Their schedules have the same framework. Each Greater Neuse River 4A Conference softball team plays the other seven teams in the league twice in the regular season.
But this far into the season, schedules foreshadow the likely outcome of the race to the top.
As the Greater Neuse softball teams began the final two weeks of the regular season last week, the Garner Trojans had a good reason to be more optimistic about the future than the other three teams within reach of a league title.
That’s because Garner (9-2 conference as of April 29) had already faced No. 2 West Johnston (8-2), No. 3 Clayton (8-3) and No. 4 East Wake (7-3) two times each. The Trojans lost two of those six outings – a 1-0 loss to the Comets on April 16 followed by a 2-0 loss to the Warriors on April 19.
The only conference games left on Garner’s schedule down the final stretch included a game at Knightdale last Tuesday, a game at Southeast Raleigh last Friday and a home game scheduled for this Monday against Harnett Central.
The Trojans outscored those three teams by a total of 42-4 in their first meetings of the season. A 5-2 decision over Central on April 12 was the only one of those wins that wasn’t a blowout.
Clayton, East Wake and West Johnston, however, were not through playing each other entering last week.
A rain-out of a game originally scheduled for April 12 led to East Wake and West Johnston facing off twice in the last six days of the regular season – once last Wednesday and again for the season finale, scheduled for this Monday.
West Johnston was left with the most difficult final two weeks, and is the most likely of the top-four teams to experience bumps in the road as a result. The Wildcats began the final stretch with a home game against Central, the league’s No. 5 team, last Tuesday. From there, they had road games against East Wake on Wednesday and Clayton on Friday.
Clayton seemed to have the least worries of the top-four Greater Neuse teams. Aside from Friday’s meeting with West Johnston, the Comets had games with Smithfield-Selma and Knightdale remaining in the final two weeks.
Clayton defeated Smithfield-Selma 27-0 in their first contest on March 27. Knightdale handed Clayton a 10-0 loss on April 12, but did so in the absence of the Comets’ star pitcher, Nicole Bond. Bond has since returned to the circle and tossed wins against Garner and East Wake.
The two games against West Johnston are likely East Wake’s only threats out of its last four contests of the regular season.
The Warriors’ other two games were against Southeast Raleigh last Tuesday and Smithfield-Selma last Thursday. East Wake produced a combined 27 runs as it shut out the Bulldogs and Spartans in the first wave of league play.
Monday’s season finale between the Warriors and Wildcats is slated to begin at 7 p.m. in Benson.