By Andrew Stark
The Mint Hill Army Seniors American Legion baseball team is riddled with all-stars from throughout the southern Mecklenburg and Union County area. While the team’s collective talent is a luxury for coach Stu Brown, it puts his players in an uncommon situation that often has them playing out of position, batting in different spots in the lineup or having to make other adjustments.
But Brown said the players definitely understand what’s expected of them and are more than willing to accept their roles as they chase an Eastern Division championship in Area IV.
“Guys on our bench could be batting in the three- or four-hole on other teams,” Brown said. “And most of our bottom-of-the-order guys are hitting second, third or fourth on their high school teams, so there’s a lot of talent, even though we ask them to do some things they may not be accustomed to doing.”
Brown pointed to a recent Legion game in which Catawba College signee Malachi Hanes and Charlotte 49ers commit Logan Sherer laid down sacrifice bunts resulting in runs.
“It’s very rare to have the Malachi Haneses and Logan Sherers of the world laying down sacrifice bunts,” Brown said. “They may have never been asked to do it before because they can really hit, but for us, they did it, and we’re fortunate to have a team full of team-first guys.”
Although the Army’s record dropped to 3-3 with an 11-4 loss to the Gaston Braves on June 4, with 23 scheduled games to play in a little more than a month and with the Army’s collection of talent, the team should be among those favored to compete for the league championship.
Sherer, a recent East Mecklenburg graduate, leads the team with a .409 batting average and seven RBIs, but many other players have helped the Army Seniors average more than eight runs per game.
Hanes, a recent Butler High graduate, is hitting .368 and has scored a team-high eight runs. Matt Simmons, a Charlotte Christian graduate who is slated to play for Gardner-Webb University, has two home runs.
Mars Hill College player Dalton Eisenbath, a former Butler star, has a home run and seven RBIs. Covenant Day’s Taylor Stewart and Garrett Vaughn, who’ll both play at Lenoir-Rhyne, have made key contributions, but that’s something Brown said is commonplace for the Army.
“Especially early in the season, it’s a time for us to put guys in different spots and see where they can play and what exactly we have,” Brown said. “The early part of the season is for that, and we’ve done it by using (11) pitchers this year so far. But when we get into our conference schedule, that’s when we have to buckle down and play our best.”
Despite losing their first conference game, Brown said he and his players are ready to see how good they can be.
“They’re excited about it,” Brown said. “The guys look around and can see how neat it is to be playing with guys of this caliber, and they want to be a part of what we’re trying to do here.
“We’re very fortunate. We have some really good players, and we will be a factor in the playoffs.”