North Carolina’s high school baseball season is usually over at this time of year, but a number of playoffs are at stake Thursday and Friday in the final days of the regular season, which is later than usual.
The changing high school athletic calendar, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, has the state’s baseball, wrestling, athletics and boys’ tennis players still competing.
Regular seasons are scheduled to end on Friday, with playoffs after the season and meetings beginning next week. The final should be completed by June 26, about three weeks later than usual.
The state’s baseball playoffs are scheduled to be announced Saturday.
Adding last-minute playoff drama is turbulent weather. Thunderstorms are forecast until Saturday, and threaten to make mistakes in the route plans.
In a number of conferences, the last game of the regular season will help determine the play-off places.
A reminder that this year the NC High School Athletic Association allows an automatic playoff qualifier from conferences with six or fewer competing members; two berths for conferences with seven or eight competing teams; and three berths for conferences with nine or more. Several wild-card berths are available in each class, with 1A and 4A having the largest number of wild-card spots.
Here is a look at races in the Triangle and Charlotte areas.
CAP 7 4A: Millbrook’s 8-2 win earlier this week over Broughton gives the Wildcats the No. 1 playoff spot. Leesville Road (9-3) has the 2nd place, but Cardinal Gibbons (8-3) can force a draw with a victory on Thursday over 2-10 Enloe.
It’s as if Leesville Road, Cardinal Gibbons and Broughton (8-4) will show up, either as number two or as a wild card.
Northern Athletic 4A: Heritage (9-1) is the champion, and Wake Forest (7-2) looks solid as a wild card.
South Wake Athletic 4A: Fuquay-Varina (10-2) is No. 1. Holly Springs and Middle Creek are tied for second place at 7-4 and play Thursday. The winner will receive berth no. 2. The loser will be on the wild-card bubble.
Threesome 4A: Jordan (9-1) and Cary (8-2) have the guaranteed places. Green Level (8-4) is on the wild-card bubble. Teams from this conference will play in the Western region.
Large 8 3A: Northern and Orange are a 6-1 draw, play Northern on Thursday, and will both be in the playoffs.
Greater Nose 3A: This race is complicated. Clayton (7-2) plays Friday at West Johnston (6-3). Cleveland (6-3) plays Friday at South Johnston (4-5). Only the league champion and one wild card appear to enter the playoffs, as there are only a few 3A wild-card spots.
Eastern Plains 2A: North Johnston (6-1) is at home on Thursday against North Pitt (6-1). It is likely that both teams will come in, and second place does it like a wild card.
Central State 2A: Reidsville (5-1) is the champion. Carrboro is 4-2, but there are only two wild-card slots available in the East, and Carrboro’s record is slightly below several other teams.
Carolina 1A: Rosewood and Hobbton grab the two guaranteed berths, but Princeton (7-5) is in good shape for a wildcard spot.
Central tar heel 1A: Cornerstone Charter and Chatham Charter have the two best berths. Southern Wake Academy (4-4) seems to be out of the wildcard race.
Nordsentral 1A: East Wake Academy (5-0) and Roxboro Community (4-1) have the two guaranteed places. Voyager Academy (2-1) is a wildcard candidate.
Meck 4A: Hough (13-0) is the champion, with Lake Norman (10-3) as the number 2 berth. Mooresville (8-5) and Hopewell (7-5) are part of a very close race for wild card spots – races that also include teams such as South Mecklenburg, Olympic, Hickory Ridge and South Caldwell.
SoMeck 7 4A: Providence and Ardrey Kell (each 10-1) have guaranteed spots locked. South Mecklenburg (7-4) play Thursday at Providence. Olympic (7-4) is at home against Ardrey Kell on Thursday. A loss for the 7-4 teams will really push the hopes of wild-card.
Southwestern 4A: Myers Park and Porter Ridge (each 10-1) are playoff-bound. Hickory Ridge (7-4) plays Thursday at Porter Ridge and desperately needs an upset victory for a wild-card berth.
Northwestern 3A-4A: McDowell (10-1) has the league’s 4A berth, and St. Stephens (8-3) has the 3A track. South Caldwell (7-5) participates in the 4A wild-card race.
Big South 3A: Kings Mountain (10-1) plays Thursday at Crest (11-0). Regardless of the outcome, both teams go to the playoffs.
Northern Piedmont 3A: East Rowan (8-2), Jesse Carson (8-2) and West Rowan (7-3) are part of a close race that is made even tighter by the small number of wildcard spots (four). With six members, North Piedmont 3A is guaranteed to be just a playoff spot.
South Piedmont 3A: Northwest Cabarrus (9-2) hosts Cox Mill (8-3) on Thursday. Jay M. Robinson (8-3), who plays for Central Cabarrus, is also in the race. This conference gets two guaranteed bunks, so third place must hope for a wild card spot.
South Carolina 3A: A 11-2 draw is Cuthbertson and Sun Valley playoffs. Marvin Ridge (9-4) finishes Thursday in Sun Valley and can get a joker spot with a win.
Central Carolina 2A: North Davidson (8-1), Oak Grove (8-1), South Rowan (7-2) and Ledford (7-2) are part of the battle for three guaranteed berths.
Fillings 2A: Fred T. Foard plays Thursday at Bunker Hill, in a meeting with 12-1 teams. Both teams are on their way to the post season.
Rocky River 2A-3A: West Stanly (10-0) has the lone guaranteed berth. Mount Pleasant (7-3) has an outside chance as a wildcard team.
South Fork 2A: East Lincoln (12-1) and North Lincoln (10-3) have two final beds.
Southwestern 2A: RS Central (10-1) and South Point (8-3) are on their way to the post season.
PAC 1A: Mountain Island Charter and Pine Lake Prep (10-2 each) have guaranteed berths, and the Community School of Davidson (7-3) is solid in the wildcard battle.
Southern Piedmont 1A: Lincoln Charter (11-1) and Cherryville (10-1, with Friday game 2-11 Bessemer City) have the two guaranteed places. Christ the King (7-4) fights like a wild card.
Yadkin Valley 1A: Uwharrie Charter (7-0) and North Stanly (7-1) are in the playoffs.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle