Last year’s Southwest Wake Athletic Conference race was up for grabs with four teams still in it going into the final week. Always one of the most competitive conferences in the state, it figures to be another close one this year with few graduation losses league-wide
Fuquay-Varina (22-8, 10-4): The Bengals have a strong senior group, led by SWAC player of the year Austin Harris (8-1, 1.66 ERA), Caleb Bissette (6-0, 1.99 ERA) and Justin Shelton (.374 batting average, 29 RBIs).
Junior Brycen Braswell, a UNC-Wilmington recruit, led the team with a .458 batting average. Donald Nichols, Ryan Rizk and Brandon Walker all hit over .300 last year.
Green Hope (20-7, 10-4): Seniors Trevor Losito (.317) and Mitch Spence (6-0, 0.64 ERA) return from the all-conference team. Senior Chris Joyner had 41 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. Austen Jones, Sean McQuillan (.293), Conner Knapp, Jordan Montgomery and Jacob Eller will each be relied on more this year.
Holly Springs (15-9, 9-5): Senior Patrick Wheeler (.409), Alex Simpson (.288) and Tyler Babin return to the lineup for the Golden Hawks. Jake Isbell (4-2, 2:12 ERA), Matt Lusirillo and Ryan McLean return to the mound.
Middle Creek (17-8, 8-6): Seniors Sammy Chapman (2.76 ERA), a Richmond recruit, Zack Moore (.417), an East Carolina recruit and Trevor Heasley (.365), a UNC-Greensboro recruit give the Mustangs senior leadership. Juniors John D’ercole, Tucker Rogers and Robbie Frongello also return.
David Allen and Isaiah Herring batted over .300.
Apex (10-11, 7-7): Ben Highfill (batted .471), a Liberty recruit, is the conference’s only three-team all-conference player this season. Seniors James Hooks (4-0), Esteban Valencia, Jake Gregory and Matt Rogers add experience.
Sam Highfill, Cameron Mason, Drew Buchholz, Trevor Milligan will be caught by Nick Montrose and Matt Cruz.
Athens Drive (7-12, 5-8): Senior Keith Markovich (.372) returns from the all-conference team. Lane Gorrell hit .300. Kenny Venditti, Daniel Dyson and Sam Enders give the Jaguars five batters back from their lineup.
Enders and Gorrell logged more innings pitched than any other Athens returners.
Panther Creek (9-12, 4-10): Ben LaSpaluto (.325) is the leading hitter coming back for the Catamounts. Ryan Fish, Andrew Zuber, Parker Fernstrum return to the lineup. Junior Chris Sullivan (2-0, 1.27 ERA) is the leading returning pitcher.
Cary (8-13, 3-11): The Imps await junior Kyle Gensler (batted .423) once basketball season is over. UNC-Wilmington recruit Greg Jones, a junior returns along with Jason Hohe and Robert Jordan
Last 10 conference champs
Tournament champ in parentheses*
2015 - Green Hope and Fuquay-Varina
2014: Green Hope
2013 - Fuquay-Varina
2012 - Green Hope
2011 - Holly Springs
2010 - Holly Springs
2009 - Green Hope and Middle Creek
2008 - Apex
2007 - Middle Creek
2006 - Middle Creek and Fuquay-Varina and Apex (Cary)
*conference tournament discontinued in 2007.
Apex - 2000’ Fuquay-Varina - 2002; Holly Springs - 2011; Middle Creek - 2012