HISTORY-MAKERS: Burns baseball adding more success to a year already filled with it
By Richard Walker
Burns High School’s baseball program has enjoyed a renaissance this year and American Legion baseball success has been at the forefront of that success.
After pushing eventual N.C. state champion Cherryville Post 100 in the Area IV playoffs last season, Burns went 22-4 overall in the high school season this past spring with the school’s first league championship in seven years.
This summer, Burns’ Junior Legion program is 18-3 overall, shared the Area IV Eastern Division regular season title, won its first Area IV championship and is currently preparing for its first N.C. state tournament that starts later this week at High Point’s Finch Field.
The tournament will use pool play to determine the 2022 state champion; Burns meets Stokes County on Thursday at 4 p.m., Wilmington on Friday at 10 a.m. and High Point-Thomasville on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
The semifinals are slated for Saturday with the state championship game on Sunday.
“I’m very proud of our kids for establishing winning baseball at Burns,” said Alex Leonhardt, who is head coach at Burns High and for the Burns Junior Legion program.
Burns went 12-2 in the regular season of the Eastern Division – losing only to Shelby Post 82 and Cherryville Post 100 – and gained the top seed in the playoff by virtue of their sweep of Matthews Post 235; Burns and Matthews shared the Eastern Division title.
In the playoffs, Burns swept best-of-three series’ 2-0 over South Caldwell No. 2 and R-S Central to earn a berth in the state tournament.
Last Friday, Burns won 4-2 at South Caldwell to take the Area IV title.
Leading Burns Junior Legion team’s offense has been Hagan Hoyle (.453 batting average), Jaxon Dubesko (.429), Eli Cooke (.400), Gabe Holliday (.358) and Josh Taylor (.327). Gabe Holiday (1.15 ERA) and Taylor (1.28 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 43 innings) lead the pitching staff.
Leonhardt says last year’s disappointment against Cherryville has proved beneficial; Post 100 lost to Burns early in the four-team Pod A tournament before rallying to knock off Burns in back-to-back games on its state title.
“It hurt to lose but it turned out to be a good experience for us,” said Leonhardt, who has guided Burns High to a 62-37 record in five years and Burns Junior Legion to a 42-44 record in six seasons.
Burns becomes the first Cleveland County team advance to the N.C. state Junior Legion tournament.
Cherryville is the area leader with four appearances (2005, 2007, 2008 and 2021) and Belmont (2010) has one appearance.