The Southwest Wake Athletic Conference, though under a different name in seasons past, should continue its recent tradition of being a premier baseball conference in the state.
The league has represented the 4A East in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championship in each of the last three years, with two champs (Holly Springs 2011, Middle Creek 2012).
Fuquay-Varina came achingly close to making it three in a row last season. The Bengals won the first game in the best-of-three championship series and led 4-0 in the deciding third game before losing the game, and the title, to South Mecklenburg.
Veteran coach Milton Senter’s club is atop 4A in Impact Baseball’s preseason poll and looks poised for another run.
The Bengals’ strength is North Carolina pitching recruit Brett Daniels (12-2) and N.C. State pitching recruit Jordan Bissette.
Daniels also leads the attack and hit .432 a year ago. Shortstop D.J. Burt and Daniels were all-state selections.
But the road to a SWAC title won’t be easy – not that it ever is. Of the five SWAC teams that made the last postseason, three lost to another SWAC team in the third or fourth round.
Green Hope (22-6), which made it to the fourth round before losing to Fuquay, has a strong lineup with the return of Thomas Yoder, who hit .402 with 14 doubles and three home runs. The Liberty recruit will be joined by N.C. State shortstop recruit Stephen Pitarra, William and Mary recruit Vincent Addona and Charleston Southern recruit Eric Gilbert.
Holly Springs (21-6), which made it to the third round before losing to Green Hope, brings back catcher Mikey Sconzo (Charleston Southern) and pitcher/first baseman Andy Wantz, a UNC-Greensboro recruit.
Apex (14-13) has four players who have signed with colleges: Chase Denison (NYU), Carter Hicks (Guilford), Alex Yarem (Campbell) and Brett McMillan (Brunswick Community College).
There will be new leadership at Middle Creek (10-14), where Wesley King takes over after Jeremy Thompson stepped down to be athletics director.
Athens Drive (8-15) returns its only all-conference selection from last year in senior Nick Venditti. Senior Justin Christian was all-conference in 2012.
Panther Creek (6-15) returns all-conference senior Jordan Hockaday and Charlotte recruit Josh Maciejewski.
Cary (5-17) has nine returning players including, Wake Tech commit Grant Hayes.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps