Post 81 returns to action after one-year hiatus in American Legion baseball

RAMSEUR – Baseball is back on the top American Legion level for Post 81.

The Liberty Post 81 team began the season last week after a one-year hiatus.

“With the community involvement, we were able to make it happen,” said Nate Cockman, the head coach. “We took that summer off to get those young guys ready.”

With 18 players on board and potentially a couple of more, it’s a foundation that Cockman said he likes even with about half the players coming off their freshman years of high school.

“It’s good for the future,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun, talented group.”

The roster make-up is mostly high school players from Eastern Randolph, Providence Grove and Faith Christian. Cockman said about one-third of the players on the roster play on the same travel team, extending from Asheboro to Pittsboro.

That should help, he said, as they’ll be on the same schedule.

Post 81 didn’t play on the senior American Legion level in 2023 after lower player availability from the previous season and limited interest created concerns about fielding a team for an entire season. But the Legion post sponsored a combined Pony/Colt League team for ages 13-16 in order to groom a team to return to American Legion play this year.

There’s also a tweak to the name, using Liberty. Prior to last year, the American Legion baseball entry had been Eastern Randolph Post 81.

“There was discussion about using Liberty in the name,” Cockman said. “(There’s) the support that the Liberty hut has given us.”

Post 81 has a 22-game regular-season schedule. The team has moved home games back to Eastern Randolph High School’s Grady Lawson Field, where it had played for years. In 2022, the team used Craven Stadium in Ramseur.

Cockman, a former Post 81 player, had been a coach at Southeastern Randolph Middle School, but last summer took the coaching position at Eastern Randolph.

“When I grew up, all the Legion ran through Eastern Randolph,” he said, noting the additional convenience of being the coach at the high school in terms of field maintenance.

In games on the field, Post 81 was 18-9 in 2022, though a couple of those victories turned to losses by forfeits because of a player eligibility issue.

In the first game of the season, Liberty won 12-2 at Wilkes County Post 31, which is fielding a team for the first time in a decade, in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule. Bauer Bowling, Jacob Flinchum and Carson Williams had hits that produced multiple runs.

There were just 11 players available for Post 81 in the opener, then seven more in uniform the next night when Liberty lost 8-5 to Davidson County Post 8 in Lexington.

From Providence Grove, third baseman Jayten Beasley and catcher Logan Fox – both seniors – give Post 81 experience, and Patriots sophomore infielder/pitcher Andrew Thomas should have a key role. Thomas is the younger brother of former Post 81 standout Luke Thomas, now a UNC Greensboro pitcher.

From Cockman’s Eastern Randolph team, several starters will suit up for Liberty. Those include shortstop/pitcher Cade McCallum, infielder Chance Holdaway, catcher Avery Wright, outfielder Bryson Marley and first baseman Will Stalker. Former Eastern Randolph player Ethan Frye, a 2023 graduate, is on the team as well.

Cockman said Post 81 has a full roster for Junior American Legion, so that pipeline should be well stocked.

By Bob Sutton