Post 11 has all the elements for a championship season
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 26, 2004 1:56 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- A solid nucleus of returning players, including four junior college standouts, and a mix of new faces presents a challenge to second-year Wayne County Post 11 coach Brad Reaves.
It's a task Reaves is willing to tackle.
"Any time you can surround a team around the likes of (Todd) MacCoy, (Erik) Lovett, (Philip) Pennington and (Brett) Butts, you've got a pretty good chance," Reaves said. "I think we've got some young kids who are hungry, but are not tested. I think there is going to be learning curve there to start with.
"But if I can get some leadership out of those older kids who have played three or four years of Legion ball, we could be pretty good come tournament time."
Reaves will get a good look at his team in game situations tonight against Garner Post 232. The season opener commences at 7 p.m. at Scarborough Field on the Mount Olive College campus.
Versatility aptly describes this year's team. Reaves isn't sure who will start where each game, but knows that some positions are stable.
Jes Snyder, who led Spring Creek to its best season in school history, is the shortstop. He is joined in the middle infield by Jesse Lancaster, who Reaves said will play second base.
Lovett, a rising sophomore at Louisburg College, will play in the outfield and infield -- either at first base or pitch. MacCoy will also be in the outfield. Josh Pate and David Combs will share time at catcher.
Pennington didn't see too much mound time at Mount Olive and he didn't play a position. However, Reaves expects the young rising sophomore to serve as Post 11's top utility player.
"Philip threw very few innings last summer and is young," Reaves said. "He's got some growing to do and will be a player. We're going to jumble it up a little bit. Our versatility is better than last year, but we're going to miss those kids who have aged out.
"When you take Graham Wooten's instincts off the bases, that is where someone is going to have to step up this year. If somebody can do that, then we'll be in good shape because I know we've got kids who can drive in some runs."
The remaining spots, especially in the pitching rotation, remain in doubt.
Reaves has assembled a 12-player bullpen that includes No. 1 starter Philip Cunningham. Lancaster, Pennington, Butts and Garrett Sutton will see considerable time. The quintet is joined by newcomers Airlon Vinson, Adam Williams, Garrett Davis, Grant Sasser, Garrett Sutton, Ashton Langston and Matthew Holloman.
Wayne County is scheduled to play 29 regular-season games, including a stretch of 10 contests in 10 days.
"If we don't get rained out like we did last year, our schedule is going to require us to have that many arms," Reaves said. "We really need them. I plan to use about six pitchers against Garner.
"It's non-conference and I want to see some things. Plus, some of these kids like Cunningham, Lancaster, Williams, Langston, Holloman really need a rest."
Left-hander Dustin Sasser, a fixture on past Legion teams, is currently enjoying a solid season at East Carolina. The Pirates own the nation's best record and are poised to make a serious run at Omaha.
Reaves has left a uniform and roster spot open for Sasser.
"I haven't talked with him a lot because they are doing so well up there," Reaves said. "There is a slight possibility, but I doubt he will be here."
Another Legion standout, Rob Wooten, has signed to play in the wooden-bat Coastal Plain League. Red-shirted this past season at North Carolina, the right-handed Wooten is recovering from surgery and will spend his summer with the Wilson Tobs.
Wayne County finished 18-5 a year ago and lost to nemesis Snow Hill in the Area I East Division championship series. Reaves thinks Post 11 could make a title run this season, but they'll have to play consistent every time they step onto the field.
The 12-team league, again, is split into two divisions -- North and South. Wayne County is in the South along with Snow Hill, Pitt County East and West, Kinston and New Bern.
Beaufort moved to the North Division to fill the spot vacated by Roanoke Rapids, which is not fielding a team this season. The addition of Pitt County West also prompted Legion officials to transfer Beaufort to create even divisions as far as numbers.
Reaves expects Snow Hill, New Bern and Pitt County to be contenders from the South. Rocky Mount, which is not on Post 11's schedule, and Wilson could be the front-runners in the North.
"We're going to have some new faces who will have to mature early," Reaves said. "They all had very good years in high school this year, but when you get to legion, you have to step it up a notch.
"You're going to have to play every night and get after it. It's going to be tough. Everybody in our division is going to be good."
Notes: Underclassmen Adam Williams, Airlon Vinson, Jesse Lancaster and Matthew Holloman have been selected to the Region 2 team, which will compete in the annual State Games of North Carolina. The senior team, which is broken down into East and West, has not been determined. ... Wayne County will play 17 home games, including a three-day tournament from June 11-13. ... The state tournament will be contested Aug. 2-4 at Shelby.
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