By Justin Graves

FLORENCE – Winning a district tournament in American Legion Baseball is supposed to be challenging, but Athens Post 49’s Senior Legion team made it look easy last weekend by winning all three of its games by large margins.

Athens (41-6) claimed the district title by beating Florence Post 11 10-3 Sunday afternoon at Florence High School. Post 49 advances to the state tournament in Dothan this weekend by winning the district championship.

“We played real good at the district tournament,” Athens coach Nathan Brownlow said. “Our guys did a good job at the plate and scored a bunch of runs for us.”

Post 49 won every game in the district tournament by at least six runs, with an 11-5 win over Huntsville Post 237 and 19-0, 10-3 wins over Florence.

“We are going to see a lot better pitching at the state tournament this weekend,” Brownlow said. “We are going to do some things this week at practice to ensure our hitters are ready for the caliber of pitching we’ll see.”

Brownlow – the pitching coach at Calhoun – is bringing in some of the Warhawks’ top pitchers – including Calhoun’s No. 1 starter, Jay Sibley – to throw live batting practice to the 49ers.

“Having those guys come in and throw to us will help us a lot,” Athens shortstop and former West Limestone star Cole Mitchell said. “Since I play at Calhoun, I know what our pitchers are capable of. What we’ll see from them will be just as good, and probably better, than anything we’ll see at state.”

Mitchell thinks that Athens has accomplished everything he thought they would, but he doesn’t think they are done yet.

“I said that this team would win the state championship before the season started,” Mitchell said.

“And I still think that’s what we’re going to do. If this team does everything it is capable of doing at state, then we are going to be hard to beat.

“Since everyone on our Legion team plays at Calhoun, it shows what we should do at Calhoun in the spring.”

Brownlow knows that his pitchers are among the best in the state, and he thinks if they can keep games close, then the 49ers offense is capable of putting them over the top.

“This is the most talented Legion team that I have seen at Athens,” Brownlow said. “They are all very talented, and they all believe they can win. I think we are a very dangerous team.”

There is a team banquet in Dothan Friday night where tournament seeds will be drawn.

Brownlow hopes that Athens draws the toughest two teams in the tournament for the first two games.

“We are going to start our best two pitchers in the first two games no matter what,” Brownlow said. “That way we’ll have them back for the championship.

Since that’s the way we’re going to work our staff, we might as well draw the best two teams out there.”

Brownlow believes that Tuscaloosa, Dothan, Bessemer and Athens are the best teams in the tournament, but knows there will be a few sleepers come out of no where.

The state tournament begins Saturday and continues until the championship has been decided on August 3.

District Championship

Athens 10, Florence 3

Hits weren’t scarce for Athens in the district tournament. The 49ers pounded out 16 hits in their 10-3 win over Florence Post 11 in the championship game Sunday.

Florence took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but Athens started a rally of its own in the bottom half of the inning when former Tanner star Jarrod Harrison led off with a single.

Beau Brooks drove in Harrison with a RBI single to tie the game 1-1. The 49ers took a one run lead when Brooks scored later in the inning.

“We had some good at bats early in the game, but seemed to let up in the later innings,” Brownlow said.

“I had a talk with the team about that after the game, and let them know they can’t do that at the state tournament.”

Post 11 tied the game back up 2-2 in the third inning.

Athens struck back in the bottom of the third when Darrell Octwell led off with a double. Brooks followed with a RBI double that scored Octwell for a 3-2 lead.

Ryan Wheeler scored in the fourth inning to extend Athens’ lead to two.

Post 49 added two runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the eighth to claim the title.

“We are going to work hard this week to get ready for the state tournament,” Mitchell said.

“We will be ready to play this weekend, and I think we are capable to win the championship.”

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