This is one "seven-year" itch that Wayne County Post 11 will glady scratch.
For the first time since 2014, one of the state’s most-elite Legion programs is headed back to the NC Senior American Legion state baseball tournament.
Post 11 secured the berth with a nail-biting, 5-2 victory over Area I East nemesis Pitt County Saturday evening.
“It feels awesome,” said Will Albert. “We’ve had almost every year since then  to make it there, and we haven’t gotten it done in the [Area] playoffs. We worked really hard for it and I know our coaches wanted it really bad, so I’m happy for them.”
Wayne County (22-5 overall) opens play today against tournament host and Stars Division opponent Cherryville Post 100. First pitch is 7 p.m. at Fraley Field.
Post 11 meets Port City at 1 p.m. Thursday and concludes pool play against Rowan County at 1 p.m. Friday.
The Stripes Division is comprised of defending state champion Wilmington Post 10, Rutherford County Post 423, Fuquay-Varina Post 116 and Kannapolis Post 115.
The top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals, scheduled for July 31. The winner earns the automatic berth to the Mid-Atlantic Regional in Asheboro.
“I’m happy to see the kids celebrate, see how much it means to them,” said WC Post 11 head coach Adam Pate. “Some of them have been part of this team for three years and some for just one, and they all knew the main goal was to make the state tournament.
“We’ve had a long summer, but they’ve played well and stepped up to the challenge.”
Throughout its 27-game campaign, Pate and his coaching staff have had to revamp the lineup on several occasions due to absences of key players because of injury.
They lost two players — Clay Matthews and Matt Kornegay — for the season. Drew Spencer, Logan Merritt and Tanner Capps missed significant time. Other teammates have nursed minor injuries.
The role players who stepped into those spots helped WC make its ninth appearance in the state tournament, and eighth since Legion officials went to a double-elimination, then pool-play format.
“[I’m] proud of our kids who stepped up and played those positions,” Pate said. “The kids have done things they’re not really used to doing and whatever the role has been, they’ve stepped up. They’ve bought in and have wanted to win at all costs.
“This is the stuff they will never forget.”