02/28/2024
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By Sonny Jones

As it’s said in horse racing, down the stretch they come. With the Easter break over, Bladen County’s high school spring sports team head into the final three weeks of the regular season with state playoff positions on the line.

Although there are exceptions, the top 32 ranked teams in the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 2-A East Ratings Percentage Index will qualify for postseason berths. Conference champions are seeded 1 through 10, then the final 22 spots are based on RPI.

The Ratings Percentage Index formula includes a teams’ winning percentage, the winning percentage of opponents and the winning percentage of opponents’ opponents. It’s a way of rewarding teams that may lose against stronger competition than a team that wins against weak competition.

Here’s how Bladen teams rank as of Sunday night.

BASEBALL

EAST BLADEN
Record: 6-9 overall, 2-4 conference
Current RPI: 0.538641
Current Rank: 17
This Week: Tuesday home vs. Fairmont (13-4, 5-3 SAC); Thursday at Fairmont
Last Week: Won two of three games in the Bulldog Invitational, beating 3-A Western Harnett 11-3 and 4-A Richmond 8-6 while losing to 3-A power Terry Sanford 12-9 in the championship game.
Outlook: A challenging non-conference schedule has helped the Eagles be in a solid playoff position in spite of a losing record. However, East Bladen needs wins down the stretch to solidify its postseason spot and finish high enough in the rankings not to be matched against a 2-A powerhouse in the first round.

WEST BLADEN
Record: 10-5 overall, 3-3 conference
Current RPI: 0.513473
Current Rank: 22
This Week: Tuesday home vs. Red Springs (6-7, 1-5 SAC); Thursday at Red Springs
Last Week: Did not play. Last game was April 5, a 6-1 loss against Fairmont
Outlook: The Knights already have won the program’s most games since 2017 and are in a good spot for a postseason berth. However, the next two weeks will determine a lot with two-game series against 37th-ranked Red Springs and 33rd-ranked St. Pauls. West Bladen ends the season with two games against top-ranked Midway and the Knights don’t want to enter that series in dire need of victories.

RANKINGS FOR OTHER SOUTHEASTERN ATHLETIC TEAMS
1. Midway (15-2)
5. Fairmont (13-4)
30. Clinton (6-7)
33. St. Pauls (4-10)
37. Red Springs (6-7)

SOFTBALL

WEST BLADEN
Record: 10-5 overall, 6-0 conference
Current RPI: 0.501393
Current Rank: 21
This Week: Monday at West Brunswick (3-12); Tuesday home vs. Red Springs (1-8, 0-5 SAC); Thursday at Red Springs
Last Week: Did not play. Last game was April 5, a 12-0 win against Fairmont
Outlook: The Knights have won four straight, nine of their last 10 and appear headed for a final-week two-game showdown against Midway for the conference championship. So, why is West Bladen ranked 21st in RPI? The Southeastern is not a strong softball conference — four of the seven teams are ranked No. 28 or lower — and only one win against a team with a winning record, a 4-1 decision against South Columbus (10-5). West Bladen is in a strong position for the playoffs, but, unless the Knights beat Midway for the title, there’s little chance of a home playoff game.

EAST BLADEN
Record: 6-10 overall, 2-4 conference
Current RPI: 0.424859
Current Rank: 34
This Week: Tuesday home vs. Fairmont (6-11, 3-5 SAC); Thursday at Fairmont
Last Week: Won one of three games in the West Brunswick Spring Break tournament, beating West Brunswick 10-9 and losing to Cox Mill 4-3 and South Columbus 6-2.
Outlook: The Eagles are on the playoff bubble, but the opportunity will be there over the final three weeks to make a push for the postseason. A non-conference game against 3-A South Brunswick (13-3) is mixed in with two-game conference series against No. 32-ranked Fairmont, No. 42 Red Springs and No. 28 St. Pauls.

RANKINGS FOR OTHER SOUTHEASTERN ATHLETIC TEAMS
5. Midway (12-4)
28. St. Pauls (7-7)
30. Clinton (6-7)
32. Fairmont (6-11)
42. Red Springs (1-8)

GIRLS’ SOCCER

EAST BLADEN
Record: 8-3-1 overall, 4-2 conference
Current RPI: 0.581636
Current Rank: 7
This Week: Wednesday at Whiteville (4-4-3)
Last Week: Did not play. Last game was April 6, a 4-1 win at Heide Trask
Outlook: Aside from the two obligatory conference losses against top-seeded Clinton, the Eagles are on a path for a solid second-place finish in the Southeastern Athletic Conference. The most difficult of five remaining games may come against non-conference foe Whiteville. East Bladen beat the Wolfpack 1-0 at home on March 9. The Eagles are on track to host a first-round playoff game, although their seeding will be in the low- to mid-teens since they won’t win the conference title.

WEST BLADEN
Record: 3-10 overall, 0-4 conference
Current RPI: 0.417222
Current Rank: 34
This Week: Tuesday home vs. Red Springs (1-8, 0-4 SAC); Thursday at Red Springs
Last Week: Did not play. Last game was April 3, a 2-0 loss at Lumberton
Outlook: Currently, the Knights would miss the playoffs, but there is a path to postseason play with a bit of offensive production. West Bladen has only scored one goal during its current four-game losing streak. The Knights have two-game series against No. 40-ranked Red Springs, No. 36 St. Pauls and No. 25 Midway.

RANKINGS FOR OTHER SOUTHEASTERN ATHLETIC TEAMS
1. Clinton (13-0-2)
25. Midway (6-6-1)
36. St. Pauls (4-5-0)
40. Red Springs (1-8-0)

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