Lady Legion softball coach says increased participation is crucial

By Earl Vaughan Jr.

After taking a week off for the Fourth of July holiday, the season will end next week for the Cumberland Post 32 Lady Legion softball team.

To say it’s been a frustrating experience for head coach Stan Bagley and his team is an understatement.

The team has an 8-6 record and will close out play next week with games against Scotland Post 50 and Robeson Post 5. Those two opponents are something of a microcosm of the season for Post 32. They are 4-0 against Scotland for the year, but 0-4 against Robeson.

Bagley said the biggest problem for the Cumberland squad has been difficulty in having a full complement of players for each game on the schedule.

“I think a lot of it has to do with everybody being cooped up with COVID,’’ he said.

The result was many families planned vacations this summer to finally break free after being in various stages of quarantine while the virus was at its peak.

Bagley said the problem with having enough players for each game was exacerbated by this summer’s Legion schedule. Bagley said teams had planned to play most games on Monday and Wednesday, leaving the weekends largely free.

But for whatever reason, most games were played on Tuesday and Thursday. The Thursday games especially caused problems.

“The girls that played showcase softball were unable to play because they were traveling to their weekend destination for a game that usually started on Friday,’’ Bagley said.

Post 32 also had to deal with injuries. One of the biggest was Bagley’s daughter, Madison, a pitcher, which left him a rotation of just two regular arms, Aslynn Lupton and Jordan Knott, who both went to Gray’s Creek High School.

“Those two have done extremely well in the circle,’’ he said. “Courtney Cygan in centerfield has also done great. Ashton Fields has been consistent with her bat.’’

Fields said the season was challenging for the players, including the schedule which called for two five-inning games each day a contest was scheduled. She said it was sometimes a battle just to find enough players for all the positions.

“Defensively I was a little shaky sometimes,’’ said Fields, who played first base. “Offensively, my bat was a lot better than school season.’’

Bagley didn’t have any statistics for his team from this summer. Playing for Jack Britt during the pandemic-shortened high school season this spring, Fields batted .306 in 13 games for the Buccaneers with 12 RBIs and three extra base hits in helping her team to tie for a second-place finish in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.

Britt lost in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs to eventual state champion Wilmington Hoggard.

Bagley had an 18-player roster this season that included 14 players from his base school, Gray’s Creek.

While he expects most of the team will continue to be from Gray’s Creek, he’d like to keep spreading the word about American Legion softball to get more participation from other schools.

“With COVID being gone (next summer) it will give me the opportunity to get in contact with local coaches and help them spread the word to their players,’’ Bagley said. “We’ll hopefully encourage them to go to tryouts, so we’ll be able to put the best team out there for Cumberland County.’’

Fields said it’s important to get more high school freshmen and sophomores involved.

“That’s going to be the key for the future,’’ she said.