Post 11 opens 2006 season Friday at Garner
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 25, 2006 2:15 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Throughout the high school season, fourth-year Wayne County Post 11 coach Brad Reaves stockpiled lineup cards from opposing coaches in the county.
If Reaves didn't see a particular player, he either gathered information through the internet or by phone. Once this past weekend's two-day tryout ended, the former Post 11 standout had a clearer view of this year's team.
"Saturday and Sunday didn't solely tell us who made this team," said Reaves, whose career record is 63-24. "Each player was seen at least twice during the year by a member of our staff. We looked first at raw tools -- speed, arm strength and bat speed.
"Maybe, more importantly, we looked for energy and the type of young man who will help us with our team chemistry."
Reaves and his staff -- John Gourley, Matt Bryan and athletics officer Sam Sasser -- compiled a 20-player roster which includes 11 members from last year's Area I East regular-season runner-up. He must trim the roster to 18 by June 23.
The returnees are Mount Olive College signees Austin Hood and Jackson Massey; and Lenoir Community College signee Tyler Ham. Also back are Joey Moye, who plans to walk on at LCC; David Smeltzer, Garrett Davis, T.J. Hinson, Grant Sasser, Brady Wiggins, Brandon Price and Bennett Jeffreys.
All those players saw significant game time a year ago.
The new faces include Ashton Langston, who played on the 2004 Legion squad; Taylor Sutton, Thomas Pilkington, David Combs, Walker Gourley, Brantley Ellis, Chris Massey, John Wooten and Dave Overman.
"(We have) 18 games to evaluate these guys and also look at the Junior (Legion) players throughout the county," said Reaves. "We will farm out guys and bring guys up from time to time."
Reaves will get his first look at the team in Friday's season opener at Garner. Post 11 leads the all-time series 15-12, but got swept by Garner in the Area I championship series in 2004.
Wayne County started out well and stood 14-2 through mid-June last summer. But Reaves' club struggled down the stretch and concluded the year 17-10.
"We were hot at the wrong time," said Reaves, whose team fell to Wilson Post 13 in the Area I East semifinals. "A lot of people really didn't realize how young we were and how young we are this year.
"If we had finished eighth and won the tournament, our record would have been worse, but we would have had a better result. That's what we will be after this year."
Post 11 has won six Area I East titles since 1994.
Reaves thinks the division will be "even" behind defending East champion Pitt County Post 39, which reached the Southeast Regional a year ago. Snow Hill and Kinston should be much improved.
"Pitt has to be the favorite again," said Reaves. "They lost several great players -- many of whom played college baseball, but they also return several good high school and college players.
"I think the rest of us can close the gap a little bit on them this year."
Whoever emerges the East champion will face a strong West team. Several Legion programs folded in favor of the high school summer leagues, so traditional Legion powers like Garner will be able to draw extra talent.
Wayne County will play 24 games in a 36-day period.
"Grueling is the only way to describe our schedule," said Reaves. "I wish the conference could be divided evenly so we could play more non-conference games."
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