The American Legion Post 20 baseball program had a great 2012 season under first year head coach Mack Hite, winning the League 7 title and making a playoff run that included a berth in the state tournament. Their efforts were recognized and rewarded with a trip to the prestigious North Carolina vs. South Carolina Challenge, a tournament that pits the top three programs in South Carolina against the top three programs in North Carolina.
The competition at the Challenge will be tough again in 2013, with Florence, who won the Southeast regional tournament and played in the World Series in 2012, and Sumter who also made a deep playoff run in 2012. The top three programs from North Carolina are Wilmington, Kernersville and Randolph County. The tournament is scheduled for June 21-23 in Sumter.
“It’s an honor to be selected to play in the Challenge,” Hite said of his team’s selection. “We want to play the best teams in our region and this tournament features the best three teams in both states.”
American Legion Post 20 athletic director Dale Kittles echoed Hite’s sentiment.
“These are the best teams in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Kittles said. “We look forward to going down to Sumter and competing with five other great programs. I consider it an honor to be viewed among the three best programs in South Carolina.”
While Hite and Kittles are excited about the Challenge, they are even more excited about what the 72nd year of Post 20 baseball has in store for 2013. Greenwood will play host to a preseason tournament May 24-26 that will feature six teams from across the state and a mid-season showcase tournament featuring League 7 teams.
In addition to the three new tournaments in 2013, the Braves will again play a home-and-home series against Hendersonville as they did in 2012. They have also added a home-and-home series with Sumter.
“We want to play more games this year,” Hite said. “It will be a busy summer, but we feel that playing more games against some of the top competition in the region will help us be a better team when the playoffs get here. We want to go further than we did last year in the playoffs.”
The lofty goals and high expectations will have to be handled without the services of 2012 pitching coach Matt Baker, who is also the pitching coach at Greenwood High School and widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the area. Baker’s replacement is Saluda High School assistant coach Nate Horton. Norton played his high school ball at Byrnes and was a standout catcher at Presbyterian College.
“Coach Horton is a great ball player and a great coach,” Hite said of his new coach. “We will miss Coach Baker, but Coach Horton will step in and I don’t think we’ll see much difference. They are both top-caliber coaches.”
The Legion baseball season begins May 24.