05/20/12 — Massey likes team's chances for another good year

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Massey likes team's chances for another good year

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 20, 2012 1:52 AM

When assessing a team's players, it's typical to begin with strengths, but fourth-year Wayne County Post 11 assistant coach Jackson Massey thinks this year's 20-player squad may well be defined by talent, depth and versatility.

All those characteristics will prove vital for a team that takes the Southern Wayne diamond Tuesday against North Raleigh Post 297.

No college players return.

A new head coach will direct the perennial powerhouse since Rob Watt resigned after two seasons to spend more time with his family. He handed the reins to former assistant Jason Sherrer.

The team's philosophy and style of play won't change.

And don't expect Post 11 players to derive slogans or wear T-shirts peppered with peppy catch phrases to help inspire themselves. A majority of the team remembers last year's season-ending, 9-1 loss to Cherryville Post 39 in the N.C. Senior American Legion state tournament championship.

Massey contends that invaluable experience could be one of many cornerstones to the team's success this summer. Eight players return who helped Post 11 claim its first Area I East and Area I titles since 2008. Wayne County finished state runner-up for the sixth time in program history since the early 1960s.

"Last year we definitely exceeded expectations," Massey said. "Us as coaches, we didn't know what we had. It took us seven or eight games into the season to find the lineup that we really liked.

"The guys we have back from last year know what we expect out of them. We're going to go out, do our best and hopefully we'll have a pretty good year."

Of the eight returners, six saw time on the mound last season.

Cameron Taylor tossed a team-high 521/3 innings and fashioned a team-best 1.39 earned run average (ERA). He logged two saves and allowed just 11 earned runs -- second-lowest on the team behind fellow returner Jeremy Taylor who permitted nine.

Back in the bullpen are Zack Mozingo, who spent last summer with the Dirtbags; southpaw Hunter Barnett; right-hander Duane Gurganus and utility player Collin DuBose. Barnett, Gurganus and DuBose combined to throw 25 innings.

"We had some inning eaters last year," Massey said. "We're going to have a really strong pitching staff (this year) ... depth-wise and talent-wise. I don't think we'll have to depend on a guy to go out and give us seven (innings), but maybe five or six instead and then we'll go into the bullpen.

"We just need to stay healthy and work to keep every arm fresh."

Massey expects the pitchers to keep games tight and the team in position to win in the later innings. Post 11 compiled an 11-2 record in games decided by three runs or less last season.

Taylor Brock and Tyler Gainey return as position players at first base and third base, respectively. Gainey batted .329 a year ago with 24 hits and 19 RBI.

Massey has added 12 new faces -- Jamie Dove, Clayton Cashwell, Ashton Cox, Jacob Sasser, Nolan James, Tyler Huetter, Ryan Grant, Justin Barbour, Bryant Stafford, Austin Hinton, Will Winslow and Ronald Woody. Cox, Gurganus and Barbour are expected to share duties behind the plate.

"From our tryouts, I think we picked the right guys ... a solid corps of players," Massey said. "We've got guys who can play anywhere and it's great to have that. During any season, you'll have injuries. We've got some guys who will play positions that they haven't played in high school.

"But those who want to go on to the next level, this will do nothing but help them."

Massey plans to put an aggressive, run-oriented team on the field that can put constant pressure on opposing defenses. Wayne County successfully swiped 51 bases a year ago.