They see each other as rivals during the high school season, but they all share the same passion — baseball.
And this summer, Wayne County Post 11 came together as one to have a special season.
Wayne County finished the season with a 23-7 record, claimed the Area I East Division regular-season title, and won the Area I East tournament.
Most importantly, Post 11 reached the N.C. Senior American Legion state tournament for the first time since 2014.
“That was the goal since I took over the program was to get to the state tournament, and I was really proud of our kids and the whole program,” Wayne County Post 11 head coach Adam Pate said. “A lot went into this summer, and there’s a lot of people who helped behind the scenes in different capacities, and I want to thank all those people.
“We had a great season, and it’s fun seeing kids come together from different schools and be good friends.”
This year’s team brought an enthusiastic and energetic mindset to the ballpark each day, which was a reflection of the dedicated Post 11 coaching staff.
Led by a mix of Post 11 veterans and several new faces, the group overcame injuries and other obstacles to reach the state tournament. Post 11 also made trips to South Carolina, Campbell University, and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke during the regular season.
“This summer was awesome. It’s a lot on the coaches with wives and children, but all of our coaches’ wives are special people for supporting what we’re doing, the team, the kids, and what they’re trying to do through playing baseball,” Pate said. “There’s a lot of parents and support staff behind the scenes that make the summer as memorable and enjoyable as possible, so we’re thankful for all those people who do so much for our program.”
As a team, Wayne County stole 130 bases and batted .356 at the plate this season.
Rowan Watt and Will Albert emerged as the team leaders in runs scored (39). Albert and Justin Holland led Post 11 in hits (36). Watt also led Wayne County in stolen bases (23).
Braeden Collins had a team-high 25 RBIs and a team-high 25 walks, while Holland was a close second in RBIs (24). Holland swatted a team-high five home runs and emerged as one of four Post 11 players – Watt, Drew Spencer, Campbell Cunningham, Tanner Capps – with at least one home run.
Sam Rice, Logan Merritt, Davis Albert, Austin Booth, and Will Harris also made significant contributions in the field and in the batter’s box.
“We want the kids to keep getting better and to go back to their high schools as a better player than when they first came to Post 11,” Pate said. “From a team chemistry perspective and embracing different roles were definitely the two things that made this team so special.”
Wayne County’s pitching staff compiled a 4.04 earned run average.
Will Pennington led Post 11 in ERA (0.77), wins (five), innings pitched (36), and strikeouts (46). At the same time, Carson Gipson, Carter Gipson, Tyler Thompson, Anderson Clucas, Hunter Theriac, Cohen Waddell all made an impact on the mound for Post 11
“We had a lot of kids step up, and I’m really proud of how we did that,” Pate said.
Pate said this summer would not have happened without a dedicated and hard-working group of kids, who were determined to have a great season and are committed to reaching the state tournament again next summer.
“Our kids gelled, and they came together in a quick time frame,” Pate said. “The kids had a fun time, and they represented our area and our county well. I am proud of them.
“Hopefully, we take what we’ve learned and make another trip to the state tournament next year.”