06/10/04 — Wayne County Legion tourney begins Friday

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Wayne County Legion tourney begins Friday

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 10, 2004 1:56 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A three-day American Legion baseball tournament at Fuquay-Varina led to some good, quality competition for Wayne County Post 11 last season.

"Why can't we have one right here at Mount Olive?" then-first-year Post 11 coach Brad Reaves thought.

Once the season ended, Reaves continued picturing a three-day, eight-team tournament that featured some of eastern North Carolina's top prep and collegiate talent. And Scarborough Field on the Mount Olive campus is -- no doubt -- a perfect venue.

Reaves talked with Legion officials and began making time-consuming phone calls. The idea piqued interest in every coach he spoke with and everyone realized the benefit of the event.

Not only does it allow scouts to see players, but it gives teams an opportunity to see quality competition in a college atmosphere. Coaches also get the opportunity to test their players and do some hands-on research against teams they might face in the postseason.

"We've got some very good, quality teams coming in here," Reaves said.

Play begins Friday morning at 11 o'clock when Snow Hill Post 94 takes the field against Fuquay-Varina. Duplin County challenges fellow Area II opponent Wilmington Post 10 at 2 p.m. Reigning Area I champion North Raleigh battles Jacksonville at 5 p.m. Host Wayne County concludes the day with a 7 p.m. skirmish against Richmond (Va.).

Four games are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Each contest will last seven innings with a 10-run mercy rule in effect after five innings.

"From my understanding, Richmond is very good and North Raleigh went to the state tournament last year. I know they've got some good arms," Reaves said. "Duplin has been playing well. Wilmington started off a little slow, but has turned it around.

"I don't know much about Jacksonville. I think it's going to be a pretty good tournament. It should be fun to watch."

Post 11 enters the weekend with the objective to win it all, but Reaves is using the three-day event as a learning tool for his players. Using the "play rather than practice philosophy," he plans to alter the starting lineup and see who wants to be on the field.

Reaves has a deep pitching staff and has thrown at least three pitchers in every game this season. He says the pitchers aren't sharp as far as hitting their spots and hopes that improves against quality hitters this weekend, but hasn't shown too much emotion and played aggressively on every pitch thus far. Switching the lineup could help amend that problem.

Reaves had planned to start right-hander Garrett Davis against Richmond, but used him two innings in Monday's victory against Pitt County West. Davis provided the game-tying hit and claimed his first win on the mound in a relief role.

"I'm probably going to give the ball to (Adam) Williams," Reaves said. "He's got another day's rest and he didn't throw that many pitches (against Martin County)."

Pitching has been a surprising strong suit in the early going, but hitting has not. Post 11 has four collegians in the starting lineup, but none have seemed to get untracked early. Pitt County West right-hander Cameron Jones threw numerous inside pitches and jammed Wayne County's hitters for seven innings earlier this week.

That bothered Reaves. But he hopes the seven-inning format will challenge his hitters and force them to "lock in" a little earlier against opposing pitchers.

"We should have good baseball all weekend and it should help us," Reaves said. "We've got a couple of conference games (before the tournament) and a little layoff for the state games. I hope that will get us ready to play after the state games.

"This county usually loves baseball and I think it will be a good thing. It will bring some money into the town and I'm hoping this will bring some money into Legion. I don't know if people understand how expensive it is to run this program. Our American Legion does everything first class.

"I'm hoping people will come out and support us this weekend, and help us win this thing."

Admission is $8 per day. A three-day tournament pass is available for $20, but patrons receive a $5 discount with an in-season Legion pass. A family pass, good for entire tournament, is $35.