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The 2019 Wilson American Legion baseball season that steadily trended downhill because of personnel issues ended unexpectedly Wednesday.
Post 13 Athletic Officer Bob Walston and head coach Noah Edens learned infielder/right-handed pitcher Austin Slate, a recent Beddingfield High graduate, suffered a broken left hand when hit by a pitch in the fifth inning of Tuesday night’s 13-3 loss to host Kinston.
With Slate, scheduled to be Wednesday night’s starting pitcher, sidelined, the Wilson roster dwindled to eight players. American Legion rules state that a team cannot start a game with less than the required nine players. A game can be continued with less than nine players if a member of the original nine is incapacitated.
Thus, Wilson forfeited the remainder of the Area I East Division best-of-five semifinals series to regular-season winner Kinston Post 43, which is in quest of its first Area I championship since 1970. Kinston (17-2) thus opposes the Pitt County-Wayne County winner for East Division supremacy.
Post 43 led it series with Wilson, 1-0. Post 13, seeking a third straight advance into the division finals, closes with a 9-12 record for the second straight year.
“I wish (Kinston) well,” Edens expressed. “But after that first game, I was interested to see how we matched up with them. Unfortunately, we won’t get a chance.”
“Awfully disappointed,” Walston reacted.
Said Edens: “I hate it for the kids more than anything. They have been here the whole season and have played hard and done everything asked of them. It’s a shame that those that decided to or were allowed to quit chose to do that.
“I think some (of the players) were disappointed. I believe they were confident and thought they could win some games.”
Steve Walston, the son of Bob Walston and the wearer of several hats for the Wilson American Legion program, announced the forfeit in an email Wednesday afternoon.
Steve Walston noted a Post 13 season ended in forfeit for a third time. The 1948 Area I Wilson-Chapel Hill final was canceled by officials because of a polio outbreak and, in 1972, also in the Area I final, when Wilson, coached by James “Rabbit” Fulghum, owned a 2-1 lead in games against Durham and Post 13 was disqualified for exceeding the enrollment limit.
This season, a roster that numbered 19 at the outset had dwindled to nine.
Edens explained the team seldom practiced or took pregame infield or outfield in an attempt to keep the nine players as rested and healthy as possible.
“We kept it relaxed and laid back,” expressed Edens, “and the players seemed to have fun with it. What it boils down to is, when you start something, you finish it. We had very high expectations in the middle of May that we could win, and thought we were deep in some areas.”
Bob Walston revealed 2019 marks the 33rd season he has been involved with Post 13 baseball and acknowledged the program struggled on two or three other occasions because of declining numbers.
“It’s been a tough summer,” he lamented. “It’s been tough as far as injuries are concerned and because of those who didn’t honor their commitment.”
Edens, in his second season, didn’t mask his frustration.
“I wish I had the answer,” he commented. “I hope I can figure out the answer by next year. I would like to try one more year to straighten it out.”
Bob Walston would appreciate at least one more season from Edens. He praised Edens for a job well done and spoke of his winning personality and the fact his players liked playing for him. Edens was assisted by Matt Ballance and Derek Matthews.
“You’ve got to have someone like that, who is dedicated to the program,” Bob Walston contended.