Rock Hill team heads to state tourney

American Legion Post 34 players practice Monday at Rock Hill High School.
American Legion Post 34 players practice Monday at Rock Hill High School.

Poised with an experienced team and a cohesive unit, the Rock Hill Junior American Legion team looks to make some noise in the state tournament beginning Thursday afternoon in Georgetown.

Rock Hill Post 34 will join host Georgetown, Chesterfield, Florence, Sumter, and Bennettsville in the six-team, double-elimination tournament. Post 34 is coming off a 10-4 season and advanced to the state tournament with a first round bye and a sweep of Florence-Wilson in the best-of-three second round.

Rock Hill is guided by volunteer manager Kyle Leibler, a Winthrop senior from Irmo who by his own calling, looks like one of the players.

"This has been a very fun season for me with these guys," said Leibler, who has stayed busy this summer with an internship and classes in summer school.

"Each day when I am sitting in class, I look forward to getting out here on the field. It makes for some long days, but it is very rewarding working with these kids."

Assisting Leibler are Rock Hill head baseball coach Eddie Hill and Greg Adamson.

According to Leibler, Post 34 has had the successful season based on solid team play rather than riding a couple of superstar players. All but one of the 16 players on the roster are part of the Rock Hill Bearcats baseball program.

A trio of players has aided the effort. Catcher Ross Lesie is batting an unbelievable .691, while Jessie Brewer has been the leading pitcher.

Shortstop Seth Neely has had two walk off hits in clutch situations, but the team has still been successful without Neely for the past week as he has been out of town watching his brother play in Cooperstown.

Neely will miss the opening round match up against Georgetown, but is expected to be present for the remainder of the tournament. With Neely out for the first game, it puts a little more pressure on Rock Hill to win and stay in the winners bracket, but the players seem confident that will not be a problem.

"We have played a little shorthanded all season," said centerfielder and rising Bearcat senior Jeff Bowers. "We are very excited to get down there to represent Rock Hill and Post 34 and are looking forward to playing all weekend, hopefully ending with a Sunday afternoon championship celebration."

Post 34 has played two of the teams in the field, beating Chesterfield and losing both ends of a double header to favorite Sumter. Despite the losses, Post 34 played Sumter very close, losing by a combined four runs in the two games.

Rock Hill will have one final practice today, but will be without Leiber, who is taking his personal vacation time to go to the tournament and will meet the team in Georgetown Thursday after relaxing at North Myrtle beach for a couple of days.

"I can't wait for the kids to get down there," Leibler said. "Sumter is the team to beat, but we have the team that can knock them off if we can play like we are capable of. Hopefully, we can stay in the winner's bracket and bring home the trophy."