Post 94 opens season at home today against Rocky Mount
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 23, 2004 2:00 AM
By GABE WHISNANT
News-Argus Sports Writer
SNOW HILL -- On paper, the holes look obvious for 32-year coach James "Rabbit" Fulghum and the Snow Hill Post 94 Legion baseball team heading into the 2004 season opener today at home against Rocky Mount.
Starters from last year's North Carolina Legion state tournament team and collegiate players Ricky Shefka, Jon Davis, Jacob Allen and Marc Sutton have aged out.
Steady starting center fielder Brandon Brown is out for the summer with an arm injury. The return of reliable left-handed starting pitcher Will Anderson, who red-shirted this past season at East Carolina, is questionable. He may play in a wood-bat league this summer.
Sure, these are areas of concern for Fulghum and assistant coaches Derrick Burress and Matt Webster.
But are these reasons to doubt having another successful season?
Coming off a solid freshman campaign at Lenoir Community College, ace right-hander and leader Blake Herring is back, along with fellow starters from last year -- shortstop John Conway (South Central) and catcher Joe Wade (Greene Central).
These three should provide strength and stability up the middle.
"We have a chance to be pretty good up the middle. They should anchor our defense," Fulghum said. "We feel like we have some leaders that can tie us together. They can be a meshing point for our guys."
Righty Brian James pitched a lot of big innings for Post 94 last season and should prove to be a solid second starter in 2004. Jamie Clifton, who started at catcher before a mid-season injury, will likely see a lot of time in the outfield.
These returners should mix well with a deep, young core of players from Snow Hill's state championship junior legion squad from last year.
"I think that will be a big plus, and the kids from Greene Central finished on a good note," Fulghum said. "They turned it around after losing a lot of close games. I'm looking forward to this group.
"It's a different kind of challenge."
Fulghum is confident the returning players will be leaders and solidifiers in the dugout. For the newcomers, a successful season may hinge on how well they gain confidence out of the gate and accept their particular roles.
Fulghum believes those could be roles that evolve from game-to-game this season -- much like his lineup cards.
Greene Central graduates Jordy Davis, Jordy Grady and Jared Williamson will all likely see time on the mound; along with fellow Ram newcomer Travis Rouse, Chip Wall (North Pitt) and Blake Taylor (Mount Calvary).
Davis and Wall will also play infield. Williamson, Rouse and Taylor should prove versatile in the outfield.
Ed Green, who led South Central in hitting and RBI, Tommy Cobb (GC), Jamie Ham (GC) and Matthew Tyndall (GC) are also new. Second baseman Hunter Chase will rotate between the junior and senior teams to start the season.
Other returnees for Snow Hill include first baseman Cody Fuquay and outfielder Mark Ross.
"The last three or four years, you could about know who was going to be on the field everyday," Fulghum said. "This year, there will be a competition for positions. A kid has to play his way in and has to play his way out."
Whoever takes the field for Post 94 will certainly see top-notch competition on most nights during the Area I East schedule.
Wayne County, Pitt County East and new team Pitt County West all look poised to contend at the top. Fulghum also figures New Bern to be a tough matchup.
"It's strong every year ... Pitt County and Wayne County," Fulghum said. "I feel like New Bern will be right much stronger than last year, too."
Snow Hill finished 25-6 overall last season, but lost its last four games -- two to North Raleigh in the Area I championship series and once each to Kannapolis and Hope Mills in the state tournament.
Post 94 went 8-2 in the Area I East South on its way to winning the division title.
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