05/27/07 — Post 11 preview

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Post 11 preview

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 27, 2007 1:58 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A 2007 roster dotted with new faces and 11 returnees should provide divdends for Wayne County Post 11 this season. But that youth and how well it meshes with the experienced players will determine the final payoff.

Fifth-year skipper Brad Reaves will learn more about his team Tuesday evening. Post 11 opens its season against long-time nemesis Garner, which contends for state supremacy each year. Game time is 7 p.m. at Scarborough Field on the Mount Olive College campus.

"We will still be young in some key positions," admitted Reaves. "I believe this group will play hard and I feel like team chemistry will be very good."

Reaves must devise a formula that portrays his team's strengths this season -- speed, pitching and defense.

Wayne County averaged 1.4 stolen bases per game a year ago and got picked off just nine times in 42 attempts. Jackson Massey emerged the team's top thief a year ago with nine steals in 10 attempts. Massey is back after spending a season with Mount Olive College, which reached the title game of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional.

Injuries depleted the Post 11 pitching staff last season. Grant Sasser sustained a season-ending injury during the high school season and Garrett Davis tore an ACL less than two weeks into Legion play.

Both are back and healthy. However, their contribution could be limited. Sasser, Davis and their Charles B. Aycock teammates are still competing in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3-A playoffs.

Also on staff are Aycock senior Brandon Price and junior Jay Rose; Lenoir Community College's T.J. Hinson, Eastern Wayne's John Wooten and Southern Wayne's Sterling Grice. Grice is playing his first season of Legion baseball.

Reaves might call on Alex Casey, who saw some mound time for Spring Creek this spring.

"Pitching will again be the strength, but (we're) not as deep," said Reaves. "We will play good defense, I believe. (Our) pitching and defense will have to overcome a questionable offense."

With few power hitters in the lineup, opponents can expect to see Post 11 play small ball this summer. Wayne County averaged 5.5 runs an outing last season and yielded 6.2.

"We will have to manufacture runs," said Reaves. "If we can put the ball in play hard, get bunts down, run the bases and stay healthy on the mound, we can compete."

Wayne County will play a 20-game schedule, but just four contests against non-Area I East Division competition. Post 11 opens South Division play June 11 at Kinston.

League coaches opted for the two-division format this season. Defending regular-season champion Wilson Post 13, newcomer Tarboro, 2006 tournament runner-up Edenton, Ahoskie, Beaufort and Nash County comprise the North division.

The South, also affectionately dubbed the "black-and-blue" division, is spearheaded by two-time defending Area I East champion Pitt County 39, Pitt County 160, Wayne County, Snow Hill, New Bern and Kinston.

Reaves anticipates competitive divisional play, and tagged Kinston and Nash County as the favorites to win the South and North, respectively. Kinston finished third overall last season, while Nash County just did quality for the eight-team playoffs.

Post 11, meanwhile, has not advanced past the opening-round series in tournament play each of the past two seasons. Wayne County fashioned a 12-12 record in 2006, including a 4-7 ledger at home.

Reaves will be assisted this season by two former Post 11 players -- Jeff Rose and Jesse Lancaster. Rose, who played in the late 70s, will handle the bench duties. Lancaster red-shirted this spring at Mount Olive College after emerging the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference freshman of the year in 2006.

Reaves added a slight change has been made to the county's Junior Legion program, which will have North and South teams this season. Nelson Cunningham will coach the North squad and Chuck Crumpler will coach the South team.