Bats Go Quiet In First Legion Shutout
Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 12, 2014
A Mocksville offense that had sizzled pretty much all season went completely quiet in a home game against Kernersville on June 6. The result was a 6-0 defeat.
Mocksville, which had been averaging 9.4 runs and hitting .334, was stymied by Mason Striplin, who went seven innings as Kernersville got redemption for a 9-5 loss to Mocksville.
Mocksville’s previous low in runs was two, and it had put up five-plus in 11 of 12 games. This was the first shutout loss in 23 games, dating to a 10-0 decision against Stanly County in 2013.
“They had a good pitcher,” coach Charles Kurfees said. “(Striplin) got better as he went.”
Mocksville had won two straight before slipping to 5-8.
Striplin’s counterpart, Colby Cranfill, pitched superbly for four innings. He carried a three-hit shutout into the fifth, when his defense betrayed him.
After Kernersville opened the fifth with a single, Cranfill issued his first walk of the game. One out later, a single loaded the bases. If a Mocksville fielder squeezes a sinking liner, it has an easy double play at second. But the ball got through and two runs scored. The error was magnified when the next batter laced a two-run triple. Then came another error by an infielder. With two outs, Kernersville singled to cap a five-run uprising.
You’ve got to sympathize for Cranfill, who fell to 1-3 even though he held Kernersville to two earned runs in five innings.
“Colby pitched a heck of a game,” Kurfees said. “If we make the play (on the sinking liner), it’s still 0-0. It was a double-play ball, and maybe Colby comes back in the sixth.
“Our defense fell apart. We made two errors early that didn’t matter. But the one that did killed us. I’ve been preaching all year if we don’t make the plays …”
Kernersville’s first batter in the sixth greeted Elijah Jones with a home run, but Jones was otherwise stellar in relief. That was the only hit he allowed in three innings. Nick Collins followed up with a hitless inning as Mocksville limited Kernersville to eight hits.
The problem wasn’t pitching. It was Mocksville’s offense. It went down 1-2-3 six times, and it failed to cash in a big opportunity when it was 0-0.
In the third, Michael LaLonde singled, Tati Shibota was hit by a pitch and Charlie Muchukot singled to load the bases with one out. But while Kernersville took advantage of the same opportunity, Mocksville popped out to second and flew out to right.
Sawyer Davis, Jones and Shibota were the only other Mocksville players to get a hit.
Mocksville caught Kernersville at a bad time. Not only had it won the first meeting, Kernersville was smarting from three losses in five games. The win moved it to 12-5.
“They’re a good team,” Kurfees said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to beat them when it counts. When you roll the marbles in the circle, they’re going to hurt people.”
Hoffner Gets 12
Hits In 23 At Bats
The Mocksville Legion baseball team’s pitching staff has been dismal at times this season, but their control and effectiveness has been infinitely better in recent games.
With Drew Weibley throwing six walk-free innings at West Forsyth on June 3 and Mocksville erupting for five runs in the top of the first, West posed no great challenge to Mocksville, which won 10-3 to avenge a 14-7 loss to West in the first meeting of the year.
Mocksville’s second win in a row improved it to 5-7. It is 5-3 since an 0-4 start. West’s only win in eight games was the 14-7 game with Mocksville. West has a good excuse for the bad start – its high-school team won the 4-A state championship four days later. So West didn’t have a full squad until the beginning of this week.
Mocksville and West played seven innings instead of the customary nine.
“They wanted to play seven,” coach Charles Kurfees said. “I said: ‘Whatever you want to do. It’s your field.’”
Weibley was solid as he ran his record to 2-0. He scattered eight hits and allowed three runs (two earned). Nick Collins, making his third relief appearance, tossed a scoreless inning as Mocksville arms walked zero batters for the second straight game. They’ve issued just two walks over three games, or 25 innings.
“Weibley pitched really well,” Kurfees said.
Mocksville wasted no time taking command, sending up 11 batters and generating five hits and five runs in the first. Sawyer Davis, Weibley, Ross Hoffner and Michael LaLonde mixed hits around walks to Collins and Tati Shibota. Elijah Jones reached on catcher’s interference. Hoffner had the biggest hit, driving in two runs.
In the fourth, Collins homered to push the margin to 6-0. It was the first-ever Legion homer for Collins.
Collins is a standout, multi-sport athlete from West Rowan. Although he didn’t make much of an offensive splash for Mocksville in 2012 (.181 average in 55 at-bats) and 2013 (.244 average in 86 at-bats), he has become a force in 2014. At this point, he had hit safely in 11 of 12 games and carved out a .354 average.
Davis and Hoffner both went 3 for 4 as Mocksville, averaging 9.4 runs per game, cracked double figures for the seventh time in 12 games. Davis (.395) posted his fifth multi-hit game. Hoffner, who is a scalding-hot 12-for-23 during a five-game hit streak, is No. 1 with a .458 average. Jacob Barnhardt extended his hit streak to six.
For good measure, Mocksville tacked on either one or two runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
Mocksville played well in the field, committing one error while West hurt itself with four errors. “We screwed up twice on the bases,” Kurfees said. “Other than it, I was pleased.”
Notes: Shibota played exceptionally well at third base. “He played the heck out of third,” Kurfees said. “He can play. He plays hard, man. He plays very hard.” … Mocksville has won three of the past four against West. … Mocksville’s injured list includes Kyle Mehl, Jose Carrillo and Blake Cheek. Michael Ball is nursing an ankle injury, but he has pitched through the injury.
Mocksville Aces Big
Test At Kernersville
Like you were feeling good about the Mocksville Legion baseball team’s prospects as it prepared to face host Kernersville on June 1, right?
Be honest. You weren’t thinking good thoughts. Mocksville was reeling (and banged up), coming off back-to-back losses, dropping three of four and standing 3-7 overall. By contrast, Kernersville had won 10 of 12.
With Mocksville figuring to run into a buzz saw, it turned it by far its finest performance of the year. Not only did Mocksville win, it hammered the hosts 9-5, coasting after forging a 9-0 lead.
“Kernersville is freakin’ good,” coach Charles Kurfees said. “They’re a bunch of gorillas. Are they the best team in the area? They’ve got one who has signed with Wake Forest. They’ve got a bunch of regulars who started on last year’s (state runner-up) team.”
Mocksville answered a major challenge despite a lengthy list of injuries. Righthanded pitcher Michael Ball went to work with an injured (left) foot from a mishap while playing basketball at the Y. Elijah Jones played on a bum ankle. Kyle Mehl spent his second game on the bench with a broken finger. Colby Cranfill was less than 100 percent.
No matter. It was all Mocksville, which rolled up 18 hits to match a season high. Post 174/54 was jolted by an early catch by left fielder Nick Collins.
“Collins made the play of the day,” Kurfees said. “He was burnt on a fly ball. He ran for miles. He jumped up and caught it. That brought life to the team. We were a whole different team tonight.”
Mocksville’s seven-run second inning was insane. Sending 11 batters to the plate, it pounded out eight hits, including seven in a row. When Jones, Drew Weibley, Ross Hoffner and Cranfill banged singles, Mocksville was just getting started. Jacob Barnhardt, Tati Shibota and Charlie Muchukot followed with singles, with Shibota’s plating two runs. Then Sawyer Davis capped the inning with a hit.
“Can you believe that?” Kurfees said of the seven straight hits.
Mocksville pushed the margin to 8-0 in the fourth and to 9-0 in the fifth.
Muchukot (3 for 6) and Hoffner (3-5) were at it again. Muchukot (.448) and Hoffner (.431) both recorded their seventh multi-hit games. Jones lashed his team-high fifth double, while Barnhardt stretched his hit streak to five games.
“We’re playing injured and hurt and we beat what I consider the best team in the area, maybe the best team in the state,” Kurfees said. “They finished second in the state last year.”
Seven Mocksville players enjoyed two or more hits, including Davis, Jones, Weibley, Cranfill and Shibota.
Meanwhile, Ball (2-1, 3.00) delivered an astonishing outing. He pitched all nine, scattering eight hits, allowing one earned run and walking none. Doing it on a bad foot was something to see. All he needed was a bloody sock and it would have been legendary. Curt Schilling made his bloody sock famous in the 2004 World Series, when Boston beat St. Louis.
“Ball couldn’t hardly walk and he pitched nine innings,” Kurfees said. “I was impressed. He can pitch but he can’t do anything else (because of the foot). He was hobbling off the field.”
Ball is in a zone these days, walking three and striking out 20 in 21 innings. It’s not a surprise since he’s been around the Legion block a few times. Although last year he was 0-1 while only seeing eight innings, he was the No. 2 man on the 24-9 club in 2012, when he was 4-1 in 45 1/3 innings.
Kernersville’s lone earned run came in the ninth.
“He was shoving it,” Kurfees said. “I thought we were going to have to carry him off the field and then carry him back out there. I’m not kidding you.”
Notes: Kurfees’ only complaint was four errors. “We’ve got to cut back on the errors,” he said. … This was the first Mocksville-Kernersville meeting since ‘09, when Mocksville opened that season with a 19-4 blowout win.