South Charlotte

Familiarity has made team strong

Many members of the Union County American Legion Post 535 baseball team have played against each other.

Some have played together on other teams, and a few are longtime friends and former high school teammates.

Those ties have made them successful, surprised their coach and propelled them up the standings.

"It was almost instantaneous," said Post 535 head coach Alan Mitchell, a Piedmont assistant coach. "From the first time we got together as a team, they were laughing and starting conversations together. They have meshed so well and so quickly."

The team, which consists of graduating seniors and some who graduated last year, is in second place in its division, with a 13-5 record. They are coming off a stretch of eight games in six days. Earlier this season they played 12 games in 12 days.

"The thing with legion ball is, these guys come from all over the region to play for us. They really want to be here, and playing all of those games are fun for them," Mitchell said.

"What has separated us is our pitching and defense. Everyone can hit in this league, so you have to get them out and not make mistakes. We have been able to do that."

Parkwood's Craig Brooks, Jordan Newsome from Weddington and Marvin Ridge's Brian Peart all have pitched well.

"I knew Craig and had seen a lot of Jordan, and they have been great. I didn't know too much about Brian, but every time we run him out there he has been great," Mitchell said.

The middle of the defense, with J.C. Howze (Marvin Ridge) at second, Brooks at short and Brad Elwood (Piedmont) in center field, has also been a strength.

The team has been pretty good offensively, and in addition to Elwood, Mitchell said, he has been impressed with Weddington's Alex Morales and Marvin Ridge's Hunter Heirs.

Next up is a three-out-of-five playoff series. The American Legion World Series is Aug. 12-16 in Shelby, and Post 535 would love to be there.

Either way, their year has been successful, said Mitchell.

"It is so easy to coach this bunch. They are eager to get out there and they are a very talented bunch," Mitchell said.

"I get a lot of these guys back next year, and that will be great.

"I have really enjoyed coaching this group."