By Maurice Patton
Looking to get back on the field for the first time since August 2019, Scott Beasley and his Columbia Post 19 Seniors may have to wait a little longer.
Scheduled to open the 2021 season with a Tuesday doubleheader at Columbia State’s Dave Hall Field against Huntsville (Ala.) Post 237, the weather forecast doesn’t look favorable for those games to be played.
“After last summer, having to cancel for COVID purposes, it feels like it’s been forever since we’ve been out there,” Beasley said. “It’s certainly something to look forward to.
“You don’t realize you miss it until you go a summer without it. We’re definitely glad to be back out there. (But) Tuesday’s games are very much in doubt.”
With a weekend tournament in Murray, Ky., a June 15 road matchup against Pulaski Post 60 and a tourney June 18-20 in Troy, Ala., Post 19 isn’t set to play another home game until June 23. Old Hickory is slated to play a single nine-inning contest at Columbia State.
When Beasley’s bunch does take the field, it’ll be a differently constructed roster than most he has previously encountered.
“A lot of years we have the set five or six ‘pitchers only’, you’ve got 10 or 11 position players and you’ve got your set everyday lineup,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to make the lineup out every day. This team is really deep on two-way players that can do a little bit of everything. A lot of guys can do both. Juggling lineups is going to be way harder.”
Of the 17-player roster, 12 are listed as pitchers; nine of those are listed at other positions as well.
Leading that contingent are three players from the Summertown team that reached the Final Four of the Class A high school state tournament a couple of weeks ago – Columbia State signee Grant Burleson, the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association’s Class A Mr. Baseball, and Eagle teammates Drake Blackwood and Gavin Burleson.
Spring Hill’s Brantly Whitwell (Columbia State) and Dawson Hargrove (Southwest Tennessee) are also two-way players, as are Columbia Central’s Caden Czajka and Marshall County’s Ryan Kirby (Martin Methodist) and Bryson Hammons.
“It’s exciting and challenging, making sure everybody gets playing time,” Beasley said. “Some of your top hitters are also some of your top pitchers. It’s definitely a little different dynamic, but something I’m excited for to see how it all fits together.”
Adding to the challenge is that, with last year’s off year, none of this year’s team members have played for Beasley, who has coached the Post 19 Seniors since 2011.
“Usually the way our team rolls over, you always have five or 10 kids each summer that you’ve already had one year, if not two,” he said. “It’s definitely almost like completely starting over.
“I think the first few weeks are going to be – I don’t want to say difficult, but might be bumpy, getting everything figured out, kids figuring out their roles.”
Columbia Academy catcher Max Ballard (Freed-Hardeman) and former Spring Hill infielder Brett Bell (Jackson State) are also on the roster, along with recent Raider graduates Brandon O’Brien (Martin Methodist) and Nathaniel Huntzinger (Freed-Hardeman).
With so many players heading to various collegiate programs at the conclusion of the summer season, Beasley considers the presence of former Post 19 standouts Will McCall and Colton Teal on his coaching staff (along with Chris Sockwell) a key factor.
“It’s always good to have a couple of guys that are still playing in college (McCall at Freed-Hardeman, Teal at North Alabama) that can relate to the kids – let the kids pick their brains on how it is at different schools, what to expect when they get to college,” he said. “Knock on wood, usually everybody that plays for us is either already signed to play somewhere or on campus somewhere, or they want to sign somewhere and get a chance to play college baseball.
“Part of our job is getting them ready for that different mindset, trying to get them ready for that transition. I don’t care what level you go to, that first week of fall practice at the college level slaps everybody in the face. We try to get them as ready for that as we can.”
The 2019 edition of the Post 19 Seniors finished 17-12-2, dropping both its games at the American Legion Southeast Regional Tournament in Tampa.
Beasley’s looking for an improved product this time around.
“I think the strength of this team will be pitching,” he said. “Hargrove was great for Spring Hill this year, both Burlesons were good for Summertown. (Carson) Cheek was Marshall County’s No. 1.
“I think this is a good group. I’m definitely excited to see how they play.”