07/30/11 — Post 11 season wrap-up

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Post 11 season wrap-up

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 30, 2011 11:23 PM

The "7" illuminating the errors column on the Fleming Stadium scoreboard a few weeks ago left plenty of doubts about the 2011 edition of the Wayne County Post 11 senior Legion baseball team.

"This team can't field the ball," one loyal fan said as they exited the historic venue, a cathedral that housed some great minor league teams -- and players -- back in the day.

And who would have thought that disastrous defensive outing, which turned into a nail-biting win by the way, would have led to an unexpected appearance in the N.C. Senior American Legion state tournament?

Well, it did.

Wayne County triumphed in 21 of its final 24 outings and re-established itself among the state's elite programs. Post 11 claimed the Area I East and Area I championships in dominating fashion, and emerged runner-up to Cherryville Post 39 in the state tournament.

"There was a gray area of the guys getting used to each other and learning how to trust the defense," said head coach Rob Watt, who stepped down after the Cherryville loss. "Early on the in the season, it was hard to trust our defense. They've done a great job of making adjustments all season, and every kid who threw for us progressively got better without a shadow of a doubt.

"They (pitchers) did a great job and were a strong point down the stretch, no doubt."

Defense became a strong point, too.

A team that averaged nearly three miscues a game, including the Wilson fiasco, shaved it down to 1.2 per outing once the Area I East playoffs crept closer. A late-inning collapse at nemesis Kinston forced the defense to re-focus again, and it played stellar down the stretch.

Sure, Post 11 had its bobbles at certain times after the Kinston loss. But unlike their previous appearances on the diamond, the players didn't succumb to their troubles and battled through the adversity.

So did the pitchers.

The staff earned run average hovered near 6.5 during the early stages of the season. Once assistant coach Jason Sherrer had some quality time with the hurlers in the bullpen, the ERA slowly began to drop.

The pitchers understood what pitch to throw in certain counts, hit their spots and relied on the defense. Watt constantly said throughout the season the more balls that are put in play increase the chance of committing mistakes, but those stumbles became minimal. The group finished with a solid 3.71 ERA.

"Too many times, it doesn't get mentioned about assistant coaches and the job they do," said Watt. "Jackson (Massey) and Jason did a great job with these boys."

So did Watt.

His resignation came as a surprise after the season-ending loss to Cherryville Post 39 in the state championship game. No one can argue his decision to spend more time with his family, especially his two future baseball stars -- Rowan and Mason.

Watt has a respect and passion to the game that he infused into the players. Never once did the team not play hard and give 100 percent despite either rainy, smoky or mostly sweltering heat conditions throughout the season.

The players' demeanor and classy attitude reflected their coach. They served as true ambassadors and made a baseball tradition-rich community proud to call them their own.

Disappointment shrouded the players' faces when the final out had been recorded Tuesday afternoon in Morehead City.

Some parents choked back tears as they realized their sons had played their final game in a Post 11 uniform.

The group -- each player's jersey and pants stained with sweat and dirt -- got together for one last photo that will undoubtedly fill every one of their scrapbooks.

Cameras flashed in the sultry afternoon air.

Smiles weren't prevalent.

But you could definitely see the pride of those 18 players who gave every ounce of energy they had for Wayne County over a two-month period.

"About a month ago when we had that game in Wilson where we made seven errors, I said 'boys, I wasn't sure they weren't going to let us into the (Area I East) playoffs even though everybody does (get in)' with as bad as we were playing," said head coach Rob Watt. "Didn't nobody foresee us being here and we've made tremendous strides, have nothing to be ashamed about. We should hold our heads high, chins up, chests out and be proud of what we've done."

I couldn't have said it better, Rob.

Well done boys.