South Meck’s baseball victory over Myers Park sets up Friday’s important 4A rematch

Every victory over a rival is a big one.

But when you’re angling for a high seed in the state baseball playoffs, beating a team with a 15-4 record is even bigger.

That’s what South Mecklenburg did Tuesday night, blanking Myers Park 7-0 in a game that was big not only in the SoMeck 4A championship race, but in the RPI ratings that determine playoff seedings.

“Last year, we opened on the road at Reagan, played a great game, but lost on a no-hitter,” South Mecklenburg coach Brian Hoop said of the 2023 playoffs. “I feel that playing on the road was a big part of that loss.”

South Mecklenburg (17-3, 5-2) entered Tuesday’s game ranked No. 3 among the West’s 4A teams. Myers Park (15-5, 5-2) was seventh. Tuesday’s victory will give the Sabres a big boost.

But the teams meet again Friday evening (6:45 p.m., at Myers Park), and Hoop said that game also will be huge.

“If we can win again Friday, that would just about clinch at least two home playoff games,” he said. “And that is a very big deal.”

South Mecklenburg won Tuesday with the same formula that Hoop has stressed for several seasons — pitching, defense, and base running.

Sabres’ ace Cameron Bagwell pitched a complete-game three-hitter, striking out nine and running into problems only a few times.

One of those rocky spots was the sixth inning, and that’s where the South Mecklenburg defense made its mark.

Bo Aluise led off the top of the sixth with a single, but he was caught off first base on a pickoff throw by Bagwell. William Washburn and Edgar Johnson each walked, and the Mustangs, down 3-0, had the tying run at the plate. Samuel Barber smashed a line drive up the middle, but Sabres’ second baseman Charlie Fernandez made a leapin catch. He then threw to second base, doubling up a Myers Park runner and ending the inning.

“We’ve played solid defense all year,” Fernandez said. “That, and pitching, have been really important for us.”

The Sabres blew it open in the bottom of the sixth, scoring four runs. Two of those scored on a Fernandez opposite-field double.

“I try to go to the opposite field all the time,” he said. “I got that one just right.”

Hoop said his team’s two double plays were a big part of the victory.

“When you’re playing a team as good as Myers Park, there are not many outs to give away,” he said. “Getting two double-off’s like that helps change the game.”

Hoop said he expects Friday’s game at Myers Park to be tightly-played.

“We are rivals, and we’re battling for first place and the seeding,” he said. “We’ll have an opportunity Friday night to win and give ourselves a big boost.”

Three who made a difference

Cameron Bagwell, South Mecklenburg: Bagwell, a senior and a UNC Wilmington commit, pitched a complete-game three hitter. He struck out nine.

Charlie Fernandez, South Mecklenburg: Fernandez made a leaping stab of a line drive in the top of the sixth, then smacked a two-run double in the bottom of the inning.

Edgar Johnson, Myers Park: Johnson had one of the game’s top defensive plays, making a diving catch in center field on a line drive by South Mecklenburg’s Chris Short in the second inning.

Just noting

South Mecklenburg and Myers Park have company atop the SoMeck 4A race. Ardrey Kell trounced Palisades on Tuesday night and also is 5-2.

In addition to the two games with Myers Park, South Mecklenburg also has a big game Wednesday night. The Sabres host Hough (16-5) at 6:30 p.m. Myers Park also plays a third game this week — on Saturday, at Northwest Guilford (13-7).