The better teams in American Legion baseball always have quality pitching.
With one of his larger staffs in his five years as coach of Coleman-Pitt Post 58, Hank Jones hopes that quantity can translate into quality.
While his roster could be missing some of the top pitchers in the Twin Counties, Jones listed with ease 10 players that he would classify as pitchers – and even a few more that could be used in emergency situations.
As Post 58 prepares for its season opener at 7 tonight against Wayne County Post 11 at American Legion Field, it does so with a large collection of arms.
Still, one thing holds true about pitching.
“It’s always the wild card,” Jones said.
Post 58, which will play 10 of its 16 games at home this season at the former Rocky Mount High Stadium, doesn’t bring back much experience but still has some major strengths.
With just seven returning players and only one collegiate player, this might be the least experienced team that Jones has coached.
It also could be the fastest.
With an outfield that features Faith Christian’s Christian Perry, Rocky Mount Academy’s Linwood Jones, Nash Central Khalil Macklin and Roanoke Rapids’ Logan Simonowich, who some said could be the fastest of the four, Coleman-Pitt won’t have a problem stealing bases or tracking down fly balls in the outfield.
“We’ve gotta use it,” said Jones, who added that his team probably will hit for average power. “... Every area that speed is an issue, I think that we should be OK.”
Jones said that this team will be more athletic than last year’s team, and he thinks it will be a better hitting team.
No matter how fast or skilled offensively, Post 58 will have to stop teams from scoring.
“I think we’re going to be really solid on the mound,” said catcher David Williams, who graduated from Northern Nash and played at Duke this past season. “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Coleman-Pitt’s pitching staff will have to be on its toes as well.
Last year, Paschal Ammons joined the team expecting to be a starting pitcher. Instead, he became the team’s closer – a role he fully accepted.
He knows that with such a large staff and a packed schedule that can include up to four games a week, every pitcher has to be ready to pitch in any role.
“Everybody just has to learn how to be flexible,” the 6-foot-8 right-hander said. “If you’re not flexible as a pitcher, you’re probably not going to go far.”
Playing in a new conference with Cary, Garner, Apex and Roxboro will give Post 58 plenty of challenges before the playoffs start.
The American Legion playoffs are exclusively series-based, when teams will have to play multiple games in a short span, making pitching all that more important.
“You need a lot of pitchers to go throughout the week, especially when you go in the playoffs and play three or five games on back-to-back days,” Ammons said. “Pitching is key to winning ballgames, that’s for sure.”
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org