Legion holds on to beat Ohio team

Published 10:49 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

Mocksville Legion baseball coach Charles Kurfees wiped the sweat from his brow after watching his team’s comfortable lead nearly disappear in a 7-6 win over Jefferson County (Ohio) on June 16.

Mocksville, playing its first game in eight days, managed to hold on for its fifth one-run win in seven such games. It improved to 9-5 overall and continued the best start in six years.

Jefferson County was in trouble at the start. Mocksville scored one run on three hits in the first inning and two runs on four hits, including doubles by Jamie Sheek and Peyton Winebarger, in the second.

Then a pair of home runs sustained Mocksville’s momentum. With Nick Ward aboard in the third, Carter Foster destroyed a 2-0 pitch. After Patrick Usher drew a two-out walk in the fifth, Jefferson went to its bullpen. Another 2-0 pitch was blasted, this time by Sheek, who bumped a 5-3 lead to 7-3 with the first homer in his two Mocksville seasons.

Ryan Tulbert, who had worked 2.2 scoreless innings in three short relief stints, capitalized on his first mound start for Mocksville. He worked around five walks in five innings, held Jefferson to four hits and three runs and lifted his record to 2-0.

“Ryan did great,” Kurfees said. “He’s pitched really well the times he’s pitched.”

But Kurfees’ delight over winning the first game since a 5-4 loss at Davidson County was tempered a bit by Jefferson’s late rally. Blake Winebarger had a rough time in relief, walking three and getting pulled without getting through the sixth. But he was also unlucky.

“We started off with an error,” Kurfees said. “We screwed up a ground ball. Then it was two outs and a 2-2 count on the batter. I thought we had a strikeout and then Blake walked him.”

Kurfees turned to Landon Bandy, who validated the coach’s faith. He entered with the bases loaded and the No. 2 batter in the box. He got a strikeout to preserve a 7-6 lead.

In the seventh, Bandy got a strikeout on four pitches, another K on five pitches and then coaxed a popout to first. He earned a save to go with his 2-1 record and 2.94 ERA. He’s averaged a strikeout per inning during three relief appearances and two starts. Unfortunately for Mocksville, this may have been his final hour in a baseball uniform.

“He’s leaving,” Kurfees said. “He’s having a career year in his last season, but he can’t stay with us. Bandy leaving doesn’t help our pitching, but it is what it is.”

Sheek (2-3, double, homer) and P. Winebarger (2-3, two doubles) paced a potent lineup that outhit the visitors 10-6. Drew Martin (1-3), B. Winebarger (1-4), Ward (1-2, two walks), Foster (1-4, homer), Usher (1-2, double, walk) and Tulbert (1-2) had one hit each.

Martin (13-game hitting streak, .458 team-high average) and B. Winebarger (12-game hit streak, .418 average) added to their magical runs at the plate. Ward is hitting .342 and is also tied with David Highman for the team lead in walks with nine. Foster has three of the team’s eight homers, a .390 average and a team-high 15 RBIs. Sheek, who entered in a 1-for-9 slump, boosted his average from .263 to .318. Highman, who swiped two bags, owns 10 of the club’s 19 steals.

“Highman plays hard,” Kurfees said. “Sometimes he plays the game a little out of control, but he plays it hard.”