FRANKLIN COUNTY -- After a 20-year absence, American Legion Baseball returned to Franklin County last summer to rave reviews.
The county's Post 105 squad played before big crowds at picturesque Frazier Field on the campus of Louisburg College -- and the club went all the way to the conference finals before dropping a heartbreaking series to long-time powerhouse Garner Nationals.
Coach Larry McKeithan's crew, which featured top high school performers from Vance, Franklin and Granville counties, came within one victory of making the regional tournament -- and several of those standouts were expected back this summer.
But that scenario never happened as the North Carolina American Legion season was cancelled before it ever started due to COVID-19 concerns.
McKeithan, however, is stressing that the one-year hiatus will not adversely effect the long-term future of the Post 105 diamond program.
"Moving forward, I think we will be OK next year,'' said McKeithan, who will return to coach along with his son, Connor. "We came back after 20 years and were successful. I think we are going to continue to be successful once we get things going again.
"I really felt good about how this season was going to go. We had a lot of guys who were going to coming back, and we had a lot of people calling us who were interested in being a part of the team. Unfortunately, we were unable to play.
"Now, we will probably have to build from scratch again with a lot of new players as most of our kids will be graduating. But I think we will be able to do that.''
Last year was certainly one to remember for Post 105 as things went even better than McKeithan could have ever envisioned.
With several college-level players on the roster, Post 105 became an area surprise and defeated several more-established American Legion programs en route to a second-round playoff showdown with the Nationals.
McKeithan's club even went up 1-0 in the series before running out of pitching as the Nationals rallied to advance in three tough games.
"As time went on, you could really see the excitement and interest pick up about our team,'' McKeithan said. "A lot of people were showing up for games -- word had gotten out. Competition was at a very high level, and that was something the fans really enjoyed.''
Not only does McKeithan expect Post 105 to be back and stronger than ever next summer, he anticipates that the program's relationship with Louisburg College will continue to prosper.
"We really appreciate the fact that the college and (baseball coach Blake Herring) allow us to use our facilities,'' McKeithan said.
"Frazier Field is a great place for fans to watch a game. Hopefully, it also helps (LC) out a bit because they are able to look at some (potential recruits).''
When American Legion Baseball returns next summer, McKeithan once again expects Post 105 to compete for conference and area supremacy as Franklin and nearby counties continue to provide high-level talent capable of success on the summer baseball level.
Pictured (Above): I'LL BE BACK. Head Coach/Director Larry McKeithan expects the American Legion Post 105 summer baseball team to return for the 2021 season after this year's complete schedule was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. (Times photo by Geoff Neville)