Shelby Legion preview

Here’s a look at this year’s Post 82 squad:

After being involved in two straight state tournaments with controversial circumstances, you could understand if Coach Mike Grayson and his Shelby Post 82 squad had a little extra motivation to make it to Thomasville for another try at a state title this summer.

In 2004, one of Shelby’s tournament losses was to Garner, a team that was later stripped of the title after using an ineligible player. Last season, a 6-3 loss to Lexington-Davidson in a rain-shortened game in the tournament dumped Shelby into the loser’s bracket and Post 82 was knocked out by Cherryville the next day.

Item No. 8 of the “Tournament Rules” section of the rulebook states that “all District, State, Regional and World Series games are nine (9) innings, unless extreme weather conditions dictate the modification of this rule.”

“Hopefully, we can get back to the state championship,” Grayson said. “I think that maybe we have some unfinished business there. It’s a shame the rules were interpreted like they were last year. The sad thing about American Legion Baseball is that the rules have been in place for 80 years, but we just can’t seem to get them right.

“Every year there’s something that crops up in North Carolina that seems to say we can’t get our rules right. … but that’s last year. This is a new year.”

It may be a new year, but the Western Division of Area IV is stronger than ever with Cherryville moving back in to join Caldwell County and Shelby as traditional powers in the league.

“Area IV baseball is about as good as it gets,” Grayson said. “Every year, there’s Caldwell and Cherryville that you have to beat. This year, Asheville is very good and Pineville in the other league is pretty good.

“Make no mistake about it. Somebody from Area IV will go down there and win that state championship. Area IV is that strong this year. Everybody knows what we’ve got coming back, and a lot of people have us picked fifth. If we end up fifth, then this is a pretty good league because we’ve got a pretty good team.”

Post 82 finished 34-16 last season and a wealth of offensive firepower returns from a club that scored more than six runs a game last season.

Josh Drewery, a rising sophomore at Gardner-Webb, hit .399 with 19 homers and 60 RBI last season while his GWU teammate, O.J. McFarland, was second on the team in batting while providing solid defense from his catching position.

Dusty Quattlebaum, a rising senior at Crest, added 17 homers last season to go along with a batting average over .300.

Toss in Shelby products Brett Wease and Seth Canipe and Kings Mountain’s Trey Glass, and you get an offense that should score plenty of runs and a defense that figures to be stingy.

Pitching is a different story.

After Drewery, who was 9-3 with a 2.80 earned run average on the mound last year, Post 82 has some holes to fill in the rotation.

Daniel Folk (9-4) and Kyle Elliott (4-3, two saves) combined for 23 starts and more than 160 innings last summer and neither is back for Shelby.

“Outside of Drewery, our pitching has not been that great if you look at our high school records,” Grayson said. “We’ve got a good pitching coach in Steve Gold, so we’re hoping to bring them a long over the summer. Just going on high school records, our pitching’s going to be suspect. You just never know. You can bring back your whole team, and maybe you don’t win.”

Grayson mentioned Wease, Canipe and Crest products Brian Greene and Kyle Kendrick as players that will be counted upon to fill the void.

Post 82 starts its season today — a schedule that could include as many as 33 regular season contests — with a home date against Area IV Western Division foe Henderson County.

First pitch at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium is set for 7 p.m.

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