When Post 455â€™s Bruce Bolick recollects his 2004 American Legion team he wonâ€™t remember their 2-16 record. Heâ€™ll remember how hard his team played the game.
â€œThey are a good bunch of kids and I thought we got good effort all summer. They were competitive every game except three or four in a very fast league,â€ he said.
With the team riddled by youth and inexperience Bolick believes the learning curve was bigger.
â€œA lot of them were in their first year and thatâ€™s a big adjustment. Colby Burgin was the only returning starter from last year. Actually only three of them (Brandon Scott, Alex Loftin and Burgin) had any legion experience at all,â€ he said.
Burgin, a former standout at Lincolnton and Alex Loftin, a rising star at North Lincoln earned the squadâ€™s only two pitching victories.
Burgin also led the squad at plate with batting at a .396 clip (21 hits out of 53 at-bats). Current Lincolnton star Will Fox (16-50) tied for second with Loftin (24-75).
Bolick was particularly impressed with Burginâ€™s leadership.
â€œBurgin was our main man. He had an excellent offensive year. He was pretty consistent the whole year, but really got hot at the end of the year. The thing about Colby is he can hit good pitching,â€ he said.
Loftin finished with the most RBIs on the year with eight. Fox, Burgin and former West Lincoln performer Brandon Jones had seven RBIs apiece.
First baseman Fox also lead the club with nine walks. Jones had eight.
Fox scored the most runs for Post 455 with 12 on the summer. Burgin finished with eight, while Loftin and Lincolnton senior-to-be Dustin Weaver each had seven.
The Denver coach believes Fox and Loftin both demonstrated their ability to succeed despite their age.
â€œBoth of them having never been a starter in American Legion, it was an excellent year because most people in their first year struggle. They have shown the ability to hit against the highest level of pitching at this age,â€ Bolick said.
One of the two wins they earned on the season came against perennial powerhouse Post 100 of Cherryville. The victory was bitter-sweet for Bolick.
â€œAny win is good, but a rivalry type win is special. The kids just know each other, so that was a big game. I would have traded that win for three or four more wins to make the playoffs. I donâ€™t know if you can relish one win, but our goal next year is to obviously make the playoffs,â€ he said.
A standout on the defensive side of the ball was centerfielder Jones.
â€œBrandon Jones had an outstanding year in center field. He was probably our best defensive player. Heâ€™s a pretty good high school pitcher, but we werenâ€™t able to use him until the last couple of games because of shoulder problems,â€ Bolick said.
Brandon Scott and Brent Gates conclude their American Legion career. Scottâ€™s highlight was recording two base hits in his final contest. Gates had a two-RBI double against Post 100 to win the game and put an exclamation point at the end of his career.
Another highlight for Post 455 was Matt Kusterâ€™s two-homerun five RBI game.
Next year 14-16 players return with five having three more years left of legion eligibility. Bolick has high hopes for that reason and one more.
â€œThatâ€™s promising, but itâ€™s also promising that there are other good young players in our district and hopefully they will come out next year.â€by John Mark Brooks