The spring baseball season has just wound down, especially for teams from NCHSAA state champions Topsail (3A) and Whiteville (2A) high schools and already the summer season has begun for two of our area’s three American Legion baseball teams.
Post 10 – made up of players from Wilmington high schools – is coming off a state championship of its own along with its first trip to the American Legion World Series since 1970 and looking for a return trip to the state tournament.
After a six-year hiatus, and without an actual affiliation with an American Legion Post, Brunswick County will field a team that will participate in the West Division with North Brunswick Coach Dustin Medlin serving as the General Manager.
South Brunswick Coach Mike Anderson and West Brunswick JV Coach Drew Dull are sharing the head coaching duties, with Joe Catenacci assisting.
Jordan Reisman, the coach of Topsail’s JV champions, will head up the Post 167 team, made up primarily of current and former Topsail players along with two players from Pender.
Veteran Post 10 Coach Scott Sandlin was hoping to have several first-year college players come back from last year’s state championship team, but pitcher Joe O’Donnell (Hoggard/N.C. State) is playing for the Wilmington Sharks in the Coastal Plain League, lefty Bryan Sammons (Hoggard and a freshman All-American selection at Western Carolina) is shutting down on the bump for the summer after 60-plus innings in the spring, and Matt Davis (Ashley/UNC-Charlotte) was assigned to a summer league team.
But Sandlin said there is still a plethora of talent available and he is fully expecting a return trip to the state championship.
“We were certainly hoping we’d get them all back from last year, but it isn’t working out that way,” said Sandlin.
Sandlin said there’s a ton of good pitching, led by New Hanover graduate (and Spartanburg Methodist signee) Tyree Johnson, Brandon Boone (Hoggard), Ward Coleman (NHHS), and Donovan Francis (Ashley) to carry the load, even in nine-inning games.
Post 10 is off to a 3-1 start this year.
“They are all quality arms to have ready to go,” Sandlin said. “And our hitting lineup, from one-to-nine, is very good. We have Shane Shepard (Ashley/N. C. State) and Collin Thacker (NHHS/Gardner-Webb) in the middle and our top three to four hitters are as good as anybody.”
Sandlin said he thinks American Legion baseball is back on the upswing after an invasion by the AAU travel teams, and that the exposure to college and professional scouts is as good as the AAU level.
“What we’ve done, and a lot of teams are following suit, is we play five or six games on college campuses and we’re the only ones there so we get the coaches’ and scouts’ full attention.
“The college and pro guys are looking for guys who can play baseball at that level, hitters getting four or five at-bats in a game, and pitchers going seven, eight, or even nine innings on some occasions, or coming out of the bullpen.
“I’m feeling pretty good, the kids are getting excited and getting ready, and we’re ready to get it going, all the way back to the state championship and the World Series.”
Medlin, who is taking a coaching break this summer to get married, initiated the resurgence of the Brunswick County Legion team, incorporating the squad and applying to the American Legion Baseball Organization for admittance. The team will play its home games at North Brunswick High School.
“We haven’t had a Legion team in six years and I had to jump through a lot of hoops to get incorporated, get back into the league, and to get us a field,” Medlin said. “But it’s a great opportunity for the kids who want to play baseball and not experience the travel and expense of AAU ball.
“I have two kids–Jacob Watson and Garrett Scoggins–on this team coming back (to North Brunswick) next year and I’m looking for them to get more at-bats, more time on the mound, and to play for a good, competitive team. It’s also a good chance for the kids who are moving on, who have not committed to a school to get seen, and possibly to get signed.”
Brunswick County has played five games heading into Wednesday and stands at 4-1 overall and 1-0 on the West Division of the local American Legion league along with Whiteville, Hope Mills, Duplin County and Wallace-Rose Hill.
The loss came to a Duplin County team in a non-league game, and the league win came on Tuesday over Hope Mills. Medlin said it is good, competitive baseball, and it will benefit all the players on the team, which is made up of players from North, South, and West Brunswick high schools.
“Whiteville’s team is very good and they have a lot of kids coming back,” Medlin said. “Duplin County is also very good so it should make for some real good baseball, and it should serve as a good place for the kids to work on the things they need to work on to get better and make baseball in this area even better than it already is.”
As the celebrations wind down in Hampstead, Reisman and his assistant coaches, Scott Cota and Chris Blake, are getting the kids ready for the American Legion Post 167 season.
“We have a combination of players with most of the guys from Topsail and two, Riley Powell and Cameron Guertin, coming over from Pender,” Reisman said. “We’re going to give Clark (Cota) and Trent (Hansley) a bit of a break, especially on the mound. We’re going to limit Clark to 20 innings or less and Trent to maybe 10 innings, but they will both play in the field and get some at-bats.
“We want to let the kids take summer vacations and spend time with their families so we’re going to carry around 18 players and they should all get a significant amount of playing time.”
Reisman said it is a good time to find those pitchers to replace the graduating Hansley and to team up with Cota, a rising senior.
“We have a few guys like Bryce Cota, Sam Luchansky, and Austin Baird who didn’t get a lot of mound time on the varsity with guys like Clark and Trent getting the bulk of the work, and we have a young man (Peyton Rice, the younger brother of former Pirate pitching ace Palmer Rice) coming up from the junior varsity where he was 6-1 and we’re going to give him some experience by fire,” Reisman said.
“Coming off the school year with the success we had I expect us to do well. We have a lot of underclassmen, especially in the infield like Danny Wilson and Jake Madole, and we want them to get more at-bats and take more ground balls so they are ready to step into leadership roles next year.”
Post 167 will also sponsor a Junior Legion team which will be coached by former Topsail standout Mike Wortman.
“We had a lot of freshmen who started on the junior varsity team and we have been told we have some very good eighth-graders coming up so we want to give them a place to play where they will get some valuable experience against some talented teams and players as a prelude for getting them ready for the upcoming scholastic season.”
Post 10 and Topsail will be in the East Division with Jacksonville, Morehead City, Jones County and Trenton.