When the American Legion Post 201 Juniors reached the program’s first-ever district championship game, head coach Ott Mullins was a little bit worried that they were going to go out to Spotsylvania and just be satisfied with being runners-up.
That wasn’t the case.
“Our guys really came out there and came out ready to play,” Mullins said.
Right off the bat, the Braves showcased their calling card throughout this past week’s district tournament: they jumped out to a 4-0 lead over hosting Post 320. Their hot hitters – Brandon Lyman, Andrew Cheatham and Kendrick Sheffield – stayed hot, and after Post 320 chipped back to tie the contest after four frames, the Braves in the top of the fifth led briefly behind plays at the plate from Cheatham and Andrew Shifflett.
But Post 320 unleashed four runs in the bottom of the frame and tacked on two more in the sixth to ensure a 10-6 championship victory and a trip to the state final.
With the loss, the Post 201 Juniors concluded their season as district tournament runners-up.
But to the coaches, their season was a success.
“I think we had a really good season,” said Mullins, who for the past three years has been coaching the Juniors team with his son Nathan Mullins. “A lot of those guys really came into their own I think during the course of the season and we’re still proud of them. We’re just happy that we could get out there with the team and compete.”
In the district final, Lyman, Shifflett, Cheatham and Sheffield all batted 2-for-3. Lyman hit a double and scored twice; Cheatham and Sheffield each hit two doubles apiece with Sheffield plating three runs and Cheatham knocking in two while also scoring a run. Shifflett added an RBI and a run. Ben Allanson had a hit and scored three runs.
This year’s Juniors team has only one player who’s aging out, so Mullins has stressed to the rest of the players to keep working on their craft – he’ll see a lot of them in the fall as the head coach for the JV fall league – and then when it comes time to go at it again next summer, he’s hoping they can generate more interest in the American Legion Junior program overall so that Post 201 can pick up more games against more teams next season.
“Those guys are playing for each other, they’re playing for a cause, they’re playing for their teammates and…they’re playing for their coaches,” Mullins added of his players. “If they can be unselfish and play for their teammates and Powhatan High School and also for the Senior Legion program, that’s one of the things that we said that we wanted this [Juniors] program to do, was not only gain a little bit of strength for the American Legion program, but gain strength for Powhatan Baseball as a whole.”