South Charlotte

Ex-Cougar pitcher returns for Legion ball

Ryan Wiese spent his senior year pitching to catcher Colin Manning at Charlotte Catholic for what he thought was the last time.

One year after his high school career ended, Wiese is getting another chance to throw to his former Cougar teammate.

Wiese is one of two players for the Queen City Mustangs (formerly American Legion Post 262, based out of Myers Park High) who came back to play Legion ball after a year in college.

"It's really fun when you see so many good players from all over the city coming together and playing just like we've been playing together for years," said Wiese, who just finished his freshman year as a pitcher at Lenoir-Rhyne.

East Mecklenburg's Olen Little is also playing for the team after finishing his freshman year at Wingate.

Wiese played for Post 262 last year and enjoyed it enough to come back.

"I had a ton of fun last year," he said. "It's such a loose atmosphere."

American Legion senior leagues are for players age 19 and younger. Though the teams are mostly made up of high school players, some college players who don't join summer college leagues will participate.

The Mustangs boast players from Myers Park, Charlotte Christian, Charlotte Country Day and East Mecklenburg, and four players from Wiese's former school, including Manning.

"It's kind of cool to come back and be able to play with them again," said Wiese, a 5-foot-11, 155-pound rising sophomore.

Wiese, who turns 19 on June 30, was named All-MEGA 7 as a senior in 2010, playing outfield and pitching for the Cougars. He batted .429 with 21 RBIs and had a 2.12 ERA and a 3-2 record as a senior pitcher.

As a freshman at Lenoir-Rhyne, the left-hander saw substantial playing time, starting nine games for the Bears. He finished with a 2-5 record and a 7.30 ERA with 22 strikeouts.

"Baseball kind of helped me get into the college atmosphere a lot easier, you know, when you have a close group of 40, 50 guys that immediately you had a connection with," said Wiese, who plans to major in communications to be a sports broadcaster. "I got to throw a good amount for a freshman."

Wiese said he's focused on trying to walk fewer batters (he walked 26 at Lenoir-Rhyne) and have more control over his pitches this summer.

Coach Greg Clewis said he can see the difference a year of college has made on Wiese.

"It's a year of silliness gone from that senior year," he said. Wiese is "paying more attention to what he's doing, particularly on the mound. He knows that there's some things he's trying to accomplish and some things he's working on."

So far this summer, Wiese has a 2-0 record and a 3.15 ERA in four starts. He's struck out 25 batters and walked 12.

While it helps the college players keep in shape over the summer, Clewis said, having the college players around also helps the high school players.

"You can't put a value on what they've seen from the high school to the college season," said Clewis. There are things "that they can say to the kids and they listen and pay attention, even more so than they would with me."

Wiese said the biggest difference between college ball and American Legion is the bats. This year, the NCAA required college baseball players to use a new kind of aluminum bat that performs more like wood bats. American Legion players can still use the old-style aluminum bats.

"It really makes a huge difference," he said. "It's cool to see the difference from the pitching standpoint, going from pitching to the college hitters with the (new) bats and coming here, and you can see a lot more pop with the old bats."

The Mustangs have had a solid season, taking a 13-5 record and the third-place ranking in the Area IV Eastern Division into the final weekend of the regular season. The Area IV playoffs start this week.

Wiese hopes to improve his pitching before the college year starts.

"It's definitely good to be able to get in work over the summer before I go back to school," he said.

Wiese has had some slow starts this season and is trying to work on his delivery, said Clewis, but there's no denying his talent.

"He's thrown well," said Clewis. "When he's on, he's good. He's really good."