Jr. Legion drops league opener

Published 8:47 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Mocksville Junior Legion baseball team won two of the first three games. That’s the good news. The bad news is Mocksville is 0-1 in the Southeast Conference of the Southern Division.

There are only eight conference games on the slate, so all of them are big.

“In our conference, I’m not sure if there is going to be anybody that is going to be leaps and bounds over the next team,” coach Tim McKnight said. “It might be a situation where we beat up on each other all year.”

Mocksville opened with a 12-1, five-inning thumping of host Kernersville on May 23. Despite getting only six hits, Mocksville found ways to score two runs in the first, three in the second, five in the third and two in the fifth.

“They’re young,” McKnight said. “(Kernersville coach and Davie graduate) Andrew Jones told me they have one seventh grader and five or six eighth graders. On the flip side of that, we’re very experienced. We’ve got nine sophomores, three juniors, three freshmen and an eighth grader.”

Jesse Draughn (two innings) and McKay Chamberlain (three innings) held the Seals to two hits. Mocksville’s hits came from Chamberlain (1-for-1, double), Evan Marshall (1-2), Guy Brunelli (1-3), Brycen Huffman (1-3), Matthew McKnight (1-3) and Cody Smith (1-4).

Mocksville outhit visiting Lake Norman, but that couldn’t prevent a 3-0 defeat in the conference opener on May 25. LN scored single runs in the second, fourth and sixth to put Mocksville in a quick hole in the standings.

Two of the five conference teams will qualify for the playoffs. “That was a tough one,” McKnight said.

Brunelli accounted for two of Mocksville’s six hits. McKnight (four innings) and Chamberlain (three innings) pitched well enough, limiting LN to four hits.

Mocksville had another easy time with Kernersville, winning 13-5 at home on May 27.

Mocksville put up an eight-spot in the first. Kernersville climbed back within 9-5, but the hosts pushed the margin back out even though it was outhit 10-8.

Chamberlain had two hits and reached base all five times. Williams, the one eighth grader on the roster, went 2 for 3 with two RBIs. The North Davie product also impressed behind the plate.

“He’s a really good receiver,” McKnight said. “He does a real good job blocking the ball. He’s pretty natural back there. That’s probably his primary position, and he comes from a pretty good line of genes. He’s always been smarter baseball-wise than his age.”

McKnight went 1 for 2 with two walks and three runs. Mocksville also got hits from Brunelli, Smith and Matthew Glass.

Jake Campbell, a Davie freshman, was the winning pitcher, going four innings, scattering eight hits and allowing one earned run. Landon Bandy earned a save by working the final three innings. He gave up one earned run.

“The thing about Jake is, he just keeps improving,” McKnight said. “He got hit, but he was able to make big pitches when he needed to and he got some double plays behind him to get out of innings. He’s going to see some spot duty. It was a good opportunity to get his feet wet, and he threw strikes and made them put the ball in play.”

Mocksville got double plays from three sources. First baseman Brunelli and second baseman Evan Marshall caught line drives and touched the bag for unassisted DPs. Smith turned a grounder into an unassisted 6-3 DP.

Notes: This is McKnight’s second year at the helm. Last year he guided Mocksville to the most wins (19) in seven years. … Joe Brunelli is the new assistant coach, replacing Jacob Vernon.