Huntersville, which closed the regular season with four straight wins, secured its third consecutive Area IV Eastern Division title this past week and finished with a 12-2 record, two games ahead of second-place Gaston County.
"We've got three under our belt," says Huntersville coach Trevin Smith.
Now, Post 321 just wants to extend those glory days a bit as the postseason begins. That's been a problem in the past, but Huntersville is on a mission to make up for missed opportunities the last two seasons.
Huntersville entered the 16-team Area IV Playoffs Tuesday against 3-11 Asheville, the No. 8 team from the Western Division. The playoffs are comprised of best-of-five series, with teams playing, weather permitting, on successive nights and at alternating sites.
The past two seasons, Huntersville has swept first-round opponents Henderson County and Burke County only to be swept in the second round by Cherryville and Hickory. Last season, Huntersville won 22 of its first 23 games before closing with the three straight defeats, and the endings in 2010 and 2011 have been both abrupt and disappointing.
"One of these years, it's going to click," says Smith.
Smith is hopeful this summer is when it will. He likes the scrappiness of this year's team.
"I think everybody knows their role," says Smith. "We don't have any superstars. Everybody is pulling for each other."
Smith says the team doesn't really have a vocal leader, but instead players who lead simply by going about their business. He says Hunter Conley and Jared Fortune, who split time pitching and playing first base, fall into that category, as do players such as catcher Nick Daddio, second baseman Jared Sobo, shortstop Eric Siler and outfielder Will Champion, all of whom started on Hough High's state finalist team this spring.
"They know what the playoffs mean," says Smith. "They know it's a grind. They have that experience."
Daddio, Sobo and Champion each pitched in the 8-4 win over Union County last Saturday. Smith was just letting the guys have fun, as they had already clinched the division crown. But in the process, he found that there are some extra pitching arms available if necessary.
The winner of the Huntersville-Asheville series will meet either Lincoln County or Shelby in the second round, which begins early next week. Lincoln is the No. 5 seed from the Eastern, while Shelby is the Western No. 4. Both were 7-7 in division play this season.
Huntersville split with Lincoln this season, but has not played Asheville or Shelby.