Last summer, Post 42 had two Junior Legion teams. One of the teams was filled with varsity players, while the other was filled with young players with little to no varsity experience.
Sam Suite made his head coaching debut with the younger Post 42 team last summer before taking over at Magna Vista this past spring.
With Post 42 dropping one of the junior teams in favor of a Senior Legion team, Suite is back with the Junior Legion squad, this time with much more varsity experience.
“It’s extremely different,” Suite said.
The team opened up the summer with a doubleheader against Christiansburg earlier this week, and Post 42 swept both games. With those two wins, Suite’s team has more wins than all of last summer.
“They all know that this is going to be a much better year record wise, and I still hope the kids learn a lot this summer because that’s what it’s all about,” Suite said.
When the team was put together last summer, Suite had to go back to the basics, making sure all of the players were comfortable with the fundamentals. Now, with many of the players getting a year of experience with their respective varsity teams, Suite is able to go deeper into the playbook with his team.
“It’s a lot better now. Now we can go over first-and-third plays. Last year you’d mention that and the kids didn’t know what that was,” Suite said. “We’re putting those in, we’re putting in the options where the kids actually make the decisions instead of us telling them, so they have some leeway there.”
Suite also mentioned that they can coach plays that in the past would happen in games and the players would panic. Now, experience has been the best teacher, and Post 42 handles those situations with more confidence.
“Everybody’s calm, cool and collected in those situations,” Suite said.
Maybe the most important thing Post 42 has this year that they didn’t have last year, Suite said, is pitching depth. A lot of games last summer were high-scoring games and Suite was forced to use a lot of different pitchers in each game. This summer, the team has a much better idea of who the pitchers are, and they’re confident when they step on the rubber.
“That’s a huge thing,” he said. “We have to develop these guys into pitchers. Last year, I turned a kid who never pitched before into a pitcher, so my goal this year is to turn the good pitchers into great pitchers and great pitchers into nearly perfect.”
The two wins over Christiansburg came after just a couple of practices. One game was a 13-2 win in four innings, while the other was a come-from-behind 5-4 win in walk-off fashion.
“They really exceeded my expectations. They blew them out of the water,” Suite said. “Pitching, they did their job exceptionally well.”
The fun part of building Post 42 is the players coming in from rival programs. There are a lot of players from Magna Vista and Bassett. Those two teams had some heated games during the high school season, but it didn’t take long for those rivalries to turn to friendships.
“I was worried about that at the beginning of the year,” Suite said. “but then day one we just addressed it... now we’re all Post 42, myself included.”
Post 42 is off to a strong start, but it’s a long season between now and the postseason, which begins in mid-July. Suite isn’t focusing on the team’s wins and losses, but on the improvement for each of the players. But he did say that there’s no reason the team can’t compete for a title this summer.
“We definitely have the potential,” he said. “I think we have a great team and we’ll see what happens.”
Post 42’s Junior Legion team will be back on the diamond Saturday at 3 p.m. at Liberty High School against Big Island Post 217.
Chris Doherty is a Sports Reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him 276-638-8801 ext. 215. Follow on Twitter @BulletinSport