The 2019 Orangeburg Post 4 team for American Legion Baseball returns a good bit of experience while adding in a considerable amount of talented new players for the summer season.
The makeup of the roster is even such that second-year head coach Dukes Isgett has confidence in being two-deep at every position, with plenty of pitching arms to make a run at a league title.
Post 4 opens the regular season at home at Mirmow Field on Tuesday at 7 p.m., hosting West Columbia in a non-league game.
"With 23 games on the schedule, along with our practice days, all of the players should get an opportunity to show how they can help our team be successful," Isgett said.
Interest was high during the preseason, with 28 players from The T&D Region attending Post 4 tryouts. The roster consists of 20 players representing eight area high school programs and four in-state college programs.
The roster will have to be cut to 18 players for postseason playoff competition, something Orangeburg fell short of last summer. This will be the second season since American Legion Baseball changed the rules to shorten regulation games from nine innings to seven, and state playoff first-round series will be in a best-of-three format, with second and third-round series playing in the best-of-five format.
Of the nine returning players from the 2018 Post 4 roster, eight have considerable pitching experience.
Four returnees have spent this past school year in college programs, including: Austin Sandifer (RHP, UTIL – USC Aiken), Andrew Isgett (SS, RHP – USC Sumter), Noah Bearden (C, RHP, UTIL – USC Salkehatchie), and Hanks Avinger (RHP, 1st, 3rd – Spartanburg Methodist College).
Sandifer had a stellar freshman season pitching for USC Aiken, posting a 1.44 ERA, one save and a 5-0 record, with 17 strikeouts against just 20 hits allowed in 31-1/3 innings pitched in relief.
Other returning Post 4 players in 2019 include: Heston Thompson (RHP, 3B) and Hunter Bauer (UTIL, RHP) from Branchville, Deuce Bailey (C, RHP) from OC Tech, and Nick Ulmer (3B, OF) and Skye Foster (UTIL, RHP – Columbia International University baseball signee) from Edisto.
"All of these guys bring plenty of baseball experience to the team and I am excited to have them back," Isgett said. "Also, the new players have really impressed me thus far, through preseason workouts."
Newcomers to the 2019 Post 4 roster include: Savon Stokes (LHP, OF, 1B), Daylon Boone (OF, RHP), and Nicholas Lawson (UTIL, RHP) from Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Joshua Edwards (MIF, RHP) from Calhoun County, Heath LaChance (MIF) from Calhoun Academy, John Mack (2B) and Ben Journey (OF, LHP) from Orangeburg Prep, Ben Stokes (UTIL, C) from three-time defending state champion Dorchester Academy, and Will Rickenbaker (2B, UTIL), Bryceton Bramlett (1B, 3B, RHP), and Wesley Brown (C) from Edisto.
"I am excited and anxious to watch this team compete on the field this year," Isgett said. "We have a lot of talent on this roster."
The Post 4 schedule consists of 23 games, with Post 4 competing in League 1 play against Manning-Santee Post 68, Hampton Post 108, and Goose Creek Post 166. Orangeburg will play each league team four times during the regular season.
Post 4 also has non-league home-and-home games against Lexington, Aiken, Dalzell, and West Columbia. Orangeburg will play at least three games per week, with most weeks having 4 games. The top 2 teams in each league will advance to the state American Legion Baseball playoffs, which start on July 10.
A highlight and added bonus to the regular season will come this week and weekend as Post 4 competes in the Memorial Day Weekend Tournament hosted by Florence Post 1, organized by Post 1 head coach and former South Carolina outfielder Derick Urquhart. Tournament play will begin for Orangeburg on Friday at Mirmow Field, as Post 4 hosts Aiken in a 7 p.m. game (saving both teams from having to drive to Florence for 3 consecutive days).
The tournament then shifts to Florence's American Legion Field on Saturday, as Post 4 plays Post 1 at 11 a.m., before taking on Dalzell at 1:30 p.m. Pool play will finish on Saturday, giving way to losers' bracket and winners' bracket play on Sunday, based on earlier tournament results.
Post 4 picked up a preseason scrimmage win in a 4-2 game this past Friday against the Sumter P-15's. Orangeburg threw a different pitcher in each of the 9 innings the two teams played, allowing just 4 hits throughout the game.
"Even though we've only had the one scrimmage, I noticed how well our players compete and support each other," Isgett said. "At this point, our team leadership is about as good as it gets, which is important for success.
"The older guys realize this is their last year playing for Post 4 and they are determined and hungry to make the best of the season. Their fire shows!"
Returning to help Isgett coach Post 4 is Seth Cooper (Edisto), along with newcomers Shannon Edwards (a Calhoun County assistant coach) and Jason Jordon (a former player for Isgett).
"I've got a great group of guys assisting me with the coaching this year," Isgett said. "They will be instrumental in helping make this team the best it can be."
Bettering a disappointing 5-12 record a season ago should be well within reach for the 2019 Post 4 team. It all starts on the Mirmow Field diamond on Tuesday night.