American Legion softball is a rapidly growing circuit across the state of North Carolina, and the fast-pitch fever has officially caught on here in McDowell County.
McDowell Post 56 is expanding its sports outreach this summer as the post has officially added a fast-pitch softball program for the 2019 season. McDowell is one of several upstart programs this year adding on to what is a fast-growing system across the state.
Legion fast-pitch was initiated back in 2017 and featured just 10 teams on the state level the first year. Fast forward two years and Legion fast-pitch has received a commitment for more than 40 different programs to field Senior Legion teams this year, McDowell being one of them.
First-year head coach Hal Baker sees this as being the perfect time for McDowell County to get involved in Legion softball.
“There is a lot of momentum right now at the state level with Legion fast-pitch,” said Baker. “It’s an honor to be a part of the first Legion team for Post 56. This is going to give our girls locally at this age a chance at playing in the summer against what I feel will be quality competition, not only within our division, but if you advance to state tournament play.”
The McDowell roster will feature 16 players on it, all but one with ties to the county. The roster will also feature one player from Buncombe County as the program’s charter includes that area. There are no planned Legion programs to open up in 2019 west of McDowell County.
The post 56 schedule will consist of 20 games over a period of roughly six weeks. All game nights will feature two, five-inning contests. McDowell will play other local programs from Burke, Caldwell, Watauga and other counties in the western part of the state. Big League Camp is the official host for all Post 56 games this season. The season debut will be on Tuesday as McDowell will host Watauga at 7 p.m. A Western All-Star game will also be played on July 18 at a site to be determined.
The winner of the Western Division will advance to the Legion state tournament on Aug. 12 in Shelby. The winner of each of the five divisions across the state will gather in Shelby for a chance to claim the State Championship. Concord Post 51 has won the state title in both of the first two seasons that a champion has been crowned.
McDowell will also field a junior squad that will also be playing its home games at Big League Camp.
The Post 56 Senior Legion roster includes three McDowell High alumni, current Lees-McRae player Lauren Hudgins, infielder Parker Brown and former Lady Titan utility player Bailey Elliott.
Current McDowell graduates Candace Cooper and Laynie Hudgins and several current members of the Lady Titans program are playing, including Taylor Morgan, Lucy Hames, Avery Jordan, Logan Lilly, Maggie Rometti, Madi Smith, Maggie Rader, Jaden Shuford, Sarah Tucker, as well as local player Katie Baker. The final member of the Post 56 roster is T.C. Roberson rising sophomore Kally Fowler.
Assisting Baker this season are Robert Smith, David Hames and Richard Rader.
McDowell Post 56 softball schedule
June 11 Watauga
June 13 @Wilkes
June 18 Lincoln
June 20 Hickory
June 25 @Burke
June 27 @Lincoln
July 9 @Hickory
July 11 Burke
July 18 @All-Star Game (TBA)
July 23 @Watauga
July 25 Wilkes
All games begin at 7 p.m. and are doubleheaders
Home games will be played at Big League Camp