By BOBBY WHITT/ Courier Contributor
COLUMBIA - Woodbury Post 279’s first season as an American Legion team came to an end with back-to-back losses at the state tournament at Columbia State.
The Lions lost to Mt. Juliet, 12-2, in the tournament opener, before falling to Gallatin 13-3 in the second game.
The scores do not indicate the competitiveness of the games as the Lions were actually in both before one bad inning changed both games.
For example, Woodbury was tied, 3-3, with Gallatin in the fifth inning of the elimination game, and the Lions were tied with Mt. Juliet 2-2 halfway through the tournament opener.
“Our players really competed under some adverse conditions and gave themselves a chance,” coach Tony Stinnett said. “As I tell them, at the end of the day no one really cares what the score was. Did you win or did you lose? Although the scores are what they are, our players know what they accomplished and the situations they faced. I’m proud of them and the progress they made throughout the summer.”
Woodbury Post 279 never played with its full team due to injuries throughout the summer and it was most evident during the state tournament when the Lions were without as many as four starters.
Jake Todd, who had emerged as one of the Lions more consistent players this summer, suffered an ankle injury and was out of action. The Lions lost starters Nick Vassar, Graden Strang and Trent Bragg in the elimination game.
“Even though it would have been nice to have our full squad healthy all summer it was still good for the younger players to get more reps than they would have otherwise,” Stinnett said. “This schedule and a tough series of tournaments against 18-under teams was put together with one thing in mind. As it turned out we had a much younger team throughout the summer. I do believe we will be better for it down the road.”
Rising senior Nathan McGuire had a strong state tournament, reaching base in five straight plate appearances and delivering a clutch two-out, two-run double to tie Gallatin, 3-3, in the fifth. McGuire also pitched a complete-game shutout against Tullahoma.
“Nathan had some good moments this summer and he concluded it with a very strong state tournament,” Stinnett said. “He will be on the only senior on the high school team this spring so Nathan needs to lead by these type of examples.”
Stinnett also praised the development of rising sophomores Austin Martin, Jared Judkins and Tucker Francis.
“We needed those three players to have good summers and they did,” Stinnett said. “Jared Judkins proved he can play centerfield on an everday basis and he can be a good leadoff hitter. Tucker Francis was outstanding all summer. He hit consistently and he grew into a solid starting pitcher. Austin Martin was strong defensively at first base, logged quality innings on the mound and provided another quality bat from the left side. These gains may not be seen on the scoreboard this summer but they will pay off next spring.”
Mainstays Jake Todd, Graden Strang, Trent Bragg and Jackson Mason all had bright spots throughout the summer. Vassar was injured
Incoming freshmen and newcomers to the high school program also were part of the summer team.