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Post 8 Junior Legion team opens season Monday

Experience will be the cornerstone for the South Boston American Legion Post 8 Junior Legion baseball team, which opens its season Monday on the road against Patrick County Post 105.

Post 8 has 10 players returning from last year’s team, which finished third in the District 9 East Division with a 12-3 slate, giving the team a wealth of experience entering the new season.

“Having 10 players returning from last year’s team says a lot for our program,” said Post 8 Head Coach Jody Nelson.

“I feel that having that many returning players will help us improve upon what we did last year. I said at the start of last season I wanted to see us finish at least .500 or better, and we did much better than that. This season, the goal is to have three or less loses in district play. I think if we can do that, we can be in contention to win the regular-season championship.”

Among the returning players are Tristan Howerton, Will Harris, Ryan Powell and Seth Elliott, all of whom were starters for this year’s Halifax County High School varsity baseball team which won the Western Valley District regular season and district tournament championships and played in the quarterfinals of the Northwest Region Tournament. 

Pitcher and infielder Shane Bousman, who played for Hargrave Military Academy, also returns to the team, as do Comets junior varsity players Michael Watts, Tripp Bennett, Dustin Crews and Tyler Stephens. Justin Womack is also among the returning players.

While not on the team last season, Post 8 has another pair of players with varsity-level experience. They are Hunter Byrnes, who started at third base for GW High School of Danville this spring, and Bluestone High School’s Tre’ Watson.

In all, Post 8 has a full roster of 18 players, all of whom contribute something positive to the team. 

“It’s great to have a full roster of 18 players,” Nelson said.

“We didn’t have that last year. We’re going to need everybody. We play a 20-game schedule over a period of five and a half weeks, and have one stretch in which we have six games in six days. Having a full roster will enable us to rest people and make us a stronger team.”

Nelson is expecting that pitching will be one of the team’s strong points this season. 

“We have nine pitchers,” Nelson pointed out.

“When you have a schedule like we have and you have a stretch of six games in six days like we do, it’s going to take a lot of pitching to get you through. If our pitchers pitch well and our starters can go deep into the game, give us four or five quality innings, we should be successful.”

The pitchers Nelson is looking to lean on the most are Bousman, Elliott and Powell. 

“We’re looking at them starting every third game,” Nelson said.

“Those three guys started most of the games for us last year and we’re looking for good things from them. We also have several other pitchers that can get the job done. The good thing is we have pitchers that provide us a variety of looks, with some having good speed and others having good off-speed stuff.”

Nelson is looking for good things offensively as well.

“We don’t have a ton of power,” he pointed out, “but I think we will hit a few home runs. We’re going to need the guys to have a strong approach at the plate and we will need to manufacture runs. We’re going to do a little bit of everything, bunt, go to the hit-and-run and play some small ball.”

Defensively, Post 8 is expected to be solid, with a strong infield anchoring the defense.

“This is the strongest infield I’ve ever coached,” Nelson pointed out.

“We’ve got at least 10 guys that go out there and play the infield and us not lose anything. That is a very good thing to have, but it’s going to be hard to make a lineup.”

As far as the outfield goes, Nelson says it is solid, but there is more work to do in that area.

“We’re trying some different guys in the outfield,” Nelson explained.

“We have a good deal of versatility among our players. We’ve just got to put the right combination together.”

South Boston Post 8 has a special opportunity this season, as it will host the District 9 East Division Tournament July 20-25 at Halifax County High School. With five teams in the division, the regular-season champion will receive a bye in the opening round of the tournament.

“The regular-season champion getting a bye in the first round places added importance on winning the regular-season championship,” Nelson said.

“If we could win the regular-season title and get the bye, it will put us in good shape in the tournament, and thus help us in our bid to reach the state tournament.”

Nelson said he and his fellow coaches and players are grateful to South Boston American Legion Post 8 for providing and supporting the Junior Legion baseball program.

“I thank all of the Post 8 members for supporting this program,” Nelson said.

“They bought new uniforms for us this season, and they do a lot to support us. This is a great opportunity for kids to play baseball, and we want everyone at Post 8 to know that we appreciate them and what they do for the kids.”