CHERRYVILLEâ€”Depending on your point of view, there are two ways to look at the recently completed season of Cherryville Post 100.
The pessimist would say that Cherryville underachieved with a seventh place finish in a 10-team division and a barely above .500 overall record (15-14).
The optimist would say that Post 100 played its best baseball at the end of the season and, with 14 of 18 players eligible to return, should be much improved in 2005.
One thing is undisputed: Post 100 was a better team in the Area Four playoffs than in the 24 games leading up to the postseason. The No. 7 seed in the Eastern Division, Cherryville extended No 2 Western Division seed Shelby to five games in the opening round, losing two games by one run each.
It was a series Post 100 could easily have won, and Cherryville`s showing looked even more impressive after Shelby went on to sweep the Gaston Braves in three games in this week`s quarterfinal round.
After committing more than 100 errors during the regular season, Post 100 played respectable defense in the series. Coach Bobby Reynolds moved Justin Keever to shortstop three games before the end of the regular season, and that move shored up the error-prone infield.
One pleasant development was the emergence of Steven Hoyle, a rising junior at Cherryville High School. Hoyle was Post 100`s most consistent hitter in the regular season, batting .330 with two homers and 14 RBIs. A designated hitter and infielder, Hoyle led the team in at-bats (97), hits (32), RBIs (14) and tied three other players for the most doubles (5).
In addition, Hoyle struck out only four times in the regular season, far and away the team low.
Other top hitters were third baseman Josh Day (.447), catcher Josh Glover (.345), infielder Paul Finger (.329), outfielder Evan Wise (.340), outfielder Brian Ebert (.349), and infielder Chris Cook (.333). All but Ebert are eligible next season.
The team batting average during the regular season was a solid .300, but Post 100 could not score runs in bunches as in the past. The long ball threat was not there as Cherryville hit only 10 home runs in 808 at-bats.
Based on the statistics, the team`s strong point was pitching. The staff ERA was 4.82, and the three-man rotation of Steven Justice, Chris Christensen and Wayne McDonald was effective more times than not.
Justice, who can return next summer if he so chooses, led the way with a 2.38 ERA and a 4-1 regular season record.
Christensen had a much better season than his 1-4 record indicates. He had a 3.40 ERA and an excellent strikeout to innings pitched ratio (50 to 37).
Wayne McDonald, a righthander from Burns, was 4-1 with a 4.886 ERA.
In the playoffs, Glover went 7-for-16 and outfielder Daniel Scronce went 5-for-11 to lead the offense. Hoyle went 0-for-4 in Game 5 and wound up 6-for-22 for the series.
Other players who had noteworthy playoff series were Wise (5-for-18), Cook (4-for-14) and Finger (6-for-20, three RBI and a home run).
On a disappointing note, lead-off batter Day struggled in the playoffs, going 1-for-18 against Shelby pitching.
Justice was 0-2 in the playoffs, but one of his losses was a 1-0 decision in 10 innings. Christensen had a complete game win and also pitched well as a starter in game five. Keever won game three in relief and pitched three shutout innings in a 2-1 loss in game five.
Looking ahead to next summer, the major losses will be Christensen from the starting pitching rotation and Keever`s versatility as a pitcher, outfielder and infielder. Outfielders Ebert and Bo Bridges also used up their eligibility.
After the last game, Reynolds said no one is guaranteed a spot on the team next season, and much will depend on how much players are able to improve. Several of Post 100`s graduated seniors plan to play college baseball or at least try to make a squad as a walk-on.
There should be fierce competition for spots on the team next year with Cherryville landing the state tournament and the automatic berth that goes with it.
by Mike Powell