07/12/13 — Post 11 battled more than rivals in 2013

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Post 11 battled more than rivals in 2013

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on July 12, 2013 1:49 PM

Wayne County Post 11 wasn't just battling it's old American Legion rivals this summer, Mother Nature proved to be a formidable opponent as well.

Post 11 had 14 games rained out this summer while eight returning players worked to develop chemistry with 10 new faces.

Wayne County jumped out to a 7-1 start with a 2-0 mark in Area I East Division play. Post 11 averaged nearly nine runs a game during that stretch and six different pitchers recorded wins on the mound.

"We had a great group of guys," Wayne County assistant coach Jackson Massey said. "It's good when you have a mix of veterans and new faces. The college guys connected well with the younger guys and they all got along well with each other. It made coming to the ballpark enjoyable."

Massey and head coach Jason Sherrer entered the summer with questions about Post 11's pitching staff. Bryant Stafford, Ryan Grant and Jackson Hayes were the only returning players with pitching experience on the American Legion level.

Newcomers Reed Howell, Josh Dixon, Cody Wendorf and Greg Johnson put to rest any concerns Massey and Sherrer had. The quartet of new arms combined for eight of Wayne County's 13 wins during the regular season. Post 11 finished the regular season with a team earned run average of 2.67 and 117 strikeouts in 138 innings.

"We didn't really know much about our pitching coming into the summer," Massey said. "The only one we knew what we were going to get out of him was Stafford. Howell, Wendorf, Dixon, and Johnson all gave us some big innings. We had some fresh arms that we had never really coached before and our pitching staff did pretty good. They kept us in a lot of games."

Wayne County score 10 or more runs nine times during the regular season and had five different players finish with batting averages of .300 or higher. University of North Carolina signee Adam Pate led the club with a .472 average before leaving for summer school in Chapel Hill.

Eastern Wayne shortstop Ryan Faucette, the team's second-leading hitter, compiled a .380 average while providing pop toward the top of the lineup. Garrett Joyner settled into Pate's leadoff spot in the order late in the summer and was a perfect 7 for 7 in stolen base attempts during the regular season.

"Ryan's a great player and we were lucky to have him," Massey said. "He can change a ballgame with just an at-bat. Zack Smith and Garrett Joyner both had good years at the top of our lineup. Those guys were our table setters."

Wet weather wreaked havoc on Post 11's schedule late in the season as Post 11 didn't play a single game after June 26 prior to begin the postseason. Rain rendered Scarborough Field at Mount Olive College unplayable. The Doyle Whitfield Athletic Complex at Southern Wayne was often covered in water as well.

Wayne County was able to hit in the cages at Mount Olive a few times but practicing and maintaining any type of routine or momentum was difficult. Post 11 had its season end in a 9-3 loss to Pitt County in game three of an Area I East first round best-of-three playoff series. Wayne County finished with a record of 14-7.

"When you get in that routine of playing every day or every couple of days and then you can't play for two or three weeks it's tough," Massey said. "You could see when we did play that we were rusty at times. It wasn't so much with no making plays or throwing strikes it was with seeing the baseball. You get of the rhythm when you don't play and before you know it you're already in the first round of the playoffs."

This summer marked the final season college players will be allowed to compete for American Legion teams. That leaves Post 11 with a glaring hole at catcher as both Wayne County catchers, Justin Barbour and Ashton Cox, will be ineligible next summer.

"As of right now we don't have any catchers," Massey said. "You have to have a catcher to play. We're looking at a pretty different team next year. We've got some returners and we're definitely going to be able to depend on them. We'll look around during the school year next year and see what holes we have and we'll have to try to fill them in the spring."