Post 21 junior Legion squad ready for tourney
By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER — After advancing to the state tournament last year and coming up short, Winchester Post 21’s junior league coaching staff decided they needed to have a tougher regular season schedule.
This season the Winchester team has taken some losses, but they hope the tougher schedule will pay off.
“Last year was our first year at states and we were like, ‘Wow, these teams are a lot better than the teams we’re playing right now,'” Winchester assistant coach Cody Smallwood said. “So we knew we had to start playing better competition.
“We knew if we get to states, we need to see more teams that are the caliber of teams that we’ll see down there.”
Winchester takes its first step toward earning another state berth today as the District 16 Junior League Tournament begins. Winchester is hosting the double-elimination tournament and plays in the first game tonight at 7:30 p.m. against Post 10 Manassas.
The four-team tournament lasts all weekend, with the finals being held Sunday. The other two teams in the tournament are Stafford 290 Virginians and Stafford 290 Patriots.
Winchester is the top seed and the favorite in the tournament. They went undefeated in district play.
With the tough schedule Winchester started off 2-4-1, with losses to teams from outside of the state. Winchester then reeled off nine consecutive wins. They finished the regular season with an 18-7-1 record. Post 21 played mostly Maryland and West Virginia teams in their non-district schedule.
Sherando rising junior Connor Stevenson has led the way at the plate. He is hitting .641 (25-for-39) with two home runs and 19 RBIs. Winchester has five players hitting .400 or better, and has a team batting average of .363.
Winchester’s pitching has also been stellar this season. The team has four pitchers with at least 18 innings pitched that have an ERA under 2.00. The team ERA is 2.93.
Being at home should also be an advantage for Winchester.
“It’s really nice for us,” Smallwood said. “We can sleep in our own beds for the whole tournament.”
If Post 21 wins the district tournament they would play in the state tournament, which runs from Aug. 1-5 in Richmond. Last year Post 21 finished third in the state tournament.
Smallwood said the team is excited for the district tournament and for the postseason to begin.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge of coming out here and doing what we should be able to do and going to states — that’s the goal,” Smallwood said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org