As the Union Junior Legion team embarks on another season of baseball, memories of last year are being used as a motivational tool. While the third place finish was impressive, Post 22 was left with a bad taste in their mouths when they were eliminated by Sakastee, who will host the State tournament this year.
“We’re going to win State this year,” said pitcher Gage Eaves with confidence. “We should’ve won it all last year, but we ran out of pitching. That’s not going to happen this time.”
An unexpected turnout of 40 baseball players allowed Post 22 to fill some gaps and still have enough athletes to organize a second Junior Legion team — the Legionnaires.
“We only lost a few players from last year,” said Junior Legion Coach Donnie Vinson. “So we filled those positions and feel good about our chances with this team.”
Vinson took the reigns of Post 22 last year and is excited about another year of coaching Legion ball alongside assistant coach Craig King.
“I enjoyed it last year and we expect this year to be just as enjoyable,” he said. “As coaches, we learned a lot about the caliber of teams we’ll be facing and now we know what to expect.”
Returning catcher/outfielder Earl Petty said the team is confident, in large part, because most of the team members have played together before and know what they are capable of.
“It helps that we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Petty. “We work well together.”
King said this year’s Junior Legion team also has the advantage of having experienced State.
“We represented well last year,” said King. “We faced some excellent pitching that we’ll probably see again this year. The difference is that we’re a more experienced team and we’ve got some good new athletes coming in.”
Jacob Roper of Broome High School will see time on the mound along with Union County’s Kennedy Beatty, Danny Glenn, Phillip King and Eaves.
The middle infield will be manned by Dorman’s Grayland Fowler, Broome’s David Burris and Union County’s Michael Todd Harris.
Bradley MKeown, of Union County, will serve as a third baseman/outfielder, and Union County’s Dustin West can operate from either corner of the diamond.
Petty will share time behind the plate with Josh Gass and also see some action in the outfield along with Kadarius Dean and Wesley Manus.
McKeown and Fowler remarked that they enjoy playing Legion ball because it affords them the opportunity to see new competition and improve their skills individually and both returning players are anxious to make it back to the State tournament.
“We enjoy playing ball after high school is out,” said Phillip King. “But our goal is to get back to State. We’re going back to State, no question.”
The Junior Legion will open the season on Monday, 7 p.m. at the Timken Sports Complex, hosting Gaffney, while the Legionnaires will travel to Gaffney on Tuesday for their debut.