Fuquay-Varina High baseball coach Milton Senter has coached for 37 years and has learned to adapt his methods to his players.
Senter still describes the Bengals program as old school. He emphasizes the need for a focused work ethic and team unit, but he allows his players a little more room in some things, like their pregame music.
What Ive learned is that kids get ready to play in different ways, he said. As Ive gotten older, Ive learned a few things.
If the players are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there and are ready to do what they are supposed to do, we dont have a problem.
Fuquay-Varina will play South Mecklenburg in a best-of-3 N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 4A baseball championship series beginning Friday at 8 p.m., at the Carolina Mudcats Five County Stadium in Zebulon.
The second game is scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m., and third game, if needed, will be at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m.
Senter said regular-season play in the Tri-Nine 4A Conference helped prepare his club for the playoffs.
Green Hope and Holly Springs were the two best teams weve played, he said. This is league is just so tough. The league makes teams get better because of the competition.
Holly Springs and Middle Creek, Tri-Nine members, won the 4A title in 2011 and 2012.
Fuquay returned its three leading hitters, centerfielder Garrett Suggs, an N.C. State recruit; junior shortstop D.J. Burt and junior third baseman Brett Daniels, from last years 19-9 club. Senter thought he had the potential for a good team, but there were lots of question marks.
We were counting on some guys who hadnt started on the varsity before or faced the kind of pitching we see in this league, Senter said.
Fuquays pitching of Suggs, Daniels and Jordan Bissette has been strong all season and has gotten stronger throughout the season.
Im really happy for the kids, Senter said. Im excited for the them. Theyve worked to get here. To me, its a blessing.
Baseball playoffs: In the other NCHSAA baseball playoffs, the 2A series between North Brunswick and Monroe Piedmont is scheduled for Five County Stadium with the first game on Friday at 5 p.m.
The 1A championship between Midway and South Stanly and the 3A series between Greenville Conley and Matthews Weddington will be at Newbridge Bank Park in Greensboro.
Softball playoffs: A pair of traditional N.C. High School Athletic Association powers is in the field for the state softball championships at Raleighs Walnut Creek softball complex this weekend.
Alexander Central (31-1), which plays Wake Forest-Rolesville (20-3) for the 4A title, has won seven 4A championships (four slowpitch, three fastpitch) and is making its 11th state finals appearance. The Cougars have won 22 or more games for the past 24 seasons.
Alexander Central coach Monte Sherrill, who also coached at Central Cabarrus, has a 24-year coaching record of 656-58.
South Granville (24-1), which plays West Stanly (26-4) in 2A, also has participated in 17 fastpitch playoffs and is 44-20 (.688). The Vikings also have won seven state titles.
The 3A matchup is Greenville Conley (22-5) vs. Concord Robinson (28-2). In 1A, Robersonville South Creek (22-1) plays West Wilkes (25-3).
All of the games are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m., on Saturday and, if necessary, 2 p.m., on Sunday.
All-state soccer: Undefeated NCHSAA 4A girls soccer champion Green Hope placed defender Sydney Curtis, midfielder Alexis Degler and forward Alexis Shaffer on the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association all-state team.
Other 4A players included Holly Springs Dominique Babbitt, Sandersons Olivia Costello, Leesville Roads Anne Cushman and Kelsy Reeves, Carys Bria Dixon, Millbrooks Rachel Hallman and Jackie Stroud and Apexs Paige Reckert.
Cardinal Gibbons, the NCHSAA 3A champ, landed Christian Gibbons and Morgan Reid. Chapel Hills Alex Kimball also is on the 3A club.
Carrboros Caroline Houser and Emma Houser, both juniors, were chosen in 2A and Raleigh Charters Alexa Dreyer and Rachel Hammond, plus Durham Science & Maths Ryan McCord, were 1A selections.
In the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association, Durham Academys Frances McDonald and Tara Nager were joined by St. Marys Catherine Blair and Cary Academys Rebecca Kenney.
Gatorade baseball: Ryder Jones of Boone Watauga is the Gatorade N.C. Baseball Player of the Year. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior shortstop batted .461 with 11 home runs and 43 RBI.