05/31/09 — Challenges await Reaves' club

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Challenges await Reaves' club

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 31, 2009 2:00 AM

Emphasis on succeeding in Area I play this summer takes on a new meaning for perennial American Legion baseball powerhouse Wayne County Post 11.

A state-tournament fixture each of the past two seasons, coach Brad Reaves' squad faces a different challenge in 2009. League rival Pitt County 39 is the host team for the N.C. American Legion state tournament and receives an automatic bid.

That leaves one playoff spot for the remaining Area I teams in the east and west divisions.

"The last couple of years we haven't placed a lot of emphasis on winning the Area championship," said Reaves. "But we'll have to this year. If you don't win it, you stay home. We feel like Greenville is just about in our backyard, too."

Wayne County opened its season with a 5-2 win over Apex Post 124.

Reaves pieced together a lineup consisting of experienced and inexperienced players due to Eastern Wayne's postseason run on the high school baseball scene. While he favored the result, Reaves realized his team is full of potential and must tap into that reservoir of talent until those players arrive.

During the offseason, Reaves and his staff combed the area schools for outfielders and arms. The entire infield, minus first base, returns from a year ago.

Southern Wayne's Scott Holloman and Eastern Wayne's Robert Faucette are expected to play first base. Reaves said a number of players could see action in the outfield including Cody Richards, who helped guide Rosewood to its first Carolina 1-A Conference championship since 2001.

"Richards can flat out get to it," said Reaves.

Most of the pitching staff returns, but once again will be young. After spending last season at Southern Wayne, Post 11 heads back to the friendly confines of Scarborough Field. Reaves calls it a 'pitcher's park'.

"Playing at Mount Olive gives our pitchers a sense of security," said Reaves. "We throw it up there and say 'here you go boys, hit it.' Not many balls are going to fly out of Scarborough.

"And we have to pitch (smart) because we're certainly not going to knock the bat out of anybody's hands."

Leadership from John Wooten and Walker Gourley, two four-year players, will be crucial to the team's psychological mindset. They'll be expected to mold the younger players into a single unit along with Edwards and Cambric Moye.

"The two four-year guys know what it is all about," said Reaves. "That's as good as any two in the state to lead a team."

Nine players are expected to return off last year's team which finished 24-8 and emerged the Area I champion. Wayne County ended up 0-2 in the state tournament after reaching the finals in 2007.

"This team can go a long ways. I didn't feel like that last year because we were so inexperienced pitching and that will be the case this year," said Reaves. "But I feel better about scoring runs this year. I expect to see some of our hitters really blossom and if they do, there is no getting around them ... somebody will have to pitch to them.

"If everyone comes who is on the list, I think we have as good a shot as anybody."