By Maurice Patton
With only two teams available to compete for the American Legion 19U state championship, Columbia’s Post 19 and Pulaski’s Post 60 decided to make it an event.
The pair will open a best-of-5 championship series Friday night at Sam Davis Park, followed by a Saturday game at Columbia State’s Dave Hall Field, and alternate sites over the remaining three games as needed.
“I love it. I think it’s exciting,” veteran Post 60 coach Fred Aymett said. “I wish we had 10 teams playing and we were all doing best-of-3 or best-of-5.
“It’s got all the boys excited. It’s got a little bit of talk, a little bit of chatter. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Post 19 coach Scott Beasley and his team are similarly enthused about the event.
“It’ll be neat to see how a series goes,” he said. “Hopefully it’s not an every-year thing by any means.”
Two years ago, prior to American Legion not sanctioning postseason tournament play because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Seniors State Tournament involved five teams – Post 19, Post 60, Gallatin Post 17, Cookeville Post 46 and the Tennessee Patriots from Donelson Post 88.
“Gallatin ended up dropping their 19U team down to have two 17Us,” Beasley said. “Mt. Juliet’s had a team the last eight or nine years, but they fell through at the last minute. It had looked like we were destined for four or five teams, which is around the normal, and then a couple of things happened and the next thing you knew, it was us and Pulaski.”
Sporting a 15-7 record, Post 19 will have been idle for nearly 10 days – since sweeping Huntsville (Ala.) Post 237 in a July 14 doubleheader at Madison Academy – by Friday. Those are the only two games the Seniors have played since their three-day King City Classic over the second weekend in July was cut short by weather.
“I guess you can say we’ll be fresh,” Beasley said. “Obviously the hardest thing is on the hitting side, not seeing a lot of pitching for a couple of weeks. Pitching, as banged up as we been, the time off is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s really more (of an issue) on the hitting side, being in the flow of the game.
“Overall, it’s not too concerning.”
Post 19 has won both its matchups against Post 60 – taking a 12-8 decision in Pulaski on June 15 and posting a 9-4 triumph in a consolation contest of the Independence Day Classic at Spring Hill.
“It’s two programs that know each other really well,” Aymett said. “We get along, as far as rivals go, pretty well. We don’t have a choice. They’ve beat our brains in the last eight or nine years.”
While Post 60 has had its struggles this season, Aymett said this weekend will be the first time the team has had its entire roster on hand – and the team has been pointing to this series.
“We had one of those years where there was no chance to get everybody together,” he said. “We’ve been playing with bits and pieces. But we’ve been focusing on this week. We’re finally going to have our whole squad together this weekend. I’m curious to see how we do.”
The potential of a five-game series, with the winner advancing to next month’s American Legion Southeast Regional tourney in Pelham, Ala., concerns Beasley.
“Honestly, the biggest concern is getting enough quality pitching,” he said. “I think, hitting-wise, our team’s in a good position and has been hitting well. It’s just getting enough innings, especially if we get into Game 4 or Game 5, getting enough quality pitching to win in the end.”
Austin Schrengost, from Richland, will get the start for Post 60 in Friday’s 7 p.m. contest, with Grundy County product Alex Killen starting Saturday’s road game at 7. Post 19 has Dawson Hargrove and Shelton Blackwell set to go in the first two matchups.
Sunday’s game is set for a 3 p.m. start, with Monday and Tuesday contests scheduled for 6 p.m. if necessary.