KEEP POUNDING

There are a lot of sports “could have beens” in the county thanks to the novel coronavirus.

People were excited about the East Carteret baseball, East girls track and field and Croatan girls soccer teams’ state championship hopes going into the spring season.

None of them had the chance to do what the Morehead City Marlins were poised to – win a third straight title. A few teams from the collegiate wood-bat summer league, Coastal Plain League, will play the second half of a postponed season, but the Marlins will not be one of them.

The team announced Thursday that it would be suspending the rest of the season, following N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement Wednesday, extending phase two of the state’s plan and mandating the use of masks and face coverings in public spaces.

I don’t know about the rest of the county, but I was pretty disappointed with the news. And I’m not a baseball guy. It’s just not a sport I can really sink my teeth into, but after months without sports in pretty much any real athletic capacity, I was oh-so-looking forward to seeing baseballs whip around the infield again, or bodies sliding into bases, dirt kicking up at first base for a steal, or the streak of blue from an outfielder diving for a catch.

I wanted to hear the cracks of bats, the popping of bubble gum, the corny ads playing over the loudspeaker and the excited buzz of a crowd just happy to be out of the house.

I mean no disrespect to the recreation and club sports that are currently gearing up, or the anglers that just toiled over an exciting Big Rock, but aside from a few particular high school teams, the Marlins are the highest level of athleticism available for viewing in this county.

Now, no one gets to see it until next year. What happens to the Marlins’ motivation in that time? Will they be able to bring back head Jesse Lancaster who was slated to helm his franchise-record fourth season with the team? There are a lot of questions going forward with the franchise.

The team had quite a bit going for it coming into 2020. It won its first-ever Petitt Cup in 2018 with a 2-0 series win over the High Point-Thomasville HiToms. The following season, it bested the Macon Bacon 2-1 for a second straight championship. Lancaster’s return spelled more good things for the Marlins, but now we’ll never know.

The league initially postponed the start of the season to July 1, but mounting concerns over COVID-19 have prompted many teams to drop out of the season altogether. The league released a revised schedule on Thursday including the only teams that will play this summer – Martinsville Mustangs, Peninsula Pilots, Wilson Tobs and HiToms, which will constitute the Mid-Atlantic Division, and the Southern Division teams Lexington County Blowfish, Macon Bacon and Savannah Bananas.

The teams that will not play this year are the Asheboro Copperheads, Forest City Owls, Gastonia Grizzlies, Holly Springs Salamanders, Wilmington Sharks, Florence RedWolves, Tri-City Chili Peppers and Marlins.

The Chili Peppers were an expansion team slated to debut this summer, helping to fill the absence of departed franchises, the Edenton Steamers and Fayetteville SwampDogs.

(Send comments or questions to zack@thenewstimes.com or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)

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