Positive attitudes paying off for Wildflowers as postseason nears

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

No matter where manager Doug Mitchell instructs his Williamsburg Post 39 players to line up on the field, they abide without complaint.

And for the better part of this American Legion Senior season, the relatively inexperienced group compared to years past has fused their willingness to fill in out of their natural positions with prime execution of situational awareness.

With a roster featuring players from six different area high schools, cohesion does not always come easy in the summer. It has this season for the Wildflowers (6-1 District 2), who have two regular season games left this week before the district tournament this weekend.

The brisk fashion in which the players honed their baseball IQ most impresses Mitchell, in his second season as manager.

"We have a great group of guys that love the game of baseball," Mitchell said. "That shows when you go out there and play out of your normal position and you do as well as you do and make big plays."

An example is rising Jamestown senior Adam Slyter, who pitches and plays second base, outfield or even catcher for Mitchell. Another is Tim Gillen, a Lafayette underclassmen that was moved from the infield to left field and drew the praise of his coach Monday against Poquoson Post 273 for a diving effort on a foul ball before throwing a laser from the outfield grass in the latter innings of the Wildflowers' 8-4 defeat to catcher Kevin Mooney, preventing a run from scoring.

"We're all having fun," said Mooney, a Jamestown graduate and Georgia State recruit. "We're just enjoying coming out here every night. It's just a good atmosphere to be in. We have good coaches, good players and everybody likes each other. That's a good recipe for a baseball team."

Post 39's most potent ingredient has been its offense, and Mooney has been one of the ring leaders, hitting .457 with a team-best 12 RBIs.

The Wildflowers have topped 20 runs twice this summer including a 21-12 win over Post 273 June 28.

Blake Sawyer (.571, 9 RBIs) leads the team in batting average followed by Christian Hamby (.458, 9 RBIs).

Mitchell Metheny (.393, 11 RBIs) is second behind Mooney in run production and shortstop Matt Lansford (.455, 10 RBIs) has been vital at the top of the order.

"Our leadoff Matt Lansford, got to hand it off to him," said Post 39's Ryan Creecy. "I think the first four or five games, he had a hit in his first at-bat of the game, so he really leads it off. And our clean-up Kevin Mooney hits the ball hard every time, puts it somewhere deep."

"It's hard for me to single out any of these guys," Mitchell said, "because the depth we've had in our lineup has been great all season."

Creecy relieved Metheny on the mound Monday in Post 39's first district defeat of the season.

Slyter added a valuable arm to Jamestown's pitching staff in the spring and is hitting better than .300 for the Wildflowers this summer while also playing a more prominent role in the pitching rotation than he did during the high school season.

"I've been waiting for Post 39 just to come out here and throw for them," said Slyter, who had three hits on Monday along with Sawyer. "We have great pitching and great coaches to help us out throughout the way."

Post 39 is closing in on sewing up the top seed in the district and will next play on Wednesday at Deltaville Post 241 before visiting Poquoson on Thursday.

This season, the winner from District 2 will meet the District 3 victor in a playoff game or series for the right to advance to the state tournament.

Monday's loss was a rare letdown for Post 39 as it fell behind early to Poquoson before cutting the lead to 5-4 in the fourth inning courtesy of an RBI from Zach Calloway and a two-run double by Sawyer. Then the visitors added three insurance runs in the eighth to seal it.

Mitchell said Post 39 came out a little flat Monday but once they "turn back on the mental part of the game," the results they achieved earlier in the season can be replicated.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette