Cherryville to host 2021 N.C. Legion state tournament and N.C. Area IV will have 16 teams this summer

By Richard Walker

North Carolina American Legion baseball has long been big in the area and 2021 will be no different as top Legion officials make preparations for the new season after the coronavirus pandemic cancelled all games and tournaments in 2020.

Cherryville’s Fraley Field will host the 2021 N.C. American Legion state tournament July 28-Aug. 1

The pandemic did cause a shift of plans for the N.C. American Legion state tournament as Cherryville’s Fraley Field will now host the July 27 to August 1 event.

Previously slated for Kings Mountain High School’s Lancaster Field, the combination of financial strain caused by the pandemic that postponed planned stadium upgrades and limited hotel/motel options in Kings Mountain caused the combined Cleveland County Post 82/155 to withdraw its application.

The switch to Cherryville was officially approved by N.C. Legion officials on Friday.

Cherryville has previously hosted the tournament in 2005 and 2019. Shelby’s Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium hosted the tournament in 2005 and Gastonia’s Sims Legion Park hosted the event in 2008.

Expectations are that Kings Mountain will have the opportunity to host a future N.C. Legion state tournament. Area I is currently the designated host of the 2022 tournament.

The 2021 state tournamentevent will begin with a July 27 banquet at Cherryville First Baptist Church’s Education Center followed by round-robin competition among eight teams on July 28, July 29 and July 30. Semifinal games will be played on July 31 and the championship game is slated for Aug. 1.

As host team, Cherryville is guaranteed a berth in the state tournament along with the Area IV champion; If Cherryville wins the area title, the Area IV runner-up will join Cherryville in the state tournament field along with champions and runner-ups of Area I, Area II and Area III.

Last Saturday, Area IV officials met in Cherryville to determine their schedule in a year in which the later than normal April 26 start of high school baseball will alter traditional schedules.

While Legion teams are able to schedule games as soon as May 15, Area IV league games won’t start until June 12 – or one day after the high school regular season ends.

Sixteen teams will compete for the Area IV championship, split into two eight-team divisions.

Eastern Division teams are the Gaston Braves, Gastonia, Huntersville, Lincoln County, Mint Hill, Pineville, Queen City and Union County. And Western Division teams are Asheville, Burke County, Caldwell County, Cherryville, Cleveland County, Hickory, Maiden and Rutherford County.

National American Legion officials had previously announced dates and sites for their national tournaments.

North Carolina’s state tournament winner will advance to the Mid-Atlantic Regional with seven other teams and hosted Aug. 3-8 at Asheboro’s McCrary Park and eight regional winners will advance to the Aug. 12-17 American Legion World Series in Shelby.

Shelby has hosted the ALWS every year since it was named permanent home of the event in 2011.