By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Lincoln County Post 455 had its best season to date last summer. With its season scheduled to open on Sunday, that’s about all longtime coach Bruce Bolick is sure of at the moment.
The Cardinals, who qualified for their first trip to the American Legion N.C. state tournament in 2013, will open the season Sunday with a doubleheader in Granite Falls against Caldwell County Post 29 beginning at 5 p.m.
There will be a game –– at least one, Bolick said –– but who will be in uniform and who will be available has yet to be determined due to the high school baseball playoffs and the wrap-up of college seasons.
“We’re up in the air of who we have, really,” Bolick said. “I’ve got an idea … we’ve got some names, so we’ll see what happens.”
A few of those names are playmakers from last summer’s squad that went 21-16 and finished as the Area IV runner-up –– the team’s highest finish to date.
Although the Cardinals’ actual roster isn’t totally finalized, Bolick said, Justin Norton (Catawba Valley Community College, North Lincoln), Nick Savoie (East Lincoln), Bradley Hallman (SouthLake Christian), Tyger McRee (Maiden), Bryan Seymour (North Lincoln), Nathaniel Scoggins (Lincoln Charter), J.T. Bowden (Lincolnton) and Zac Reeder (North Lincoln) return as some of the program’s most decorated players in its 23-year history.
Six players from last year’s squad aged out, and all but one are currently on a college roster: Hayden Deal, Darin Salter, David Scoggins, Jacob Hoover, Danny Sullivan and Randal Ortiz.
Sullivan, last year’s Area IV Player of the Year, hit an area-best .469 with 42 RBIs over the course of the season, and hit .519 in the playoffs with a pair of grand slams.
While Bolick knew those six wouldn’t be returning, he’ll miss one player he was counting on –– at least for part of the season.
Clay Hodges, a 2013 East Lincoln graduate who is at CVCC along with Norton, Sullivan and Hoover, had surgery this week to repair a hernia, Bolick said, and will miss a majority of the regular season.
“That’ll be a big loss. Hopefully we’ll get him back before the regular season’s over,” Bolick said.
A new face to the team this year will be Patrick Benfield. Benfield, who graduated from East Lincoln and played for Bolick’s final high school team in 2003, will be an assistant coach this summer. Benfield will take the place of Philip Loftin, who, after nine years beside Bolick with the Cardinals, is the first-year head coach and general manager of the upstart Mooresville Spinners, a wooden bat college summer league team.
Hoover, Salter and Sullivan will play for the Spinners, who begin their season May 24.
With what was accomplished last summer, Bolick knows expectations heading into this season are high. But all the longtime coach wants his team to do is what it has done the past few seasons and that’s keep improving.
After all, that’s what got the Cardinals to Wilson last July.
“We just hope to continue to improve. We’ve been improving, and really (last year) was a combination of experienced players and good players. There are some good players in Lincoln County,” Bolick said.
As far as the season starting Sunday, Bolick knows whatever players he has will begin their legion season at 5 o’clock. And that’s all he’s sure of right now.
“We’re just waiting. We always do that,” he said. “I guess we are up in the air.”