ELKINS - Elkins Post 29 manager Chris George hopes a mixture of veteran players and young talent can form into a state champion-caliber squad this summer.
Post 29, a traditional power the past several years, includes high school talent from Elkins, Tygarts Valley, Philip Barbour, Tucker County and Pocahontas County.
"It's nice that we have so many schools in our area represented," George said. "I?really like the make-up of this team. We have some great leaders that have been through the battles for us, along with younger kids that possess great attitudes."
The Inter-Mountain photo by Joey Kittle
Elkins Post 29 players take part in a practice session Saturday at Elkins High School. Post 29 is scheduled to open the season today at Preston County.
Leading the list of returnees is Colby Gainer, a 2013 Class AAA first-teamer from Elkins High School. He batted .369 for Post 29 last summer with 46 RBIs and three homers.
Gainer will also anchor the pitching staff.
George, who has served as the team's general manager since 2004, will look to several other experienced hurlers, including Isaac Riggleman (Elkins High), Brandon Hamons (Pocahontas County) and Owen Arbogast (Tygarts Valley).
Others in the line for starting or relief roles include Sean Curtis (Philip Barbour), Daniel Crawford, Silas Gibson and Jared Kerns (Elkins High) and Dylan Harris and Chance Price (Philip Barbour).
Tyler Scott, formerly of Elkins High, will be the team's closer.
"You can never have enough pitching, especially when you play a 40-game schedule with a lot of nine-inning games," George said.
Battling for playing time at catcher is the trio of Doug Smith (Philip Barbour), Kevin McDermott (Tucker County) and Jake Wyatt (Elkins High).
Wyatt, Gibson and Philip Barbour's Jacob Marsh are fighting for time at first base, while Price, Curtis and Sam Ross (Elkins High) are looking to see action at second base.
Tyler Shreve (Elkins High) is a mainstay at shortstop. Gainer, when not on the mound, will be at third. P.J. Lanham (Tygarts Valley) could also see time at the hot corner and in the outfield as well.
Others looking for time in the outfield include Al Johnson, Chris Neville (Philip Barbour), Price, Curtis, Crawford, Wes Felton (Pocahontas County), Scott and Gibson.
Elkins will play a challenging schedule, along with hosting the annual Hillbilly Hardball Classic.
"The state has a number of tough American Legion teams this summer," George said.
"Staying healthy and the schedule we play are concerns. We have more depth this year, but injuries can really hurt you, especially on the mound."
George will be assisted by former Philip Barbour standout Trevor Mouser, Shane Snyder and Christian Scott, formerly of Tygarts Valley
All three play college ball, Mouser and Snyder at Alderson Broaddus and Scott at Tygarts Valley.
"We've been blessed over the years to have great assistant coaches, and this year is no different," George said. "I have a great group to work with and we're looking forward to getting the season underway."
Post 29 is slated to visit Preston County at 6 p.m. today.
For a complete schedule, including the Hillbilly Hardball slate, and additional team news, go online at www.elkinspost29.com.