29ers ready for rivalry game
Caldwell County Post 29 returns to the diamond tonight to take on its biggest rival in Cherryville Post 100 at 7 p.m. at M.S. Deal Stadium.
"This is the biggest rivalry around and probably in the state as far as American Legion baseball goes," said Caldwell head coach Brandon Banks. "Cherryville is a tough baseball town. They have a long history of playing well in both the regular season and the playoffs."
This is the first of two meetings scheduled in the regular season between these two teams.
Both of these teams are well-known for their success in N.C. American Legion baseball. Caldwell County has won one state title with the current format, four total in its history. The 29ers have also finished as the runner-up three times.
Meanwhile, Cherryville has won three titles in the current format, while also winning the Area IV championship each of the last six seasons.
"Anytime these two teams get together, it means something," Banks said. "I expect nothing less than a real competitive game."
Last season, Caldwell swept the regular season series, before falling to Cherryville in the state tournament. Post 29 won the first two meetings by scores of 8-2 and 14-1. In the state tournament at Deal Stadium, Post 100 claimed a 5-1 victory in a game that defines this type of heated rivalry. With Caldwell trailing 2-1, there was a play at the plate in which the Cherryville base runner was called out, before the call was overturned and the runner was ruled safe. This caused an uproar from the Post 29 bench, leading to five ejections.
"That's something that's over and done with," Banks said. "Once a new season starts, that all goes out the window. It's always a good, hard-fought battle between these teams and I expect the same tomorrow (Friday)."
The 29ers have just four players from last year's squad, while Cherryville has seven back from 2012. This means a total of 25 players will be introduced to the rivalry tonight.
"We have four guys back from last year that know what it's all about," said Banks. "But if you grow up playing baseball around here, you know the history. I don't see any reason why the new guys won't be motivated. All you have to say is Caldwell County is playing Cherryville and people get excited. Both sides are going to battle."
Not only is the first meeting of the year between the two teams; it is also Cherryville's first conference game of the season. Post 100 is currently 1-3 on the season. The lone victory was a 7-6 victory against Rowan. Cherryville also lost one to Rowan, while also losing to Gastonia and Gaffney, S.C.
Post 29 has posted an overall record of 10-2 and an Area IV West record of 4-1. Caldwell suffered its first conference loss of the season at Haywood County on Tuesday.
"We took the loss and now we've forgotten about it," said Banks. "Now it's time to put the cleats back on and move forward. I expect us to play like we never missed a beat."