Cary American Legion Post 67 began the season with a near surplus of talent. Now, just three short weeks into the season, coach Neil Woodall finds himself having to piece together a lineup each night.
"Injuries are killing us," said Woodall after a 9-8 win over Roxboro Post 138 on Sunday night.
Brad Scarlett, one of just two catchers on the Post 67 roster, is out with a broken finger. Michael Jericho is lost to a broken hand and left fielder Kenny Martin is still in the lineup but nursing a sore wrist.
Add the departure of a leading hitter to a college summer league and what was once a crowded dugout is becoming downright lonely.
"When Matt Holt went to the Coastal Plain League, we lost a really good bat and a really good shortstop," said Woodall of the UNC-Wilmington freshman. "You take that bat out of our lineup and it hurts."
As if on cue, a dark cloud arrived Sunday evening and settled over the Cary High field, washing out the second game of a doubleheader with Roxboro. The game was suspended in the fourth with Post 67 leading 2-0.
All is not doom and gloom in the Cary camp, though. There are still plenty of weapons at Woodall's disposal.
"We're down some players," he said as the rain fell. "But we've still got some really good players. We've still got an opportunity to put up some really good numbers -- but it's going to take a tremendous effort by those players we've got."
Cory Harrilchak, a 2005 Cary High graduate, has been swinging a hot bat this summer. He entered Sunday hitting .471 through eight games. In Sunday's opener against Roxboro, Harrilchak hit a game-winning, three-run homer in the sixth inning to help Post 67 complete a come-from-behind victory and improve to 8-1 on the season.
Harrilchak spent the spring putting up impressive numbers at Surry County Community College and he's got his eye on a Division I transfer after his sophomore year.
"Coming in here, I knew I would be weighed upon heavily being one of two college players," Harrilchak said. "I'm just trying to be a leader on the team and show some guys how college players play. I want to help as much as I can."
Part of his job will be helping former Imp teammates Martin and Bryan Booth prepare for the next level. Booth, who has a 2.25 earned run average this season, will pitch at UNC-Wilmington next year, and Martin, who is hitting .333, will be part of building the new baseball program at N.C. Central.
"I tell them just take it one at bat at a time," Harrilchak said. "In college, the level is a lot harder. You can't get down on yourself. You've got to forget what happened previously. Stay within yourself. Otherwise, you're not going to be very successful."
Cory Tilton, who finished up his prep career at Green Hope High this spring, plans to walk on at UNC-Charlotte. He has been impressive so far with a 1.23 ERA and 11 strikeouts entering Sunday's game.
Tilton has been swinging the bat as well. He boasts a .438 average and six RBI. Michael Rooney, who is hitting .361, leads the team in RBI with 16, including a team-high four homers.
And Andrew Wilson of Liberty University, who just arrived to the lineup, is already making an impact. The 2005 Cary High graduate is a pitcher for the Flames, but he has not forgotten how to hit. Wilson smacked a two-run double in the suspended game against Roxboro and then hit another double in his next at-bat.
Rising Cardinal Gibbons High senior Grant Richards is batting .357 while catching every inning for Post 67.
With all that firepower, Booth said he's not worried about Post 67 despite the personnel setbacks.
"We have to dig down deep and everyone play the game that we need to play," he said. "We've got to learn to not expect our big players to do it all. Everybody has to play their game."
Woodall said he remains pleased with the pitching and the offense. He would like to see some more consistency on defense. He said the players are doing everything he asks and more.
"The one thing that we've learned about this team is they don't quit," Woodall said. "Today we were down 8-2, but they just kept digging. This team doesn't quit until the game is over."
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