American Legion softball undergoes a few changes this year

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

Two years and one global pandemic removed from winning the North Carolina Lady Legion softball state championship, Cumberland Bombers Post 32 coach Stan Bagley returns six players from that title team to take another crack at bringing home a title.

But Bagley and the rest of the girls’ American Legion softball teams around the state will be dealing with some changes this year, most notably in the game’s rules.

To make the sport more of an asset to players hoping to continue their careers at the college level, Lady Legion softball will now play using the NCAA rule book. Bagley said the biggest change there is the substitution rules for using pinch runners for the pitcher and catcher aren’t as liberal as they are at the high school level.

Bagley said the college rule can only be used once to allow a pitcher or catcher to re-enter the lineup. Any more uses in a single game and the player substituted for is out for good.

Cumberland is scheduled for a 16-game regular season that will feature doubleheaders each night the team plays. All home games will be held at South View High School’s Eddie Dees Field.

Bagley said the thinking behind the doubleheaders is to allow teams to carry a greater number of players so that more of them will get a chance to play during the season.

Teams from Scotland and Montgomery Counties have joined the local league that also includes Cumberland, Robeson and Hoke.

Bagley’s team is still top-heavy with players from Gray’s Creek, making up 14 of the 18 on the roster. The only other schools represented are Jack Britt, Cape Fear and South View.

Under the current rules, Bagley said he can draw players from any school in the county, but he expects that to change by next summer.

The six returnees for Cumberland include infielder Ashton Fields of Jack Britt, utility player Alyssa Norton of Britt, and Gray’s Creek players Madi Bagley on the mound, Jaden Pone infield, Courtney Cygan utility and Emma Cobb infield.

Bagley expects the trio of Pone, Cygan and Madi Bagley to be crucial to Cumberland’s bid to repeat. “Madison will be on the mound, Jaden controlling the infield and Courtney the outfield,’’ he said.

He will also count heavily on the bat of Fields, calling her a consistent hitter who can put the ball in play whenever it’s needed.

Two other Gray’s Creek players Bagley will be counting on are Aslynn Lupton as a reserve pitcher and Morgan Brady to shore up heavy losses in the outfield.

Among the area teams, Bagley expects to get most of his competition from Robeson County, which will be dominated by players from a successful Purnell Swett High School team.

Statewide, the biggest threat might come from the Wilmington squad that will feature stars from Hoggard High School’s state 4-A championship team.

“The biggest key is the girls have to show up, have fun and play the level of softball they are capable of playing,’’ he said. “I’ve got a good feeling this team will make a good run.’’

Hope Mills Boosters won’t field team

For a second straight summer, the Hope Mills Boosters American Legion baseball team will not be fielding a squad.

Mark Kahlenberg, head coach of the Boosters for the last few years, noted that state American Legion officials do not plan to alter their schedule for the postseason, which means American Legion baseball playoffs will begin around the week of July 4th.

Because the N.C. High School Athletic Association delayed the start of its baseball season until April 26 because of the pandemic, the high school regular season won’t end until about mid-June.

Kahlenberg said that won’t offer enough regular season games to make the financial commitment to a season worthwhile. The Legion program counts heavily on high school seniors to fill its roster, and with them unavailable until mid-June they won’t have enough numbers.

CUMBERLAND POST 32

SOFTBALL SCHEDULE

All games listed below are doubleheaders, with tentative game times each night at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.:

All Post 32 home games will be played at South View’s Eddie Dees Field.

June 1 – at Hoke Post 50, 3 – at Scotland Post 50, 8 – Robeson Post 5, 22 – at Montgomery Post 159, 24 – Hoke Post 50, 29 – Scotland Post 50.

July 1 – at Robeson Post 5, July 13 – Montgomery Post 59.