MOREHEAD CITY — There are few ways to start a championship series better than a shutout.

The Morehead City Marlins apparently agreed Thursday, defeating the Macon Bacon 3-0 in game one of the Petitt Cup best-of-three games final. One more win will hand the Fish their second straight Coastal Plain League title.

“I couldn’t be happier about it,” Marlins coach Jesse Lancaster said. “That’s what we traveled down there hoping to do. There were a lot of great performances out there, and now we come back to Morehead City with a chance to finish off the series on our home field.”

The Marlins drove back home eight hours through the night after wrapping up their win around 11 p.m. Most slept on the bus on the ride home, but not after a raucous celebration to start.

“Stoked would be the right word,” Lancaster said. “They’re fired up. That’s the coolest thing about all this. It’s August, and these kids still want to be out here and they’re enjoying playing baseball in a town they’re not even from. Last year’s group created the culture, but this year’s group saw that vision and embraced it. A few months ago, we were all strangers. Now we’re right back to being one of the most respected teams in this league.”

The Marlins improved to 40-14 overall with the win, while Macon slipped to 32-22. Game two of the series took place Saturday night after this Sunday issue had already gone to press. If needed, game three will take place tonight at Big Rock Stadium.

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BEAUFORT — A dedicated group aims this fall to bring the East Carteret girls tennis program back to its former glory.

The Mariners went 2-6 overall last year and 1-3 in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference in a hurricane-shortened schedule.

The majority of the roster has played all summer and is showing up for preseason practices at 6 a.m.

“They’re a good group,” coach Nick Theuner said as he enters his 15th year as coach. “They’re starting to gel as a team, they’re fun to be around, and they can put up with me. Most of them have played all summer. This is the first time I’ve had an entire group play the entire summer. It’s been a big improvement for us.”

East went a combined 65-17, advanced to the 1A regional final on two occasions (2015, 2017) and captured five consecutive conference championships from 2013-2017. Five of the top six players graduated from the 2017 team that went 14-3 overall and 9-1 in the league.

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OCEAN — Competition and experience are high at Croatan this fall as the girls tennis team looks to defend a 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference championship.

The Cougars only graduated two seniors from a team that finished 9-3 overall in 2018, while also bringing back new talent under seventh-year coach Jim Sheehan. The program has been officially practicing for over a week, but the work for this season began in June.

“This is a group that has worked hard all summer,” Sheehan said. “They started the Monday after school got out. They’ve been out there four days a week, an hour and a half a day. Some of them have literally been there every time. They’ve bought it, they’ve paid the price and they’ve worked hard to get where they’re at. They’re good kids, they’re fun to be around, and they’re all getting better. I’m excited to get this started.”

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MOREHEAD CITY — The West Carteret girls tennis team graduated half its 2018 roster in the spring, but that doesn’t mean the cupboards are bare for 2019.

The Patriots are bringing back two of their top-six singles players from a season shortened by Hurricane Florence in which they went 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the 3A Coastal Conference.

Leading the program is first-year girls coach Mark Thompson who has coached the school’s boys team since 2009. He replaces longtime girls tennis coach Craig McClanahan who retired from the school system in the spring.

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(For complete stories of these briefs, see the newsstand and home delivery edition or the full online e-edition.)

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