Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Jul. 3—PEMBROKE — The Robeson County Post 5 American Legion team played its first game on June 1. It was July 1 before they lost a game.

Post 5 won its first 13 games in its inaugural season, ending its undefeated start Thursday with a 1-0 loss to Scotland Post 50.

The strong start came even after the team had very little time together in preparation for the season.

“It’s somewhat a surprise,” coach Jamie Dover said. “We had a bunch of girls coming from different schools, different philosophies, that type of thing, and for them to come together so quickly with very little practice — we’ve practiced a few times, but we had the whole team together for two practices before the season started. It’s surprising in a way, because we play good competition — our whole division is good competition — but based on how the girls have come together it doesn’t surprise me.”

“Every day in practice, (the coaches) work us,” Chan Locklear said. “If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be in the position we are right now. I don’t know what it is — we’re just a good team altogether.”

Legion softball is young in the state of North Carolina, with a Legion program statewide starting in 2017. But the competition level is already strong, making Post 5’s 13-1 start all the more impressive.

“There’s been some tight games,” Dover said. “We’ve had some close games, we’ve had some that weren’t so close, but when everybody’s going at it full speed, No. 1 team vs. No. 1 team on the field, it’s been some really good games. Of course the way I look at it, our team and the other team, we can play any of our players and feel like they’re all No. 1s — I consider our whole roster to be No. 1 players.”

“It’s good competition,” Santana Anderson said. “The teams — this one (Wednesday night against Cumberland Post 32), they gave us a good game. Good competition, good pitching and the defense, they definitely did their thing.”

The Post 5 team cites a strong team chemistry as one of the reasons it is playing so well. While about half the team comes from the Purnell Swett program, the team also includes players from Fairmont, Lumberton, East Columbus, West Bladen and Lakewood.

“I knew some of them from travel ball, but the girls on this team, they are so friendly; you can be somebody that they don’t even know, and they’ll just come up and have a conversation with you,” Anderson said. “So they are very friendly and outgoing.”

While that rapport makes the games fun, Dover said it also helps the team play better.

“It does help,” Dover said. “I always go back to what it’s about too; it’s about us playing as a team, thinking about our veterans, our Legion. And it’s also about the girls coming together; they’ve come together well, and gelled together and they have a good attitude, a teamwork attitude. I get a little more serious sometimes, and the girls have a little more of a looser attitude sometimes, but when it comes down to the wire, when it’s time to get serious they know when to get serious.”

Post 5’s bats have been explosive throughout the season; despite playing five-inning games as part of doubleheaders each game day, they’ve posted double-digit run totals in several games. Anderson, Chan Locklear, Karli Godwin, Marijo Wilkes, Angelica Locklear, Kaitlyn Locklear, Syniah Lancaster and others have been key offensive players.

“We always tell our girls try to score early, that takes a little pressure off your pitchers, and it allows us as coaches to call more aggressive-type pitches,” Dover said. “When you’re ahead you don’t have to be pinpoint every pitch; you can sort of be a little more proactive, a little more aggressive. Even at bat you can be more aggressive because it’s not a tight game. We try to say get out early, get a big lead early and that way we can be more loose as we play ball.”

The pitching has been just as strong, with three pitchers throwing at an ace level in Chan Locklear, Ava Jacobs and Halona Sampson.

“We’ve had some key plays on defense and our pitching has done great,” Dover said. “They’ve hit their spots, very few walks and they give our defense a chance to back them up. We’ve had some big hits.”

The success of the pitching and offense comes as they feed off each other.

“When I see that they’re hustling on and off the field, it makes me do better as a pitcher, when I know they’ve got my back, and hitting and stuff,” Chan Locklear said. “It just makes me want to go out there and do good for myself, and make them feel proud because they don’t have to work as hard.”

While there haven’t been many close games, Post 5 had made the plays to pull out wins in all of them outside of the one-run loss Thursday. This includes a walk-off single in Wednesday’s game against Cumberland Post 32, coming from a 1-0 deficit in the fifth inning, their final at-bat, to win.

“We just didn’t give up; we kept going,” Anderson said. “We had a strong mindset not to give up and just to keep striving for better, and the win.”

“They’re resilient. They get in so many pressure situations, after a while you learn to do that; it doesn’t just happen,” Dover said. “But a lot of these girls, they want to win, they want to play hard and they have great parent support.”

Post 5 will play two nonconference games Wednesday in Wilmington before finishing off their league slate the following week. The Area 2 playoffs begin July 19, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.

That’s the goal Post 5 continues to work towards.

“Work — hard times, easy times, we just work,” Locklear said. “We work together, we had to figure it out, because we really want to win.”

Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.