Warhorses keep coach's postseason streak alive

Owen slides into the playoffs for 17th straight season

Fred McCormick

A strong finish of the regular season by the Warhorses means what has become an annual tradition at the high school since Anthony Lee took over the baseball program looks as though it will continue.

Winning six of their final eight contests, the Warhorses fell just short of finishing on top of the Western Highlands Conference. But they will likely end up in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association state playoffs for the 17th straight season under coach Lee.

Senior Jake Roseman throws a Hendersonville runner out from third base on Owen's May 1 Senior Night.

The playoffs didn’t look like a certainty for the Warhorses after a 0-3 start to the season in a trio of nonconference games. But Owen responded by winning four of its first five conference games.

Senior Brian Bartlett is introduced with his parents on Senior Night at Owen. Bartlett led the Warhorses in batting average (.509), RBIs (19), doubles (8), triples (3) and home runs (2) this season.

Through the middle of the season, the Warhorses hovered around a .500 winning percentage, until their second win against conference champions Mountain Heritage on April 11 pulled them to a 7-7 overall record. A week later they beat Madison 9-0 on the road and continued to play winning baseball through the remaining four games.

Owen went into Senior Night on May 1 against Hendersonville with a four-game winning streak intact. The team managed to hold off the surging Bearcats in the late innings for an 8-7 win. The Warhorses fell short of their sixth straight win on the road against Polk when the Wolverines scored a run in the final inning to win the game 4-3.

The loss gave the Warhorses a 9-3 conference record (11-8 overall) this season, good enough for sole possession of second place in the WHC. The day after the loss to Polk, Lee was confident his team would have a spot in the playoffs when the NCHSAA releases the bracket.

"We wanted to win the conference, which would've probably given us a home game in the opening round" of the playoffs, he said. "It was tough to come up just short."

The opening round of playoffs is scheduled for May 10, when Lee, who is also the school's athletic director and football team's offensive coordinator, will lead Owen onto the field for the 17th consecutive time.

Starting the playoffs on the road may or may not impact the Warhorses, who at 6-4 on the road this season were a game better than they were at home (5-4).