The Botetourt American Legion baseball team will begin its 10th season this week and Post 240 has yet to have a winning season. Coach Jeremy Sink feels this may be the year.
Sink is beginning his fourth year as coach, and the team has made great strides under his guidance. Once the doormat of the league, opponents haven’t been able to take Botetourt lightly in recent seasons.
“We’re getting better every year,” said Sink. “We improved our record in each of my first two seasons, and last year we were in every game we played all year.”
This spring Sink had a record number of boys try out for the team, and a new Junior Legion team was started for younger players. Hans Simpson, the jayvee coach at James River, has an 18-player roster and a full schedule. He’ll be assisted by Troy Linkenhoker, a jayvee coach at LB, and former James River standout Caleb Dorton.
Sink will be assisted by his dad, Randy, and former high school teammate John Wilson. Post 240 will have 12 players who played for Lord Botetourt this spring, five who played at River, and Dalton Lipes, a solid utility player who is still age-eligible after a year of ODAC ball at Roanoke College.
Jeremy has a nice talent pool to draw from, even though the Botetourt team is stocked by just two schools. In comparison, the New River team draws from five to seven schools in the talent-rich New River area.
The local teams both had good seasons. LB won a record number of games at the school and won the Blue Ridge District tournament, while James River won both the regular season and tournament in the Pioneer District. Both teams made the regional in their respective classifications.
Hitting should be the strength of this year’s team. Botetourt hit well over .300 as a team and River’s “Murderer’s Row” of Andrew Tucker, Tyler Duke and Ryan Hepler was as formidable a middle of the order as you’ll find. This week Tucker, who will play at Hampden-Sydney next year, was named second team All-State in Group A and Duke, a rising senior, was an honorable mention selection.
“We’ll hit with anyone,” said Sink. “The key to our season will be to play good defense, and for the pitchers to throw strikes. If we do that, this should be our best season yet.”
Players from LB include Brett Carroll, Jame O’Neill, Lincoln Evans, Martin Henderlite, Mason John, Michael Mnich, Dylan Powers, Hunter Scothorn, Taylor Toppel, Ashton Swortzel, Landon Ward and Brian Ward. Players from River are Tucker, Duke, Hepler and pitchers Jaret White and Dustin Winand. Henderlite, an All-Blue Ridge pitcher, will be looked at as the ace of the staff.
The season opener was Tuesday at Kiwanis Field against Roanoke Post 3, but results were too late for publication. On Thursday, Post 240 will meet Salem at Kiwanis at 7 p.m., and Saturday is a three-team round robin with Vinton and New River. Botetourt will play Vinton at 10 a.m. and New River at 2 p.m.
The team has a 16-game schedule, with most games played on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The last game is July 13 with a tournament the following weekend, making for a shorter Legion season than in past years.
“We should be right in it this year,” said Sink. “I really like our team.”