Legion juniors roll to District Tournament title

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 19, 2005

TUSCALOOSA–The West Alabama American Legion Post 29 junior baseball team capped off an undefeated run at the District Tournament Sunday afternoon, defeating Northside for the second time in as many days to claim the Tournament crown and a berth in this weekend’s state tournament in Montgomery.

After defeating Northside 10-7 on Saturday to secure their place in the championship round, West Alabama used a huge six-run rally in the top of the seventh inning to break open a 9-9 tie and win 15-10. They key play, according to Post 29 coach Jonathan Lynsey, was Dustin Edwards’ lead-off home run in the seventh to break the tie and start the decisive rally.

“That’s what sparked us,” Lynsey says. “It was exciting.”

The home run, a “pretty good shot” to deep left in Lynsey’s words, was all the more dramatic for Edwards’ stubbornness at the plate. After falling behind in the count 0-2, Edwards fouled off a series of pitches while working the count back up to 3-2. Edwards then got the fastball he was looking for and pulled it out straight out of the Tuscaloosa Academy park, sending Post 29 on its way.

Edwards got plenty of help, though, from starting pitcher Chase Felts, who both threw a complete game and went 4-4 with a pair of doubles. Lynsey said that Northside’s skill at the plate and the 10 runs on the scoreboard obscure the fact that Felts threw an excellent game.

“He pitched great,” Lynsey says. “I was saving him for the championship game…Chase is just a bulldog out on the mound. He pitched his heart out.”

Lynsey added that every member of the lineup played a role in the victory, noting that Northside’s potent lineup made the two wins anything but easy. The Northside catcher finished the title game with two home runs and a double that nearly cleared the fence as well.

“They played a good game,” Lynsey says. “They came out swinging.”

Thanks to the first of the catcher’s home runs, Northside led 4-0 after two and 4-1 after three. But West Alabama put together a six-run fourth to go up 7-4 and entered the bottom of the sixth ahead 9-7 before Northside rallied to set the stage for Post 29’s big inning.

Another factor in the wins over Northside was the continued improvement from the West Alabama defense.

“We played good solid defense again,” Lynsey says. “We only committed two errors, and that was with a very liberal scorekeeper.”

Unlike the back-and-forth second game, West Alabama led the teams’ initial meeting wire-to-wire. Edwards picked up the win as Robbie Smith came on in relief to pitch the final two innings and earn the save. The offense was again led by Felts and the red-hot Cameron Brister, who despite an off-game in the final earned Lynsey’s commendation as one of the players of the tournament.

“If I had to pick an MVP it would either be Chase or Cameron,” Lynsey says. “They’ve just been knocking the cover off the ball.”

West Alabama will now set its sights on the state tournament, which starts Thursday on the campus of Auburn University in Montgomery. An exact time will be determined by the tournament draw, to be held at the tournament banquet Wednesday night.

Members of the Post 29 team hail from Marengo County and across West Alabama. They are Reed Gardiner, Dustin Edwards, Brett Vick, Brent Bonner, Robbie Smith, Chase Felts, Cameron Brister, Phillip Farmer, Kyle Thrasher, Patrick Castleman, Randy Martin, and Haygon Kaylor.