Sanford Area Baseball 2024 Season Preview

The 6th season of Sanford Area Baseball on WFJA Sports has hit the airwaves on local radio.  With more games than ever before, the broadcast slate is sure to bring listeners an abundance of incredible baseball action.

Coming off of a rollercoaster season in 2023, our local teams (Southern Lee, Lee County, Grace Christian) look to continue each of their histories of success, while also bolstering some questions for 2024. For the Jackets and Cavaliers, they will continue to face-off against the gauntlet of the talent filled Sandhills Athletic Conference. Grace, meanwhile, finds themselves now playing as an independent within the Private School league, but will be as talented as ever.

  • SOUTHERN LEE | 2023 Record: 19-10, 7-5 | Head Coach: Tommy Harrington

    • To say that the 2023 Southern Lee squad delivered a memorable season would be an understatement. After a stumble out of the gate, beginning the year with an underwhelming 4-6 record, the Cavaliers proceeded to claim 9 out of their next 10 matchups. Under first year head coach Tommy Harrington, the Cavaliers would go on to claim the 3A share of the SAC regular season title, before falling to Pinecrest in a closely contested championship game.

      But any baseball fan knows that a team that gets hot at the right time can be a dangerous one – Southern Lee being no exception. The Cavaliers ran roughshod through the 3A East State Playoffs, taking down Coastal teams North Brunswick, First Flight and Currituck County, before upsetting annual contender Orange County. Thereafter, Southern found themselves matched with perennial powerhouse JH Rose in the Eastern Finals, falling in the best-of-three 2-0.

While it would be easy to assume that returning players would carry last year’s run as motivation into 2024, Coach Tommy Harrington remarked that wasn’t the case. “This year’s guys, especially the ones from last season, aren’t thinking of last year. They are focused on the season ahead.” But that isn’t to say there are no lessons to be learned from last season, especially offensively, which Harrington hopes takes a giant step this year and produces runs at a better clip than the previous year.

While the Cavs do boast notable returns, like Liberty commit Cooper Harrington, there are quite a few new faces taking the diamond this season – and with those new faces come new opportunities. “Last season, most of the time, you could come out here and expect a routine lineup with the guys we had,” explained Coach Harrington, “But we have so many guys that can play multiple positions this year and play them well – their playing time could come down to how they’re doing offensively.” And with a robust offense being the goal for the Cavs this year, starting lineups could come down to, as Harrington explained, “whoever has the hot bat that week.”

  • LEE COUNTY | 2023 Record: 18-9, 7-5 | Head Coach: Dalton Hardee

    • On the surface, the Lee County Yellow Jackets had an admirable season in 2023. A second-place finish in the 3A half of the SAC, and third place overall in the conference, was good enough for an appearance in the 3A East State Playoffs.

      Lee County boasted a talented roster in 2023, only to falter down the stretch. The Jackets entered the final two conference series with a conference record of 6-2, good enough for the top spot in the 3A side of the SAC, and with a chance of taking the overall top seed (with hopes of Pinecrest dropping any of their remaining games). Unexpectedly, Lee County would split their series with Scotland, before dropping both games to Southern Lee in the Brick City Series, and then losing again to the Cavs in the SAC tournament semifinals. A second-round exit in the state playoffs would await Lee County thereafter. Again, an unsatisfying season.

      Like most teams in the conference, Lee County will return some of the familiar super-talent of the previous seasons, like UNC commit Walker McDuffie, while also looking to fill key positions. But, most notably, the newest look for the Jackets will be in the dugout with first year Lee County Head Coach Dalton Hardee taking over as skipper for Jevon Wade, who accepted a coaching position with Grace Christian’s baseball program last summer. Hardee, previously the head coach of former conference rival Western Harnett, hopes to bring his “style of offense” to the team, where each member of the lineup has a role and works to execute it.

      In speaking with Hardee at a recent practice, he remarked how it has yet to appear that the returning Jackets seemed all too phased regarding last year’s finish – explaining that every player on the team seems to be looking ahead at the coming conference schedule; a schedule that Coach Hardee remarked, “…has no days off.”
  • UNION PINES | 2023 Record: 12-14, 6-7 | Head Coach: Eric Marion

    • Despite suffering its second consecutive losing season, the 2023 Union Pines Vikings found a way to sneak into the playoffs before a quick first round elimination. Although coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, baseball followers in this area know that, at some point, Head Coach Eric Marion is more than capable of righting the ship. With an innate ability to get his players to “buy in,” Coach Marion looks to boast quite the youthful roster, composed of several sophomores and juniors, while looking to seniors Austin Mooring and Chandler Ring to be leaders in the dugout.

  • HOKE | 2023 Record: 2-19, 0-13 | Head Coach: Lance Borman

    • It would prove difficult to find much positivity in the 2023 Hoke Bucks baseball season. Their year boasted the age-old story of great difficulty plating runs (3.7 runs per game) while allowing a ton (11.6 runs per game). However, one glimmer of possibility with the 2024 version of the Bucks lies mainly in their experience – a look up and down their roster shows as many seniors as any other team in the conference. It has been stated by both local coaches that this year’s conference slate will be difficult, with Hoke being no exception.

  • PINECREST | 2023 Record: 23-5, 10-2 | Head Coach: Jeff Hewitt

    • Since the creation of the Sandhills 3A/4A conference, one team has found themselves at the top come season’s end each year – the Pinecrest Patriots. 2023 was, once again, an impressive campaign by Jeff Hewitt and company, sporting a conference best 229 total runs scored, with the second best ERA in the Sandhills behind Lee County. After winning the conference tournament for the second straight year (no tournament in 2021), the Patriots looked towards a deep run in the playoffs before exiting at the hands of Corinth Holders in the third round. What can one expect from the 2024 Pinecrest squad? More of the same, frankly – with little roster turnover from last season, this will be a team that will score a lot, allow a few, and ultimately be the team to beat in the conference again.

  • RICHMOND | 2023 Record: 14-11, 8-6 | Head Coach: Eric Brown

    • The Raiders 2023 season was really a tale of two halves. After jumping out to a 10-3 start, including an impressive victory over Pinecrest to open conference play, Richmond was soon in the thick of the conference schedule, suffering sweeps at the hands of Lee County and Scotland County. A first round playoff exit awaited Richmond, ending an interesting year. Going into 2024, one thing can be sure: Richmond will, once again, be the gritty team we have come to know. Solid pitching, good situational hitting, and strong defense will prove the Raiders to be a tough team to battle on the diamond.

  • SCOTLAND | 2023 Record: 15-9, 7-7 | Head Coach: Ricky Schattauer

    • Perhaps one of the more interesting stories of the 2023 season actually occurred off the field – in May of last year, Scotland Head Coach Ricky Schattauer was preemptively relieved of his duties, causing a stir amongst the Scots faithful. After multiple school board debates and a petition with nearly 2000 signatures, Coach Schattauer was officially reinstated to lead Scotland for 2024. So…what does that mean for 2024? What does it mean for a team that made the playoffs last year, albeit with a quick exit? A team that averaged both 5 runs offensively and defensively? Well – this is a team, similar to Richmond, that is going to be gritty; a team that will not be an easy win, night in and night out, that is all-in with their beloved coach. This is a dangerous team.


  • 2023 Record: 20-4, 9-0 | Head Coach: Rob Wooten

    • The first Crusaders season under head coach Rob Wooten could be described in three words: just as advertised. Touting one of the largest collections of baseball talent in the state, Grace Christian won big and won often. Scoring an average of 11.5 runs per game in 2023, it was not uncommon to see Grace put 18, 20, even 30 runs on the scoreboard.

The Grace pitching staff had plenty to say in 2023, as well, allowing only 52 runs all season. Yes, you read that right – a staff that barely allowed an average of 2 runs per game all season.

Ultimately, the #2 seeded Crusaders would fall to #3 seeded Westchester Country Day in the NCISAA 3A state semifinals – something that this year’s team is sure to be looking to avenge.

Unsurprisingly, Grace Christian will field a ridiculously talented team, including senior Campbell commit Camron Seagraves leading the pitching rotation. Another wrinkle to this season comes with Grace now operating without a conference, but as an independent; this change, according to the coaching staff, allows for the flexibility in their scheduling to better prime the team for the playoffs.

So just what is within the realm of possibilities for a team like Grace? According to head coach Rob Wooten, with the amount of talent on this carefully crafted roster, the sky is the limit — but he wants his guys focusing on “one day, one game at a time.”

Sanford Area Baseball will be broadcast on WFJA 105.5 FM, as well as online here at Stay tuned to WFJA’s website and social media for news, scores and schedule updates. Play ball!

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