Second baseman Pierce Leonard of Randolph County Post 45 makes a play in the field earlier this season. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
ASHEBORO – Pierce Leonard is a first-year member of the Randolph County Post 45 baseball team. There’s a reason that he pursued American Legion baseball this summer.
Having finished his final high school year at Eastern Randolph after transferring from Uwharrie Charter Academy, Leonard chose baseball as a preference in terms of a sport to play in college.
“I figured I could go farther with baseball than I could basketball,” Leonard said.
He said he’ll play baseball at Guilford Tech.
But first, Leonard will be part of the Post 45 team aiming for a resurgence in this week’s Southeast Regional at McCrary Park. Games begin Wednesday.
Leonard, who was a defensive back in football, was one of the standouts in Eastern Randolph’s key players during a record-setting basketball season that extended into March in the Class 1-A championship game.
Days later, he was on the baseball field for the Wildcats.
“I hadn’t played baseball since my freshman year,” Leonard said. “I feel baseball is natural to me. I’m just loose up there.”
Leonard, after fouling a ball off his shin, was out for most of the recent Post 45 postseason games. Randolph County manager Ronnie Pugh said Monday that Leonard was pretty much at full speed at a weekend practice in advance of the regional.
“He should be good to go,” Pugh said.
Post 45 holds a 23-6 record, with four of those losses coming to Rowan County and the other two to High Point-Thomasville. Randolph’s spot in the regional was secured because of an automatic bid reserved for the host team.
When Post 45 failed to advance to the Area 3 finals, it meant the team would have more than a two-week layoff before the Southeast Regional.
Post 45 has numerous players with experience from last year’s regional. Among those are lineup regulars Tanner Marsh, Braylen Hayes, Tyler Parks and Josh Meadows plus Alex Martinez and Robert Garner.
Martinez, a catcher and utility player, is with Post 45 after a season with Brunswick Community College. He didn’t play much in the spring, in part because he was behind Tatum Marsh, a former high school teammate at Asheboro and ex-Post 45 mate.
Checking the regional …
The five-day regional includes teams from seven states. It’s a double-elimination format.
There are four games the first two days and then three games Friday, two more Saturday and one or two games Sunday.
Post 45 will play the nightcap each day if it’s in the winner’s bracket. Randolph County opens Wednesday against Columbia (Tenn.) Post 19. That game is set for 7:30 p.m.
Other first-day games are Evans (Ga.) Post 192 vs. Owensboro (Ky.) Post 9 at 9:30 a.m.; Belleview (Fla.) Post 284 vs. West End (Va.) Post 361 at 12:30 p.m.; and Florence (S.C.) Post 1 vs. Fuquay-Varina Post 116.
Belleview, Evans, Owensboro and Columbia all played in the regional last year at McCrary Park. Post 45’s only game against any of those teams came with an eight-inning victory against Evans on the second day in a winner’s bracket game, but Randolph County lost its next two games and was eliminated.
Fuquay-Varina won the North Carolina state tournament, topping Wayne County Post 11 in Saturday’s final in Buies Creek.
The regional winner advances to the American Legion World Series next week in Shelby.