Robesonian

Summer grind: Local baseball players use American Legion to improve on diamond

WHITEVILLE — After finishing up an all-county caliber season in the outfield for Purnell Swett, Noah Evington is hoping that a summer of work on the diamond will make sure there is more games for him to play next season.

Playing in the outfield for Whiteville Post 137, Evington is one of six local products competing in the grinding slate of American Legion hoping to add to their skills to make themselves better for next season and the future.

“I’m currently trying to find a school to play at so I’m just working hard to get stronger,” Evington said. “It’s good getting play with all these older guys. It’s good experience and you learn from them.”

Evington batted .288 and led the Rams in RBIs this season in his first consistent year on varsity for Purnell Swett. Playing on a Legion team with players from Whiteville and West Columbus fresh off appearances at the state championships is something he feeds off.

“It’s good to have them because they have a good mentality after winning the championship two times in a row,” Evington said.

Joining Evington with Whiteville this summer is former teammate Jeremiah Locklear and two Lumberton alumni, A.J. Brooks and Daniel Carter, who are currently at Southeastern Community College.

Locklear was named all-conference and all-county this past season, after posting a 1.98 ERA on the mound, but wants to continue to better himself playing against Legion teams.

“I’m trying to get college to look at me more,” Locklear said. “I’m trying to work on my curveball and velocity. I want to get in the 90s with my fastball before I come back to the season.”

After his freshman season at Southeastern, Brooks finished third on the team with a .318 batting average, 23 RBIs and 20 runs scored. He’s using this summer to connect his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“It’s all about getting reps in,” Brooks said. “You don’t want to sit out all summer and come back rusty for the fall.”

Carter sat out his first season at Southeastern, but hopes to improve on his presence on the mound with Post 137.

“I’ve got to work on getting bigger, and working on my mechanics so I can throw strikes,” Carter said. “I’m hoping to gain speed on my fastball and work on hitting my spots more on the mound.”

Purnell Swett graduates McKinley Strickland and Bladen Strickland are coming off their first seasons of college baseball, and return to play for the Hope Mills Boosters for a second season.

Bladen is one of the leading hitters for the Boosters so far this summer, an area of emphasis heading into the summer.

“I’m trying to work on my baserunning and my hitting,” he said. “(The coaches told me) to get bigger and faster.

“I’m just seeing the ball well. I saw it in 50 games this year, plus this, so I’m seeing it pretty good.”

After playing with Brooks this season at Southeastern, Bladen hit .239 with 12 RBIs, and getting to reunite with former teammates in Hope Mills was one reason he looked forward to the summer.

“I love it. I actually missed them during the season,” Bladen said.

McKinley redshirted his freshman campaign at North Carolina A&T. Reaching a high level on the field and staying there is what he is striving for in his final Legion season.

“I’m just working on mainly becoming a more sound and consistent player both in the field and at the plate,” he said. “I’m also trying to pass down some knowledge to the younger guys that I learned this year while at college to help them develop and be more prepared and ready for the next level.”

Jonathan Bym | The Robesonian Former Purnell Swett outfielder Noah Evington steps into the batters box for Whiteville Post 137. Evington is working on his game this summer in hopes of gaining college attention.
https://www.robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Evington_ne201867131435935.jpgJonathan Bym | The Robesonian Former Purnell Swett outfielder Noah Evington steps into the batters box for Whiteville Post 137. Evington is working on his game this summer in hopes of gaining college attention.
Jonathan Bym | The Robesonian Jeremiah Locklear pitches in an American Legion game earlier this week for Whiteville Post 137.
https://www.robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_WEBONLYJeremiahAL_ne20186713137657.jpgJonathan Bym | The Robesonian Jeremiah Locklear pitches in an American Legion game earlier this week for Whiteville Post 137.
Jonathan Bym | The Robesonian Purnell Swett graduate and Hope Mills first baseman McKinley Strickland, front, and Lumberton graduate and Whiteville infielder A.J. Brooks are using their final Legion season to prepare themselves for their second year playing college baseball.
https://www.robesonian.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_McKinley_ne201867131440185.jpgJonathan Bym | The Robesonian Purnell Swett graduate and Hope Mills first baseman McKinley Strickland, front, and Lumberton graduate and Whiteville infielder A.J. Brooks are using their final Legion season to prepare themselves for their second year playing college baseball.
Local baseball players use American Legion to improve on diamond

By Jonathan Bym

Sports editor

Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at jbym@robesonian.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.