Many people were excited about the expanded Central Carolina Conference including all but one county school.

Travel was going to be cut back. Rivalries would be strengthened. Both are coming true.

But there's still the flip side, which cropped in basketball and now in the spring. Such a big conference limits attractive non-conference matchups, especially in baseball and softball.

North Davidson, Central Davidson and Ledford have all successfully arranged premium games in both sports throughout the years. But that was when they were in 3-A and 4-A conferences. They're now in the CCC and that means 18 conference games a season.

The first obvious impact is the disappearance of the good nonconference dates. North baseball won't be playing in the West Brunswick tournament. The Black Knight softball team had to forego its usual participation in the Lexington, South Carolina tournament. A pair of games planned in Myrtle Beach also had to be scrapped.

Central softball managed to get games with West Forsyth and Davie County and Ledford's baseball team is playing in a Charlotte tournament. That's good on them.

Those attractive non-conference matchups are being replaced by by games with Lexington, Thomasville and Salisbury. That's doubly tough in softball because teams like Central, Ledford and North have six games each that will probably three innings each.

They have to be played because they're conference games but nobody really comes out a winner. The stronger programs would rather play better competition. It helps come playoff time. Central has won four CCC softball games by a combined 56-0. But how good are the Spartans? They certainly seem better but they'll know where they stand after the Ledford game on Thursday.

Those two North-Ledford games will be ones to watch for sure.

North would have preferred to have those three games at West Brunswick. But the Knights have two games each against Lexington and Thomasville. So, of course, does Ledford. Again, they're on the schedule and must be played.

Just as in softball, the North-Ledford games will be crucial. But the dominance isn't as clear cut as in softball for North. East Davidson and Oak Grove both played North tough. Ledford has two aces in Chris Villaman and Logan Whitaker. The Panthers can play with anyone and might be the CCC favorite.

Some of this will start turning when Oak Grove gets a junior class next school year. It would help if Lexington and Thomasville were more competitive. That's something which needs to begin at the youth league level. It takes time.

In the meantime, the games will be played according to the schedule. That's how it has to be.

Mike Duprez can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 218 or Follow Mike on Twitter@LexDispatch_md.