August is when football fields at high schools around Central Virginia are bustling with activity, with the start of a new season approaching. But on Monday night, the baseball diamond at one local schools was still being put to good use.
The American Legion baseball team from Albemarle Post 74 got in one final practice at Albemarle High School on Monday. The team leaves Wednesday morning for the Southeast Region Tournament in Asheboro, North Carolina.
"It's pretty weird. A couple of our guys went out for football, and I'm hoping the football coach understands that we're committed to baseball right now, until it's over," Post 74 manager Mike Maynard said. "And we'll see where that takes us."
Post 74 advanced to the regional tournament with a perfect 4-0 run to win the state Legion title last week. Albemarle outscored its opponents 51-5 in that tournament, capped by Friday's 12-1 win over Danville Post 325 to clinch the team's first-ever state title.
"Probably, out of a scale of 1 to 100, we're probably at 110 percent confidence right now," said shortstop Jordan Gentry, who played on William Monroe's 2012 state title team. "Hitting the ball, I don't even know how to explain it. I'm at a loss for words with how good we're hitting the ball."
Post 74 will be one of eight teams competing at the double-elimination Southeast Region Tournament. They'll open play at 12:30 p.m. Thursday against a team from Jacksonville, Fla.
According to Maynard, the team from Jacksonville won the final two games of the Florida state tournament by identical 1-0 scores.
"Our approach has to be the same," said Post 74 catcher Connor Lilley, a Monticello alum. "We've got to stay loose. And off the field, we can't take anything too seriously. Then when we get to the game, we were very sharp during the state tournament. And we need to keep that intensity up."
"We're not going to change anything we're doing," said Maynard, who also coached that state title team at William Monroe. "We're fast, we throw strikes, and we have a pretty good defense. We're going to lay down some bunts, we're going to hit-and-run."
"In the state tournament we executed really well. It seemed like everything we tried to do, worked. And we know that's not going to happen, but that was fun to see."