Summer legion baseball season is underway for Rock Hill and Fort Mill, and both teams have the same goal: win a state championship.
Rock Hill Post 34 is looking to return to the state championship game after losing to Florence last year.
Fort Mill Post 43 returned to the state playoffs last year. It was the first time since 2001.
Here is a rundown of how the teams are doing:
Head coach Jeremy McCoy says the motivation is there for his team to get back to the title game.
“Last year was a big year for us,” McCoy said. “It was a second year in a row we made it to the state tournament. And then we did get to the actual state championship game, winner take all against Florence, and really man, I loved our enthusiasm. I loved the way we worked last year and that was a goal of ours especially.
"We had two out of three teams in Rock Hill that went to (high school) state championships, (with) South Pointe getting beat in in the state championship and Northwestern winning the 5A state title. So, I think it kind of put some hunger with those guys and it made them hungry to do it. So when we got to the state tournament last year, we played really well. We were one unit.
"It was pretty fun to watch, and then we just ran into a Florence team. We just ran into a buzz saw. We couldn't buy a hit. ... So we look forward to the challenge of trying to get back there. It’s a tough road but we're excited about it.”
McCoy says he likes the way his team is playing.
“Offense is definitely ahead of pitching right now, which is kind of weird because pitching at this point ... that's usually ahead," McCoy said. "So we've got to get a little more out of our pitchers, but offensively I like what we’re doing.”
McCoy has several players who are either headed to play in college, or already are playing, and they’ve been key contributors. The team is currently 4-2
Former Northwestern football and baseball star Jordan Starkes, who will attend Furman University in the fall, said he wants to win the state title for Arthur Schwing, also known as “Buck.” Schwing, the athletic officer for Rock Hill American Legion Post 34, lost his wife, Jean to Alzheimer’s.
“We want to win it for Buck. Last year, we made it to the championship game and lost it and everybody was real emotional after that so, we wanted to bring it back for Buck and we’ve got a good squad,” Starkes said.
Starkes says playing in the summer has it benefits.
"Always good seeing a lot of pitching, more (at-bats). We’re going to see some good arms this year,” Starkes said.
Starkes said he knows this season can be a special one.
“I feel like we’ve got it this year," he said. "We just got to stick together and just power through. We know it’s going to be a rough road, tough road, but we just got to keep moving forward to get through it.”
R.J. Petit will play for coach Adam Ward at Charleston Southern in the fall. Legion baseball is something new for Petit.
“I didn’t play last year with this team, but it’s been fun to be out here with these guys. We’re all hungry. We all want to win. We all know how to win, so really, just having a good time with everybody and winning some baseball games,” Petit said.
Fort Mill is currently 5-1 and coach Tom Skula has had plenty of star power.
“On the mound, Noah Griffin, Logan Stone have been key contributors for us," Skula said. "At the plate, Joey Tepper, Alex Stennant, Greg Izzo, Daniel Gueldner are key contributors so far.
“We haven't had to deal with a lot of vacations yet. We've only had one kid that's really been on vacation. But we have about six, seven guys back from last year."
Tepper said he has a lot to work on as the season progresses.
I’m trying to .... use the whole field and drive in runs to the middle of the lineup, three-four, trying to drive in a lot of runs and get on base,” Tepper said.
Alex Stennant said the pieces to the puzzle are coming together.
“We have a common goal that we ... want to achieve,” Stennant said. “I’ve been feeling pretty confident at the plate, we've been seeing some good pitchers compared to what you normally see in high school, so that has been an adjustment but I feel like me and my high school teammates have made the adjustment so far.”