North Lincoln visits Ledford and Lincoln Charter hosts Murphy on Thursday

LINCOLNTON - History is against North Lincoln and Lincoln Charter as they look to even up their respective best-of-three Western N.C. high school baseball championship series on Thursday night.

In Tuesday night's series openers, North Lincoln lost 11-4 at home to Ledford in Western N.C. 2A and Lincoln Charter lost 4-1 at Murphy in Western N.C. 1A.

North Lincoln visits Ledford at 7 p.m. Thursday while Lincoln Charter hosts Murphy at 7 p.m. Thursday at Moor Park in Mooresville in their respective Game 2s.

Since the N.C. High School Athletic Association began best-of-three regional championship series in 2004, winners of the opening game of the series have won 93 of 112 series in the 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A classifications.

"We don't want to go home," North Lincoln coach Jon Carpenter said. "I'm confident we'll respond."

North Lincoln (25-3) saw an 18-game winning streak come to an end in Tuesday's loss.

The Knights hadn't lost since March 27 in a 6-5 defeat at South Fork 2A Conference rival Bandys; North Lincoln's only other loss came by a 11-3 margin in its Feb. 28 season-opener at Forestview.

In Tuesday's home loss, the Knights used five pitchers against the patient Panthers (27-3), who drew eight walks and three hit batters while also collecting 10 hits.

The good news for North Lincoln might be Ledford's recent history.

Of the 19 teams who failed win a series after taking the opener, Ledford's 2016 team is one of them; The Panthers won the opener against eventual state champion Marvin Ridge in the Western N.C. 3A finals before losing two straight.

A North Lincoln win would force a decisive third game on Saturday at 5 p.m. at home.

Lincoln Charter (21-6) at least gets to play at home in its equalizing pursuit against unbeaten Murphy (26-0).

The Eagles also will have ace left-hander Ryan Restino set to pitch. Restino (8-2) has won six straight decisions, including last Saturday's 2-0 four-hit shutout win at top-seeded East Surry that advanced Lincoln Charter to its first-ever regional playoff series.

Should the Eagles win on Thursday, a decisive third game moves back to Murphy on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Including the Western N.C. 3A championship series matching Crest against A.C. Reynolds that began on Wednesday, the area of Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland Counties have three teams in the regional finals for only the third time in history; Eventual state champions Cherryville (2A) and Kings Mountain (3A) and Western runner-up South Point (3A) advanced this far in 1993 and eventual state champions Cherryville (1A) and Shelby (2A) and Western runner-up Burns (3A) advanced this far in 2001.

 

Richard Walker: 704-869-1841; twitter.com/jrwalk22