Randolph County Post 45 pitcher Robert Garner is bound to be called upon for a critical role during the Southeast Regional for American Legion baseball. (PJ Ward-Brown/Randolph Record)
Southeast Regional provides array of challenges for Randolph County
ASHEBORO – In order for Randolph County Post 45 to be playing this weekend when the remaining teams have dwindled in the Southeast Regional of American Legion baseball, there are bound to be several key factors.
Post 45 manager Ronnie Pugh has tried to develop pitching depth, something that became a challenge at times when the team’s schedule was either spread out or — during a stretch late in the regular season and early in the Area 3 playoffs — when games were forfeited or reduced to five innings by the mercy rule.
“A lot of times we do matchups,” Pugh said. “We have a lot of position players who pitch.”
Post 45 has counted on several pitchers for clutch duty on the mound. One of them is Robert Garner, who has been strictly a pitcher.
Post 45 is bound to need more stellar pitching from Garner, who delivered with 6 1/3 shutout innings in a game in last week’s state tournament.
“I’ve been throwing good up here (with Post 45),” Garner said. “It’s the exact same stuff I did in high school.”
He graduated from North Moore in the spring and is heading to play baseball for Wake Tech. For North Moore, he gained Class 1-A Pitcher of the Year accolades from the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association, so he has credentials that could boost Post 45 if the team is able to extend its stay in the regional.
Garner is a second-year player with Post 45, though Pugh said with Garner coming through the group’s junior program he had been on the radar.
“He loves to play,” Pugh said.
So does left fielder Adam Cole, who’s a second-year player for Post 45.
Cole has an interesting workload in terms of athletics. He’s a record-setting football player for Southwestern Randolph, with official practices having started Monday across the state.
Cole said he won’t be a regular participant in football practices if Post 45 is playing on the same day. That’s the case for Wednesday and Thursday, and it’s possible at times during the week that Randolph County could be playing at the same time as the Cougars are holding football practices.
“I won’t do both on the same day, but I can go out to the practice,” Cole said.
He said he has put in time regarding football in recent weeks.
“I’ve been going out to the field on my own and working out,” Cole said. “After the last couple of years, I’ve pretty much memorized the playbook.”
State champion Wilmington Post 10 is also in the Southeast Regional field. Randolph County and Wilmington didn’t meet in the state tournament.
When games begin Wednesday, the other teams include South Carolina champion Rock Hill Post 34, South Carolina runner-up Camden Post 17, Georgia champion Evans Post 192, Kentucky champion Owensboro Post 9, Florida champion Belleview Post 284 and Tennessee champion Columbia Post 19.
The double-elimination regional is set to wrap up Sunday. There’s a potential title game at 1:30 p.m., with an “if necessary” game at 4:30 p.m. After four games slated for Wednesday and Thursday, there are three game slots on Friday’s schedule and two more Saturday.
The regional winner advances to the American Legion World Series, which takes place next week in Shelby.