Johnson, Cunningham key as Post 174 turns a corner

Published 9:06 am Thursday, July 8, 2021

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

For a good while, it was a season of rocky takeoffs, bumpy flights and crash landings. When the Mocksville Senior Legion baseball team was overwhelmed 10-0 at Rowan County on June 27, Post 174’s record was 1-8. It had been outscored 71-29.

But right when Mocksville seemed to be going nowhere, a turnaround began. How big a turnaround remains to be seen, but going 2-2 in a span of five days is certainly a good start.

Mocksville was a demoralizing 0-6 on June 21. Four days later it traveled to Greensboro, the same Greensboro that obliterated Mocksville 18-4 six days earlier. Mocksville made perfect amends by winning 7-4. That broke a nine-game losing streak dating to 2019.

Then on June 29, Brett Johnson and Mocksville blanked visiting Mooresville 2-0. Although Mocksville was 2-8 overall at that point, the triumph evened its Southern Division record at 1-1.

“Our team is starting to come around a little bit,” coach Charles Kurfees said.

The heroes were Johnson and Reed Cunningham. Johnson had a brilliant performance on the mound; Cunningham was clutch behind the plate and with the bat.

This was Johnson’s season debut in a Mocksville uniform. Since he had Legion eligibility left, a desperate-for-arms Kurfees plucked him off the Mocksville Muscadines, a college wood bat team.

All the North Iredell High product did was toss Mocksville’s first complete-game shutout since June 17, 2017, a span of 85 games. That’s when Carson James pitched a three-hitter in a 4-0 win over Stanly County.

Johnson struck out four in the first two innings. In the third, Mooresville got a leadoff single, but Johnson promptly picked him off first. After an error and a single, Cunningham gunned a would-be base stealer at third. Then came a flyout as the game remained scoreless.

In the fourth, with Mocksville ahead 1-0, Johnson worked around a two-out double. In the fifth, he overcame the second of Mocksville’s three errors. In the sixth, with the score still 1-0, Mooresville threatened by reaching on an error and drawing a walk. Cunningham came through again by throwing out a runner attempting to steal third. That loomed large when the next batter singled. But then second baseman Joe Johnson started an inning-ending double play.

And in the seventh, Mooresville did not get the ball out of the infield, striking out twice and popping out. Johnson threw a five-hitter with one walk and seven strikeouts.

“He’s a good pitcher,” Kurfees said. “He did really well. He kept them offbalance all night. He mixed it up really good.”

Mocksville broke through in the third. After Wesley Mason and Parker Aderhold had back-to-back singles, Blake Little dropped down a sac bunt. Mason scored on Cunningham’s sac fly.

After Mocksville went down 1-2-3 for the third time in the fifth, it picked up the insurance run in the sixth. With one out, Cunningham doubled and stole third. Johnson’s single made it 2-0.

Cunningham was equally important at catcher.

“We stopped a couple baserunners when they had some threats,” Kurfees said. “Reed’s starting to get the feel of playing Legion ball. He’s going to be our No. 1 catcher now. Him and Landon Lowtharpe will take care of our catching duties.”

Notes: The hits were 5-5. Cunningham went 2 for 3 with two doubles. … Mooresville did not commit an error. … While Mocksville was playing its 10th game, this was the season opener for Mooresville.