Kurfees, team in a dogpile

Published 1:35 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

As a tribute to Charles Kurfees’ long run of coaching Legion baseball, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to some of his most celebrated wins.

It was a comeback from baseball heaven: Down 6-2 in the bottom of the ninth of an elimination game in the playoffs. One strike from defeat on multiple occasions. Then a 7-6 victory that was exhausting and riveting.

As any fan who was at Rich Park on July 12, 2011 will tell you, the Mocksville Senior Legion baseball team’s late rally past Eastern Randolph is one of the greatest games they’ve ever witnessed.

The hero was Zach Long, who knocked in the tying and winning runs with a two-out, two-strike hit to the left-field corner in the ninth. Delirious teammates tackled Long as a dogpile celebration ensued between the mound and shortstop. The dogpile included Zach’s father, Del Long, who rushed the field.

“That was one for the books,” coach Charles Kurfees said. “That’s one of the best ever. I haven’t seen that in I don’t know how long.”

Last week, Kurfees added: “Three or four people jumped the fence. It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. I didn’t have any choice but to jump on there with them.”

“It’s stuff like that that makes memories you’ll never forget,” assistant coach Todd Bumgarner said then. “Unbelievable. I’m still shaking.”

“You couldn’t ask for anything better than that,” Javan Phillips said. “Things started to unravel (for E. Randolph), and things happened in weird ways.”

“Coach Bum always says keep playing till the last pitch, and that was definitely it right there,” Alex Newman said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like that.”

Mocksville improved to 17-11, including 3-1 in the double-elimination tournament. Randolph finished 14-12.

Randolph had firm control of the game, unimaginably scoring five runs in the first three innings against Mocksville workhorse DJ Webb. Randolph pushed the margin to 6-2 in the sixth.

“With (Webb) on the mound, I figured they wouldn’t score many runs,” Tyler King said. “I thought as long as we score a few runs, we’re going to get the win. I really don’t know how to explain why that pitcher (Randolph’s Christian Snider) kept getting outs. I guess we just had to wait till the very last inning to put it all together.”

Snider made life difficult for Mocksville for eight innings. It had scored two runs in a span of 17 innings. Mocksville was done. Through.

But then Mocksville rose from the ashes. The stop-the-presses rally started when Caleb Brawley’s long drive near the right-field line was dropped. The next batter, ninth-place King, jerked a double to left, the laser short-hopping the fence and chasing Snider from the game.

“We were jacked up,” Long said. “We were battling and fighting. But I didn’t know anything that special was going to come up.”

Newman drew a walk to load the bases with none out.

“To be honest, I thought the game was over,” King said. “But then I got on and Newman walked. About that time, I thought we’ve actually got a chance. That was the most intense game I’ve ever been in.”

Reliever Ty Powell’s first offering hit Phillips on the shoulder, pushing a run across to make it 6-3. Powell gave way to Tyler See.

“(Bumgarner) told me to crowd the plate, so I got as close as I could,” Phillips said. “I have never been so happy to get hit by a pitch.”

“The fans down the third-base line were feeling it,” Kurfees said. “They were tasting blood.”

Tyler Jordan, who smacked a two-run homer in the first to give Mocksville a short-lived 2-1 lead, hit a sac fly to make it 6-4. The next batter struck out. Mocksville was down to its last strike when Connor Bodenhamer fell behind 0-2. The next pitch hit him on the arm to load the bases and bring up Long.

“When we had bases loaded, I was just praying something (big) would happen,” Webb said. “And it happened with two outs.”

A pitch got away and Newman raced home. It was 6-5 with runners at second and third.

Long’s at-bat against See was an epic struggle. With the count full, Long fouled off two fastballs.

“I trusted my preparation and focussed on staying short through the ball, keeping my head down and making contact,” Long said. “In the back of my mind, I knew he was going to throw me a curveball.”

“I was on third base and thinking: ‘Dear Lord, please let it happen,’” Phillips said.

“I hollered to him three times: ‘Right man, right spot,’” Bumgarner said. “I heard Ricky (Lagle) up there hollering: ‘Come on, Zach.’”

Long pulled a curveball into the corner, the bullet driving in Phillips and Bodenhamer. Mocksville went nuts.

“I just had a feeling that he was going to come through,” Bumgarner said. “I didn’t know he was going to hit a ball that about knocked the wall down.”

“You can’t explain (the feeling),” Phillips said. “Connor was flying. That’s probably the fastest I’ve ever seen him run.”

“They said daddy (Sonny Kurfees) got so excited that he left the money box,” Kurfees said.

The players jumped on each other. Unable to contain his excitement, Del Long joined the pile.

“I don’t know where he came from,” Bumgarner said. “He was out there before I could get there. He gave Zach the biggest hug I’ve ever seen.”

“I was racing Bodenhamer to the plate,” Kurfees said.

It was only fitting that it was Long who capped the Miracle in Mocksville. He was a part of the Legion program for six years.

“He threw me that curveball and I just stayed down on it – short swing right through it,” Long said. “So glory be to God on that one.”

Webb staged a turnaround after giving up his sixth run in the sixth. He retired 10 of the last 11 batters. He walked none and struck out 11 while improving to 7-0 and recording his sixth complete game in nine starts.

“He could have come over and said: ‘Coach, I don’t have it tonight. Get me out,’” Bumgarner said. “But he kept battling. I asked him: ‘If we tie this up, can you give me one more?’ He said: ‘I’m not coming out.’”