was 17-1 overall heading into the last week of the season and had secured the YVC regular-season title for head coach Phillip Speight. The Comets are the No. 3 ranked team in the 2A West.

North outscored opponents 105-22 this season.

Junior Kylie Speight leads the team in batting average (.560), RBIs (21) and doubles, while junior Makayla Barger is hitting .375 with nine doubles, two home runs and 17 runs driven in. Junior Breauna Speight has a .366 batting average with three doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs.

The emergence of freshman Sophia Crist in the pitching circle has powered North as well. Crist is 12-1 with a 0.61 earned-run average. She has 10 walks in 80 innings pitched, with 129 strikeouts.

Kylie Speight said the goal was to win the regular-season title, crediting it to Crist in the circle and solid defense behind her.

Offensively, the junior said North “has gotten timely hits when we needed them, and our coaches push us pretty well to get where we need to get.”

Coach Phillip Speight, and his assistant coach and brother, Brett, have coached the current North players since their days in middle school, and many, he said, since they were 5 years old. Under their tutelage, North Stanly Middle did not lose a home game.

When asked about the differences between the team last year and the current season, Phillip Speight said it was the teamwork approach.

“All the kids have bought into the team concept instead of playing as individuals. They play for each other,” Speight said.

The coach said it took effort from the playing and coaching sides of the team to do such, adding it was a credit to the caliber and character of the players.

The Speight brothers took over the coaching duties three seasons ago after the retirement of Greg Speight, who coached the team to the 1A state title in 2017.

“We knew we had some talent coming and high-quality kids, so we tried our best to put a schedule together which would challenge them,” Phillip Speight said about the team’s season. “With this team, if we continue to play the way we have been, the state championship is the goal.”

Men’s Tennis

Even with the successes of the baseball and softball teams, the Comets men’s tennis team might be having the best season of the three squads.

North Stanly is 12-1 overall and has won 97 of 108 individual and doubles’ matches. It is ranked No. 1 in the 2A heading into the dual team playoffs.

Ameno Morgan, the team’s No. 1 seed, is undefeated as a singles’ player, and is 7-0 in doubles play with No. 4 seed Ethan Huneycutt.

Morgan said the success this year has come from the players’ work ethics, adding it comes from “all the practicing we have been doing and all the work outside of practice. We are on the courts every day and turn the lights on every night.”

Freshmen No. 2 seed Rex Wang (12-0) and No. 5 seed Cannon Joffson (11-1) have stepped up well for the Comets this season.

Head coach Mike Towns said the team has “grown a lot throughout the season. We continue to work hard every day. We’re never satisfied.”

Regarding the state playoffs, Towns said, “we’ve had to travel in previous years, and they wanted to play here this year, so they worked very hard in the offseason.”

He credited the parents of players for “getting them involved all summer long and all year long” in the sport.

Towns said Morgan, having been a number-one seed for four years, “is a great role player…he wants to work with everybody. I give credit to his dad as well. His dad has worked with the team in the offseason.”

The coach added he felt North “could make a very nice run in the postseason.”

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. 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 won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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