Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Best prep game of a very busy night? North Meck at Alexander softball

There's a wealth of great matchups on tonight's high school schedule, including a state semifinal match between Hough and Ardrey Kell at Ardrey Kell in girls soccer. Hough has a lot of players from North Meck's 2010 state champ and Ardrey Kell is hunting a third state title bid in four years.

Pretty juicy, huh?

But on a night when the baseball quarterfinals and soccer semifinals are going on, the game I think could be the best of the night is in Taylorsville where North Mecklenburg visits nationally ranked Alexander Central for a third round softball playoff game.

North Meck is 24-3 and Alexander Central is 26-1. Both have long winning histories, and the Cougars have one of the state's best facilities (it's an amazing, beautiful "Field Of Dreams" type place) and the Cougars have one of the best fan followings in Taylorsville. On some levels, it's akin to what you see in Rockingham for Richmond Senior football on in Charlotte for West Charlotte basketball.

Expect a prep football-sized crowd tonight and expect it to be loud. That will help make it special.

The talent on the field will make it moreso.

North has already beaten a nationally ranked team this season, taking down Lake Norman, and the Vikings have one of the area's top pitchers in Morgan Lashley, who has shared pitching duties up to this season. Lashley is not going to burn you with speed, but she's become sort of a prep softball version of Greg Maddux, the old Atlanta Braves great, getting you with movement and moxie.

Her rise ball, for example, has gotten so good that she's fooled batters who are trying to bunt with it.

Lashley threw a three-hit shutout against Lake Norman in the I-Meck tournament championship game.

Watching her trying to handle Alexander Central's talented offensive cast tonight should be fun. Even more, though, might be watching the battle between North Meck's All-American catcher Sarah Mooney and Alexander Central pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson.

Mooney leads Observer-area players in batting average, home runs and RBIs. Wilkinson is a national player of the year candidate who has 1,004 career strikeouts.

I'm tempted to say, with all the great pitching, this will be a 1-0 game. I'm tempted to say, with all the great hitting -- and considering these teams have won four playoff games by a combined 50-1 score -- that this could be a 10-9 shootout.

I tend to think, ultimately, that it will fall somewhere in the middle.

I also think this is definitely your game of the night.