MOREHEAD CITY — The Morehead Marlins fended off three home runs to beat the Fayetteville SwampDogs 5-3 Sunday in the first round of the Petitt Cup Playoffs.

The Fish looked like the defending Coastal Plain League champ down the stretch, snapping a 3-3 tie with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to advance to the second round of the postseason.

“I don’t think there was ever a scare in the dugout,” Marlins coach Jesse Lancaster said. “It was a tight game, which I like, but they were poised down the stretch. Both teams played a good ball game.”

The Marlins (38-14 overall) earned the right to play both rounds at Big Rock Stadium after producing the league’s best record in both the first and second halves of the East Division season. They finished the first half 19-7 and then went 18-7 in the second half.

“The players are enjoying it,” Lancaster said. “They still want to be here, which is pretty cool now that we’re in early August. We’re still holding workouts, and I don’t think anyone really wants to do anything else. What more can you ask? Everyone is happy to be here and working hard. It’s exciting.”

Morehead City continued its Petitt Cup run Tuesday against the North Division champ Wilson Tobs, but results were not available in time for this issue. Both of the first two rounds of the playoffs are one-game elimination contests. The winner of the Marlins-Tobs game will play either the Macon Bacon (South Division) or the Forest City Owls (West Division) in a best-of-three-games Petitt Cup Final in the third round, beginning Thursday.

Look for full results of the second round game in the Friday issue.

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OCEAN — The Croatan boys soccer coffer took a hit this past spring, but made way for a new, hefty senior class to carve out an identity of its own this fall.

 The Cougars graduated four its top seven scorers, among others, from a squad that finished the 2018 season 12-5-1 overall and 6-1 in the new 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference.

“We lost over half our starters, which is obviously a lot, but we have 22 on varsity and 11 of those are seniors,” Croatan coach Paul Slater said. “It’s a strong group that has been together for four years. We’re looking forward to this year, it should be fun.”

Slater comes into his 13th season as the school’s boys and girls soccer coach with a full house of 44 total players for the boys this fall, split evenly between the jayvee and varsity squads. He is joined by assistant coach Paul Payne and jayvee coach Jerry Simonette.

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BEAUFORT — Antonio Diaz is hoping for a repeat of the spring, or at least something similar to that special season in the future.

The longtime East Carteret witnessed the strongest freshman class in school history help the girls soccer team achieve its best season in school history.

And now a strong boys freshman class has arrived for the boys team.

“We have a very good freshman class,” Diaz said. “Like the girls last season, it’s happening with the boys.”

“We have six to seven really good freshmen,” Diaz said. “They have a high soccer IQ and have been

playing since they were 6 years old. If they stay together, we’ve got a solid base for the next four years.”

Nine freshmen on the girls team helped set a program record at 19-5. The previous high for wins in a season came in 2014 and then again in 2015 with 12 each time.

Diaz doesn’t expect his boys team to match that kind of season after watching his last two squads go a combined 5-18, but he has high hopes for the future.

In the present, the Mariners will try to better last year’s mark of 1-8. They were 1-6 in the 1A/2A Coastal 8 Conference to tie for last place.

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MOREHEAD CITY — The West Carteret boys soccer team will look to rebound on the pitch this fall with a handful of seniors and as many returning starters.

The Patriot booters will look to improve upon last year’s 3-13 overall finish, which also saw them go 1-4 in the 3A Coastal Conference. Both win percentages are higher than the 2017 totals, which saw West finish 3-16 overall and 1-9 in the conference.

“We managed to play 16 games, and we improved our conference record and our goals allowed (from 67 to 40),” West coach Charles Dailey said. “In all, we have to be satisfied even though we aim to do better.”

Dailey is back for his second season with the Patriots. He is joined by assistant coach and jayvee instructor Karl Wolfe.

“I’m here for a while,” Dailey said. “I just hope people keep bringing the same kind of focus we have here today. This is the first day we’ve been on the pitch training, and everything has been on point.”

Dailey had 35 players on the pitch Monday, and he hopes to have more in the immediate future. For now, the dividing line between varsity and jayvee has not been set.

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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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