FRONT ROYAL – The weather has taken a toll on Front Royal Post 53’s American Legion team this season, but it hasn’t dampened the team’s expectations and potential.

Post 53 played only its second game of the season on Thursday, a 3-1 loss to Ashburn Post 2001, but the players were still feeling very optimistic after the defeat.

“It looks like a good team – being around them,” Strasburg High School rising junior Trevor Sager said after Thursday’s loss. “We have a lot of talent. A lot of good players from each of the teams around the area. And we have a lot of potential.”

The team consists of players who either still go to school or have graduated from Central, Skyline, Strasburg and Warren County.

Hunter Wines, a 2018 Warren County graduate, said he played on the legion team last year and feels much better about this year’s squad.

“I think it’s a closer atmosphere,” he said. “We’re all good friends. Last year’s team wasn’t as tight. This year I like it a lot better.”

Post 53 manager Rick Almarode said that one of the team’s biggest strengths will be the pitching. Strasburg rising sophomore Justin Day pitched the first four innings on Thursday, before being relieved by 2018 Warren County graduate Jacob Dodson. Both Day and Dodson are lefties as is 2018 Central graduate Luke Estep.

“I also got a bunch of right-handers too that can throw,” Almarode said. “If we pitch well and play defense, Lord knows where we could end up. We could be in the thick of things, we really could.”

Almarode said once the team starts getting into the heart of the season, he is hoping to use 2018 Skyline graduate Matt Rutherford as a set-up man out of the bullpen and then use fellow 2018 Skyline graduate Trenton King in the closer role.

“That’s two hard throwers back-to-back that you’re going to have to be on your game to hit it,” Almarode said.

The offense struggled Thursday against Post 2001, managing only five hits and stranding eight runners on base throughout the game.

It was Front Royal’s first game in 16 days, and the players said the time off definitely affected them at the plate.

“It is really hard to get in a rhythm,” Wines said. “You throw and your arm’s tired because you haven’t thrown in a while. It’s hard to swing the bat too because you really haven’t seen the ball. But you’ll get used to it after a while. It don’t take that long.”

Post 53 (1-1) will have plenty of chances to get into a rhythm in the next week. Front Royal is scheduled to play six games over the next seven days.

In Thursday’s loss to Ashburn, Sager had two hits and an RBI and Wines had two hits. Day allowed just four hits in four innings, while Dodson gave up two hits in three innings.

Almarode said that the chemistry on the team has been great so far.

“They’ve got along real well,” he said. “Even on (Post 53’s) junior team – same way – they got along real well. A lot of them look forward to it. They play over here for the summer and then go back and play high school. And then when they play each other (in high school) they have that friendship that they’ve developed and its good for them. It’s good for baseball.”