LYNCHBURG — The American Legion Baseball careers of Matthew Holley and Jay Mohler are reaching the end.
The former Franklin County prep standouts, each of whom is in his final year of eligibility returned to Rocky Mount Post 6 this summer for different reasons.
They have one thing in common. Last year, they were members of a Post 6 team that lost two, one-run games to Lynchburg Post 16 in the District F postseason tournament. In the last of those setbacks, Post 16 rallied for the win in the bottom of the seventh inning.
This year, Post 6 has flipped the script. It dominated in this year’s district tournament and claimed the championship in three games.
The reward: a berth in this week’s state tournament.
Holley, who fits the part of a grizzled veteran with his thick, but manicured beard, and Mohler have taken different paths back to the dugout.
Holley works in construction by day, then returns to the field. Mohler is a student at Patrick Henry Community College. He opted not to play for the Patriots, but he did serve as an assistant with the high school squad.
Holley was the winning pitcher in Tuesday’s 9-4 victory over McLean Post 270, and he patrolled left field and center field in the win.
“One of the reasons why I’m playing is because my granddad never got to see my dad play, but he’s getting to watch me,’’ Holley said.
Holley’s contact with baseball prior to June’s start to the Legion season was – at best – limited.
“My brother (teammate John Michael Holley) plays (high school ball) and I’d go out and throw with him on weekends,’’ Holley said. “It took a while for me to get my arm strength up. The first time I saw live pitching was the first (Legion) practice. It was a struggle at the beginning of the season.’’
As a shortstop, Mohler anchors Post 6’s infield. His primary double-play partner is Logan Mason; however, others have played second base during the season.
“I was planning on coaching (Legion) this summer. Then, at the first tryouts, there really were no middle infielders. So some people just told me, ‘You should just play.’ “My teammates were the ones who pushed me to play.’’
Mohler’s coaching stint with the Eagles included no workouts. The first time he seriously picked up a bat, ball and glove was at the first Legion practice.
“I had no expectations of playing at all,’’ Mohler said. “…I’m glad they talked me into playing. It’s been so much fun to get back out there.’’