Union County American Legion Baseball Team Off To Fast Start

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The Union County American Legion Baseball team is off to a fast start as Post 535 has started the 2017 Legion season with a perfect 5-0 record. The team is stacked with former county high school players, including players from Weddington, Cuthbertson, Marvin Ridge and Parkwood, who have either just graduated from high school or graduated in 2016.

Team members include Cameron Smetak, Logan Plattenburg, Josh Karklin, Sam Little, Erik Ryan, Pat Bradshaw, Matt Moser, Callen Nuccio, Drake Smith, Sam Mennitt, Brian Petta, Jake Karklin, Nick Cooper, Matt Wells, Macklin Ohs, Patrick Morrison, Zach Houston and Ryan Johnson.

One of Union County’s biggest wins so far this season was a 10-6 victory over the Mint Hill American Legion Baseball team. Mennitt and Plattenburg hit home runs for Union County in the four-run victory.

Because of local high school graduations, Union County won’t return to the field until June 17 when they play Lincoln County. Union County will then play a doubleheader with Kings Mountain on June 18.

Because of recent wet weather and high school graduations, Union County will play 11 games from June 17 until the start of the Area 4 Tournament on July 1.

“The American Legion regular season is a lot of baseball in a short amount of time,” said Union County head coach Alan Mitchell.

Union County is one of nine teams in Area 4-East and the team will play a total of 16 games before the Area 4 Tournament begins July 1. The winner and the runner-up from the Area 4 Tournament will advance to the American Legion State Baseball Tournament.

The Union County Legion team has 18 players on the roster from high schools across the county and Mitchell said one of the biggest challenges is getting all the players quality playing time.

Union County is loaded with baseball talent as the local high schools in all classifications are usually state contenders. All 18 of the players on the roster will play college baseball or are currently playing college baseball.

Ohs, Moser, Petta, Josh Karklin and Smetak highlight a strong contingent of pitchers for Union County. Mennitt, Nuncio, Cooper and Smith have all been solid at the plate the first five games of the season. Smetak and Josh Karklin both pitched for Wingate University as freshmen last season.

“The county is really rich with baseball talent,” Mitchell said. “Our job as coaches is see where the players best fit in. Overall, our strength is our pitching and our defense. We have a really good pitching staff this year.

“Hitting, we are pretty spread out. We have also played some pretty good defense so far. We feel like we have a complete team. This year we are blessed again to have great team chemistry. We play a lot of unselfish baseball, and that is a good combination to have. We have 18 guys that are used to being starters. All these guys are competitive.”

Mitchell said that assistant coach Rocky Richar has also been key to the team’s success the past several seasons. Richar is the head baseball coach at Parkwood High School.

Union County is playing its home games this season at the baseball field at Marvin Ridge High School.

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at ripig1979@yahoo.com.