Cherryville Post 100 coach Bobby Reynolds has mixed emotions about playing Shelby in the first round of the Area Four American Legion baseball playoffs.
“As far as the fan interest and the gate, this is real pleasing. As far as the team we are playing, that might not be too pleasing,” Reynolds said Friday at the Area Four pairings meeting in Hickory.
A good crowd is expected tonight at Shelby`s Veterans Field for game one of the best 3-of-5 series, which brings together two longtime Legion baseball rivals. Game two is Tuesday night at Fraley Field in Cherryville.
The question is whether the series can live up to the history of the rivalry. Post 100 has struggled this season after losing eight starters from the 2003 national runner-up squad. Cherryville (8-10, 13-11) enters the playoffs as the No. 7 seed from the Eastern Division of Area Four, while Shelby (11-5) comes in as the No. 2 seed from the Western Division.
Post 82 may be the hottest team in Area Four at the moment, carrying a seven-game winning streak into the postseason.
“They have had a good year, and we have not had such a good year,” Reynolds said. “But anything can happen in a series. We are just going to roll the crap shoot and hope that we can play well.”
Like most rivals, Cherryville and Shelby know each other well. Both teams have players from Burns High School on their rosters, and Post 82 coach Mike Grayson serves as an assistant baseball coach at Cherryville High in the spring.
Adding spice to the rivalry is Shelby`s emergence in recent years as a threat to Post 100`s dominance in the area. Under Grayson`s guidance, Post 82 won the state championship in 2001 and got to the regional final in 2002.
What`s more, Shelby has won bidding wars over Cherryville to host the 2002 Southeast Regional and this year`s state tournament.
Not that Post 100 has been a slouch. In 2003, Cherryville reached the national championship game for the second time in six years, and Post 100 put together a string of six straight Area Four division titles under Reynolds.
Right-hander Steven Justice (4-1, 2.38 ERA) will start for Cherryville in game one tonight. Lefty Chris Christensen (1-4, 3.40 ERA) will get the call in game two, and right-hander Wayne McDonald (4-1, 4.88 ERA) is the probable starter for game three on Wednesday in Shelby.
Cherryville`s pitching staff has a respectable 4.8 ERA and the team batting average is .300. The problem has been a woeful defense that has committed more than 100 errors in 24 games.
On the bright side, Post 100 made only two errors in its final three regular season games after Reynolds juggled his lineup defensively.
“The last three games, we feel we have had our best defensive lineup on the field. Hopefully, this is a series where we play well defensively,” Reynolds said.
Steven Hoyle has been Post 100`s most consistent hitter, batting at a .330 clip with two home runs and 14 RBI. Other top hitters are Brian Ebert (.345), Josh Glover (.345), Evan Wise (.340), Paul Finger (.329) and Chris Cook (.333).
The Cherryville-Shelby series is one of eight in the first round. Pineville, the No. 1 seed in the east, plays Rutherford County, No. 8 in the west, while Caldwell County, No. 1 in the west, meets Charlotte, No. 8 in the east.
The second round is July 11-15 and the third round July 17-21. Both series are best 3-of-5 formats. The Area Four championship series, a best 4-of-7 set, is July 23-29.
The Area Four champion advances to the state tournament Aug. 2-7 in Shelby.
by Amy Wadsworth