Home Local Sports SEASON PREVIEW: Hamlet Post 49 to rely on pitching, experience in pursuit...

SEASON PREVIEW: Hamlet Post 49 to rely on pitching, experience in pursuit of Area 2 title

Riley Brown works on pickoff moves to James Eason during Wednesday's practice. Both are part of a 13-player bullpen this summer. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

HAMLET — As another summer of Hamlet American Legion baseball is set to open later this week, the aspirations of Post 49 are to reach and win a state championship.

After gnawing at the bit for the past two summers, head coach Chip Gordon believes this year’s roster has the potential to make a strong run at states, as well as an Area 2 Conference championship title.

Returning to Memorial Park for its fourth season, Post 49 is looking to get over a two-year playoff hump and break into the state tournament in 2024. 

While that’s the ultimate goal by season’s end, Gordon said the coaching staff and the team’s 18 players will focus on and attack each game inning-by-inning to rack up wins and improve as a unit. 

What Gordon called a “deep roster,” Hamlet will look to use the depth and experience of players from four counties — Richmond, Marlboro, Moore and Scotland — to battle through the dog days of summer.

Since having tryouts April 27, the team has been practicing regularly with an uptick in rigor the last two weeks.

“We’re looking good to start things off,” Gordon said after Wednesday’s practice. “We are really strong on the mound and the bats are starting to come together as the guys are seeing live arms again.

“Chemistry-wise, all the guys have been meshing really well, which is important for any team. We’re just ready to get this season started.”

There are four returners for Hamlet this summer — Carter Bean (outfielder), Mason Konen (pitcher), JD Scarbrough (outfielder) and Jon Westbay (catcher).

The other 14 players on this summer’s roster are all newcomers to Post 49. That list includes seven players from Richmond Senior High School, the most to play Legion ball in one summer since the team’s return in 2021.

Those players include Riley Brown (pitcher/infielder), James Eason (pitcher/infielder), Isaac Hinshaw (infielder), Evan Hodges (pitcher/catcher/infielder), Jeremiah Ritter (pitcher/outfielder), Landon Taylor (pitcher/outfielder) and Jason Walker (pitcher/infielder).

Other fresh faces include John Carre (Pinecrest High School), Brady Fowler, Maddox Locklear, Robbie Peed, Dylan Tilson (Scotland High School), Austin Mooring and Jacob Williams (Union Pines High School).

One thing that has impressed Gordon so far is Hamlet’s depth at pitching, an area of the program that has struggled late in the season the last few years.

“Having a lot of arms is going to be great this summer,” Gordon explained. “Especially when we play a lot of games in a short amount of time. We’ll have the ability to go to a lot of quality arms at any time, and that will keep guys fresh down the stretch come conference tournament time.”

Gordon noted that 13 players could potentially collect innings on the mound. Those include Brown, Carre, Eason, Fowler, Hodges, Konen, Locklear, Mooring, Peed, Ritter, Taylor, Tilson and Walker.

“Right now, Mason and Jason will throw a lot of innings as our two big workhorses, and James will be a guy we’ll rely on, too,” Gordon said. 

“We will use everyone else to look for a fourth starter to help solidify our playoff rotation. The other pitchers will be used to bridge the innings. And we’re looking for a shutdown guy who can come in a close things down late in the game.”

Patrolling the outfield will be Bean, Carre, Ritter, Scarbrough and Taylor. All five will rotate between positions depending on personnel and game situations.

Gordon also expects Eason, Hodges, Locklear and Walker to be Hamlet’s middle infielders at second base and shortstop, determined by who is on the mound.


Locking down the corners of the infield will be Hinshaw and Fowler at first base, and Brown and Mooring at third base. Behind the plate, Hodges, Mooring, Westbay and Williams will split innings as battery mates.

Scarbrough, Gordon added, has taken on the captain role. He’s a returning player and the only current college-experienced player on Post 49’s roster (Pitt Community College).

“Pitching is our biggest strength, but another strength we have is a good group of seniors and juniors who are experienced,” Gordon commented. “Everybody on this team was one of the better players on his high school team. 

“Our focus will be on getting better every day. One of the reasons we started this program was to provide quality baseball with quality coaching so local players don’t regress over the summer. We want each player to be better when the season is over than when he got here.

“The emphasis will also be on winning,” he added. “We have a good chance of winning an Area 2 Conference championship and making a deep run in states. If the guys buy into what we’re doing and play the game the way we coach them, we’ll get a lot more Ws than Ls.”

Hamlet will again compete in Area 2 and face division opponents Anson County Post 446, Hope Mills Post 32, Jacksonville Post 167 and Moore County Post 12. Hope Mills is the only returning division opponent from last season.  

Last summer, Hamlet finished with an 11-10 overall record. Against Area 2 teams, Post 49 had a 5-3 record and finished third in the standings.

In the Area 2 Conference tournament, Hamlet finished a win shy of reaching the championship series. Post 49 exited the postseason in a second-round series loss to Carteret Post 99.

Of what will break the playoff slump, Gordon said it will all come down to Hamlet’s pitching.

“We have pitching this year,” Gordon said. “We haven’t had the level of pitching that we currently have since we started (in 2021). Now we can play matchups and we don’t have to stay with someone longer than we should because we don’t have another arm.

“We’ve always been able to hit and score runs, but we’ve never been able to out-pitch anyone, especially late in the season. And now we have the ability to do that this year and keep runners off the bases and from scoring.”

The ultimate x-factor, aside from strong outings on the mound, will be the concept of “team baseball.”

“That means hitting unselfishly and being a true teammate,” Gordon said. “Team baseball means each player doing whatever he needs to do and understanding that everyone is part of a collective whole.

“We coach that it’s ‘about we, not me’,’’ he closed. “Everybody is a member of this team and if each guy can give the team quality at-bats, succeed on hit-and-runs and get bunts down, that sets the tone for a great season.”

Helping coach alongside Gordon this summer will be assistants Chaz Sessoms and Kevin Wallace. Sessoms has been with the program since its inception and Wallace joins for his first season.

Post 49 opens its season Friday against Eastern Randolph Post 81. The game will be played at Eastern Randolph High School and start at 7 p.m.

Hamlet will play three road games before its home opener on May 31, a non-conference meeting with Chatham Post 182.

Below is Hamlet Post 49’s summer schedule: