Jr. Legion sizzling

Published 10:19 am Thursday, June 30, 2016

Just when you think the Mocksville Junior Legion baseball season could not get any better, it keeps getting better.

Coach Tim McKnight’s squad entered the week 14-5 overall and 5-2 in the Southeast Conference. On June 1, Mocksville was 0-2 in the conference. It has a four-game winning streak and a 10-1 record since June 8, and the only blemish during that stretch was a 10-8 nonconference loss to Carson. And even that was a good showing as Mocksville collected 14 hits against a team that entered the week with 20 wins against three defeats.

The regular season concludes this week, and the playoffs begin Friday with a best-of-three series. Mocksville played a nonconference game at Rowan on Monday. It plays a conference game at Concord on June 29 to close the regular season. A win over Concord would give Mocksville a No. 1 seed. Two teams from the Southeast Conference will advance, and Mocksville could grab a berth even with a loss to Concord.

“We’re sitting in the catbird seat right now as far as the playoffs,” McKnight said. “We have the tiebreaker over (the Kannapolis Cardinals). It’s still up in the air, but we helped ourselves (last week).”

Mock 5, Kann Cards 3

Mocksville staved off the visiting Kannapolis Cardinals on June 22, and the night belonged to Jesse Draughn and Andrew Martin.

Draughn tossed a complete-game four-hitter on 105 pitches as Mocksville pulled into a first-place tie with Concord. Draughn, who struck out four in a row at one point, carried a two-hit shutout into the sixth.

“We’ve been riding Jesse and Brycen (Huffman),” McKnight said.

Draughn overcame a heart-dropping moment in the sixth. An error and a single brought the tying run to the plate. After a strikeout, Draughn surrendered a three-run home run on a first-pitch fastball. Just like that, Mocksville’s 3-0 lead was gone.

“We were cruising,” McKnight said. “I had been calling offspeed away, away, away. I called a fastball and Jesse got too much of the plate. It was just a bad pitch. We had not called many fastballs on the first pitch. Oh my goodness, the air got sucked out of the balloon.”

Draughn’s teammates picked him up in the bottom of the sixth. Martin opened with a single. With two outs, Landon Bandy kept the inning alive with a single to right. Draughn helped himself with a walk. All coaches count on the No. 3 batter to provide clutch hits, and Matthew Glass did just that, plating Martin and Bandy with a single to left-center. Mocksville had regained the lead at 5-3.

Martin went 3 for 3 with three runs.  “He was the man of the hour,” McKnight said. “I think he was pressing in the three hole. For the last three games, we’ve moved him down to the seven spot and he’s had six hits in three games. He seems to be more relaxed in the seven hole.”

Glass went 2 for 4 as Mocksville outhit Kannapolis 9-4. Bandy, Draughn, Guy Brunelli and Matthew McKnight had one hit each.

Mock 13, Kann Cards 10

One day later, Mocksville pulled out a wild slugfest on the road in a rematch against the Kannapolis Cardinals.

After trailing 3-0 in the first, Mocksville rallied for a 4-3 lead. It was 4-4 before Mocksville vaulted to a seemingly secure 11-4 advantage. Then the Cardinals fought back, cutting it to 11-10. Mocksville would hold on as it matched a season high in runs.

Mocksville’s offense combined 10 hits with nine walks. The Cards hung around by drawing 10 free passes from two Mocksville pitchers.

McKay Chamberlain and Ridge Sanders provided the biggest hits of the game. Chamberlain had two doubles and three RBIs, including a double in the seventh that knocked in two runs and gave Mocksville breathing room at 13-10. Sanders had two hits and four RBIs, including a three-run double during a five-run fourth that saw Mocksville’s lead grow from 6-4 to 11-4.

“Ridge is swinging the bat good,” McKnight said. “He’s a hot stick right now.”

Cody Smith also had two hits. Martin drove in three runs.

“Since we’ve dropped Martin to the seven hole and moved Glass to No. 3, that combination has worked really, really well,” he said.

Mock 12, Stanly 1

Sizzling Mocksville drilled host Stanly County in a nonconference game on June 25.

Glass (3 for 4, four runs, two RBIs), Brunelli (2-4, two RBIs), McKnight (2-3) and Martin (2-3, two RBIs) led the onslaught at the plate as Mocksville outhit Stanly 12-3 and ended the game in five innings.

Jacob Campbell pitched strong for 4 2/3 innings, the only run being unearned. Martin took over with one out to go, and he struck out the only batter he faced in his season debut on the hill.

“We’ve been throwing Andrew in the bullpen a little bit,” McKnight said. “He’s pitched but it’s been in the past. He hadn’t thrown in a while, so I wanted to see how he would react to a batter. All he threw was hard stuff and he can run it up there pretty good. I figured we may need him (later in the season).”