Navy baseball players return home for Freedom Classic - Camp Lejeune Globe: Sports

Navy baseball players return home for Freedom Classic

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  • Navy baseball players return home for Freedom Classic

    Jared Leins, Naval Academy baseball team pitcher, throws a pitch during the regular season game against Lehigh University at Terwilliger Brothers Field at Max Bishop Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, Apr. 14, 2018.

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2019 2:00 pm

Navy scheduled to play against  Air Force in Kinston this weekend

A pair of North Carolinians are scheduled to return home as the Naval Academy baseball team takes on the Air Force Academy in the annual Freedom Classic this weekend at Grainger Stadium in Kinston.

“It is always a good time to come back to North Carolina,” said Jacob Williamson, an infielder for Navy. “For the past two years going down there, it is always a good feeling being close to my hometown. I am from Wilson. It is really close to Kinston, and we spent a lot of time out there [growing up]. I would go to one or two Kinston games when I was a kid. It is really cool going back to play at the same place.”

Sophomore pitcher Jared Leins, from Raleigh, is confident in Navy’s ability to sweep the Falcons in the three-game series. Navy won two of the three games played in Kinston last year.

“My expectations are pretty high coming off last year,” Leins said. “We took two out of the three games. I am really looking forward to taking all three games this year. It is going to be fun on and off the field.”

During last year’s series against the Air Force Falcons, Leins compiled a career-high seven strikeouts in earning a victory on the mound for Navy.

“I kind of surprised myself in that game. It was the second time I pitched for the team in the season,” Leins said.

Leins, who led the Midshipmen with five saves in the 2017-18 season campaign, said he was looking forward to the games against Air Force in Kinston.

“There is nothing compared to the rivalry with the Navy and Air Force,” Leins said. “It is really awesome to see the pre-game and post-game with how they treat us on and off the field. We get to talk to them and there are a lot of ceremonies that go on. There is no doubt that we want to win the game, but there is a strong mutual respect that goes on for each game.”

Leins said a number of family members and friends will be making the two-hour drive from Raleigh to Kinston for the games at Grainger Stadium.

“My brother and parents came down to the series last year,” Leins said. “My family is very excited to come to the series this year. They do a good job of making it up to my games in Annapolis (Maryland). A lot of my buddies will also show up when we play in North Carolina. I look forward to having them there and playing in my home state.”

After finishing last season at Navy, Williamson came back home and played during the summer for the Wilson Tobbs, a team of college players that is part of the Coastal Plain League. He enjoyed the chance to play baseball while being close to his family, who owns a business in the Wilson area.

“We own our peanut company, which is a small business that I helped my dad out with after school,” Williamson said. “We still have a storefront there in my hometown.”

In one of the games last year against Air Force, Williamson had a career high four hits and drove in four RBIs for Navy.

“Each year, I am trying to work harder and harder to be a better version of myself,” Williamson said. “Last year, I had a really good year down in Kinston. I am looking forward to going back home and performing the best I can. My family tries to come out to the series because it is one of the few series that we play in North Carolina. We usually get a pretty good crowd out there from my hometown, high school friends and family.”

Williamson went to high school at James Hunt High School located in Wilson, North Carolina and played five sports — football, baseball, basketball, soccer and track, winning league titles in baseball, soccer and football.

“Winning the conference championship in high school helped give a taste of what winning a championship feels like, with the help of our coaching staff,” Williamson said. “I haven’t done that yet here at the Navy, but hopefully it is something that will happen in the near future. Winning the championship in baseball gives you a sense of accomplishment. Same thing with football, and I believe we won one in soccer also. Playing five sports takes a toll on you.”

Games for the series are scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Pre-game festivities begin 30 minutes before each game.

Active-duty service members can attend games for free with proper identification. General admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children. Box seats can be reserved for the weekend for $110.

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