State champions: Cherryville Junior Legion coach says early-season win gave him hope of the history his team would eventually set
By Richard Walker
A former Cherryville American Legion player himself, Stan Haynes knows much about Post 100’s long successful history.
This season as head coach of the first Cherryville Junior Legion team since 2018, Haynes guided Post 100 to another chapter in that success.
On Monday, Cherryville won its first Junior Legion state tournament title to cap a year Haynes thought could be special early in the season.
“The first time we played Matthews at Matthews in the regular season, we as coaches looked around and thought we had a chance to be really good,” Haynes said of discussing the team’s prospects with assistant coaches Blake McLeymore and Jeff Williams.
Ironically enough, it was Matthews that stood between Cherryville and history on Monday before Post 100 rallied late to win 11-4 in the state championship game.
It was the third win by Cherryville over Matthews this season, starting with that fateful 13-4 win at Butler High School on June 18 that gave Haynes so much optimism about his team. Post 100 later beat Matthews 9-0 at home on June 26 to effectively wrap up the N.C. Area IV Eastern Division regular season title.
“Those Matthews games were the two best games we played in the regular season,” Haynes said.
However, it a nearby divisional rival that pushed Cherryville most this season as Post 100 played Burns High’s Junior Legion team five times in closely-contested games that were decided by a combined six runs.
“Burns was as solid as any team we played all year,” Haynes said. “All the games were close and they played like their nickname – Bulldogs – every time we played them.”
Cherryville edged Burns 6-5 in its June 13 season-opener, won 7-6 at Burns on June 22 before an 8-7, 8-inning home loss on July 13 in the Area IV playoffs threatened to end Cherryville’s season.
Faced with having to win three straight games just to advance to the state tournament, Post 100 did just that by edging South Caldwell 4-1 before beating Burns twice – 5-3 and 3-2 in nine innings.
Adversity struck again on the first day of the state tournament as Cherryville lost 11-9 to host High Point.
But as Haynes points out, his team was just getting its offense untracked.
“We had nine strikeouts and had 17 hits in that game,” Haynes said. “We just had to put the ball in play some more and I felt things would be fine.”
That’s exactly what happened as Cherryville won four straight games to take the state title while striking out only seven times in those four games with 49 total hits.
Lincolnton High’s Will Blackburn led Post 100’s state tournament hit parade with a .590 average on 13 of 22 hitting. Seven more Cherryville players hit .350 or better for a team that had a cumulative .400 batting average in its five state tournament games – Kings Mountain High’s Ethan Guy (.460), Cherryville High’s Chase Miller (.450) and Kanon Willis (.390), West Lincoln High’s Collin Huss (.390) and Evan Hartsoe (.380), Cherryville High’s Eli Newsome (.360) and Lincolnton High’s Easton Dellinger (.350).
Other team members were Cherryville High’s Brayden Reynolds, Talon Dalton, Noah Hollingsworth, Logan Hendrick and Tobias Miller and West Lincoln High’s Houston Jenkins, Grayson Gilbert and Zander Harrelson.
Reynolds’ 6-1 record with one save was the top pitching record on a staff that also included Chase Miller, Newsome, Blackburn and Willis. Reynolds carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning of Sunday’s 10-4 semifinal win over Area III champion Carson.
Blackburn started the title game and went 4 1-3 innings without getting a decision before Willis picked up the win with 2 2-3 innings of relief.
Blackburn also led the offense in the title game with three hits and Guy and Huss had two hits apiece.