The Charlotte Observer’s 2024 high school baseball preview

Here is The Charlotte Observer’s 2024 high school baseball preview:

Teams to watch

Providence: Coach Danny Hignight begins his 21st season with the Panthers. He has a 451-102 record with two state championships in 2015 and in 2022, when Providence finished undefeated. This season, Providence will have nine new starters. Jake McCoy returns with the most mound time, having logged 40 innings during the 2023 season. Brady Thompson also returns having thrown 18 innings a season ago.

Hough: The Huskies will be led by first-year head coach Pete Jenkins after previous head coach Jimmy Cochran stepped down a few months before the season. Hough returns a lot of key pieces from a team that finished second in the Queen City Athletic Conference in 2023. Those players include junior right-handed pitcher Tyler Baird who was 4-0 in 2023 and allowed just 18 hits and three earned runs. Baird had 40 strikeouts with a .875 earned run average. His presence on the mound for the Huskies will be crucial as they will lean on their pitching staff heavily this season.

Ardrey Kell: Heading into his third season after replacing the legendary Hal Bagwell, Sean Thomas returns eight everyday players from a 2023 team that finished 20-8 and advanced to the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs. The pitching staff will be led by Crobin Mickle, who had an 0.74 earned run average over 38.66 innings and did not allow a hit in conference play.

Charlotte Christian: The Knights return seven of nine position players and hope to get back to championship form under second-year head coach Reid Fronk. Fronk replaced Greg Simmons, who died of cancer last year. The Knights had a lot of underclassmen who contributed to last season’s 22-11 record. Returning senior Leo Munoz had a .370 batting average with a .442 on-base percentage. Senior shortstop/pitcher D.J. Layton, a Southern Mississippi signee, hit .307, scored 27 runs and stole 17 bases.

Myers Park: The Mustangs are coming off a 2023 season in which the team finished with a 23-6 record, winning 13 straight games near the end of the season before falling to eventual state champion Skyland Roberson in the fourth round of the NCHSAA 4A playoffs. Senior pitcher William Greenway will likely be one of the primary pitchers for the 2024 season. He recently committed to UNC-Greensboro. Coach Erik Foor is entering his seventh season as head coach of the Mustangs and looks to continue to build on the success he has had to this point, having recorded five 20-win seasons.

Others players to watch

Jake McCoy, Providence: The Panthers’ senior ace was 9-0 last season in more than 40 innings. He had 24 strikeouts, while having a 2.78 earned run average. McCoy is committed to play college baseball at Gaston Community College.

Grant Nicholson, Charlotte Christian: The junior right-handed pitcher has committed to Wake Forest. He was first team all-state last season, when he won 10 games and had 103 strikeouts and a 1.18 ERA.

Brady Thompson, Providence: Panthers’ senior slugger batted .415 last season, recording 34 hits and 12 doubles. He had 20 runs batted in while also pitching in relief. He is committed to the UNC-Wilmington.

Jake Minarik, Hough: The senior outfielder had 19 hits in his junior season and three home runs. He had a .351 batting average and was all-conference in the Queen City Athletic Conference. He is signed with UNC-Asheville.

Sean Parrish, Lake Norman Charter: As a junior, Parrish batted .400 with a .562 on-base percentage. The 6-0 180-pound slugger sees time behind the plate and in the outfield.

Drew Nelson, Lake Norman: Nelson batted .367 in 2023 when the Wildcats finished second in the Greater Metro 4A conference.

Michael Craft, Ardrey Kell: Craft, the son of Knights’ basketball coach Mike Craft, plays second base and shortstop for the Knights.

Conner Robertson, Mooresville: Robertson is a Virginia Commonwealth University commit who plays third base. He batted .364 in 2023 as a sophomore.

Luke Modrak, Mooresville: The junior shortstop had 18 stolen bases last season. He also batted .291.

Noah Hildebran, Mooresville: Hidebran, a senior, returns after earning Greater Metro 4A conference pitcher of the year last season, when he was 5-2 with a 2.19 earned run average.

Anderson Shirey, Providence Day: Shirey was third on the Chargers’ team in batting average at .337 behind now graduated seniors Bo Ziegler and Tyler Nee in 2023. He was second on the team in on-base percentage at .491.

Dalton Hazlett, Northwest Cabarrus: Hazlett recorded seven wins last season striking out 83 batters. He was an All-Southern Piedmont Conference selection and an honorable mention All-Observer team pick last year.

Blake Gaffney, Northwest Cabarrus: In 2023, Gaffney batted in 17 runners while hitting .350. His .412 slugging percentage was the highest on the team.


In 2023, there was not an Observer-area 4A team in the regional final for the first time in 10 years.

Prior to the 2023 season, there had been a team from the Observer’s coverage area in the regional final going back to 2012. With a handful of talented teams like Providence, Myers Park, Ardrey Kell and more, will this be the year a local team gets back?