07/08/18 — LEGION BASEBALL: No longer rivals, but teammates, this group has Post 11 cruising

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LEGION BASEBALL: No longer rivals, but teammates, this group has Post 11 cruising

By News-Argus Staff
Published in Sports on July 8, 2018 3:11 AM



They see each other as rivals during the high school season.

And though they don't always play against each other, they share the same passion -- baseball.

This spring and summer, they've come together as one.

"A lot of people say that you come from very different schools and I'm sure that there's some tension, a little bit of disagreements on things, but we've all gone in and wanted to have a good time this summer," Carson Smitherman said. "We've competed and we've done well. I think we've meshed really well."

Oh boy, have they.

For the fourth time in the past five years, Wayne County Post 11 emerged as the Area I East Division regular-season champion.

They open the playoffs at home Monday against nemesis Wilson Post 13. Game 1 in the semifinal-round, best-of-five series is 7 p.m. at Wayne Academy.

Wilson eliminated Wayne County in the East semifinals a year ago.

"They have some good pitching. We saw two of their best arms [this season]," Post 11 head coach Adam Pate said. "The two times we played them they always made a run offensively pushing runs across the plate to make it a closer game. They're a good group of players and a good team.

"It's going to be a tough matchup for sure."

During regular-season play, Wayne County (21-2 overall) filed a .368 team batting average, logged a 2.61 earned run average (ERA) on the bump and stole a program-record 112 bases. The previous single-season best was 104 set in 1990.

Pate says that success is a testament to the players and their talent.

However, he cautions that what was done in the regular season is a mute point.

The players agree.

"We've just got to keep hitting the ball, stay confident...can't let the pressure get too big," Chance Howard said. "We've just got to have fun with it."

Post 11 last appeared in the state tournament in 2014.

That team swung the sticks well.

This one does, too.

Pate didn't play the same lineup in any game due a variety of reasons. But no matter who he inserted into the starting nine, they found a way to produce when they stepped into the batter's box.

A total of 14 players are hitting .300 or better, led by Jack Casbarro, who is knocking the ball around at a .542 clip. The Southern Wayne grad has hit safely in 17 of 20 games he's played and served as the lead-off man in 16 games.

"I like to go all the way back to my work ethic, going into the cage and getting some rounds off the tee," said Casbarro, who leads the team in RBI (20) and stolen bases (18).

"[I want to] be consistent in what I'm trying to do whether that's in the game or in the cage or on the field practicing."

Conner Vernon is next at .500, followed by Methodist University signee Christian Yarbrough (.429) and Smitherman (.408). Yarbrough and Smitherman have combined for 19 extra-base hits and 32 RBI.

Wayne County has found other ways to score, too.

The group has earned 107 walks, has been plunked 22 times at the plate and swiped those afore-mentioned 112 bases. Those all but negates the 132 strikeouts.

"A lot of coaches would freak out about the 132 strikeouts, but when you have almost as many stolen bases as you do strikeouts, it turns a lot of those walks into doubles real quick," Pate said.

Then, there's pitching.

Pate has called upon 17 hurlers at various times this season.

The quintet of Howard, Vernon Jonathan "JP" Peacock, Tucker Chapin and Kolby Harris has controlled the hill in an effective and efficient manner. They've collected a total of nine wins and combined to throw 57 2/3 innings.

"Throwing strikes has been huge for us," said Howard, who just returned from a mission trip to Panama.

"We all worked together at Rosewood and we were really confident coming into it because we had a good year. Relaxing and being efficient, and it also helps having a really good [defensive] field behind you."

Wayne County has committed just 21 errors in 137 innings played.