One of the most well-known American Legion baseball teams within the state is primed for what should be another memorable run this summer. Wilmington Post 10 leads North Carolina with 10 state championships thanks to a laundry list of great ball players from the area, who wore the red, white and blue uniform with pride over the years.
The local ball club, managed by Post 10 alum Scott Sandlin, along with Hoggard Assistant Coach Tommy Bowker and New Hanover Assistant Coach Erik Bron, has pieced together another strong roster heading into the state playoffs after a 20-plus game regular season schedule.
“We’ve got a well-balanced group of guys from experienced players to new kids coming into the mix,” said Sandlin. “We’ve got guys who can hit it, pitch it and run. Baseball is a funny game, but at the end of the day it’s a matter of getting timely hits, playing clean and playing well through the playoffs. I think we have the ability to do that and make a run this summer.”
Ballplayers representing all four of the Wilmington high schools (Ashley, Hoggard, Laney, New Hanover) continue to play a big part in the team’s success each year. The combine with several college ballplayers, who returned to the Port City following their freshman season to bring experiences gained after one year of college ball.
“Having those college guys come back really helps with our mentality,” said Sandlin. “The young kids have dreams of playing college baseball and having those guys there to have the resource to show them that this is what you have to do, the work you have to put in, is really great. It’s not you just show up and play in college. It’s highly competitive. You’re dedicated to baseball when your head isn’t in the books and that’s a huge asset to have.”
Brandon Boone (Hoggard/Guilford Tech) and Julian Blackburn (Hoggard/Brunswick CC) highlight the Post 10 rotation in addition to Ashley High School standout Christian Tafoya.
In 16 appearances, Boone fashioned a 4-1 record in 56 innings pitched for Guilford Tech. Blackburn emerged as a top of the rotation starter for the NJCAA World Series club at Brunswick Community College. He was 6-1 on the bump, with a 3.13 ERA.
To go along with a strong starting staff, Caleb Bishop (New Hanover), Stephen Hagewood (Laney) and Logan Adams (Hoggard) provide the Wilmington club with plenty of depth in the bullpen.
At the plate, Trey Croom (New Hanover/N.C. Wesleyan), Max Johnson (New Hanover/Phoenix Community College, Arizona) and Kennedy Hardy (Laney/Belmont Abbey) give Wilmington Post 10 plenty of pop from top to bottom in the order, while Brad Pennington (Hoggard) and Jonathan Kuebler (Laney/Guilford Tech) make up a solid combination at the middle infield positions.
Croom was a .297 hitter for N.C. Wesleyan this spring, with 10 doubles and 34 RBIs. Pennington is an All-Mideastern Conference Player of the Year type grinder and recently committed to N.C. Wesleyan following a standout senior season.
Johnson is returning to the east coast after a strong freshman year at Phoenix Community College in Arizona. He hit .342, finished second on the team in RBIs (35), and had 33 runs scored.
“Our goal is to obviously win games and be successful, but at the same time we want them to have them experience the game at a high level,” said Sandlin. “Legion ball is nine inning games instead of seven at the high school level. Games are a little longer. You’ve got to stay a little more focused. The kids have to be ready for the grind night in and night out. It’s baseball and our guys have made some real good adjustments so far.”
Per American Legion Baseball rules, Wilmington Post 10 trimmed its roster to 18 players on June 25 ahead of playoff action. The red, white and blue is currently 16-2 overall and 13-2 in league play. They’ll begin the playoffs next week against the winner of Jacksonville and Wallace-Rose Hill.