Pitcher goes 12 innings in state title game

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Pitcher Zack Russell-Myers had another game to remember. The Mocksville Junior Legion baseball team got another victory to savor.

In the first round of the 2007 state tournament in Cherryville, Mocksville beat Wayne County 2-1 in 12 innings. Russell-Myers pitched all 12 innings in a remarkable three-hit performance.

Mocksville won the first two games in Cherryville before losing twice. It wound up third in the state.

Mocksville tied the Wayne County game in the sixth, when Clint Howell singled home Zeb Cope. Mocksville won it in the bottom of the 12th, when Matthew Nifong knocked in Zach Long.

But it was Russell-Myers who defied logic. He didn’t give up a hit over the final eight innings, allowing three baserunners during that span.

“I’ve never seen a kid pitch 12 innings – never,” assistant coach Andrew Jones said. “That’s the kind of stuff you hear from the 1950s. You don’t hear about a kid going 12 innings anymore. To give up three hits in 12 innings, that’s what’s unbelievable. He wasn’t focussed on throwing it hard. He was letting his movement do the trick. His ball was dropping, and he was throwing seven, eight pitches an inning.”

How could you be more spectacular in back-to-back outings? Two games earlier in the Area III tournament at Rich Park, Russell-Myers led a 5-0 win over Asheboro. In the Asheboro and Wayne County games combined, the righthander and rising senior at Davie went 19 innings, gave up eight hits, one run, four walks and struck out 16.

Coach Charles Kurfees didn’t summon activity in the bullpen “until the 11th when we got Long up,” he said. “We’d send three batters up and they’d send three batters up. It was popups and groundballs. They had four- and five-pitch innings. It was something else.”

Russell-Myers was so efficient he averaged 11.1 pitches per inning. He had a one-hitter over the last 11 innings. As if that’s not enough, he made a stellar defensive play.

“He was throwing harder in the 10th and 11th than he was in the second and third innings,” Kurfees said. “He came toward the third-base line, barehanded a one-hopper and threw across his body to get the boy out. It was an unbelievable play.”

Meanwhile, Wayne County’s pitcher was making quick work of Mocksville, which fell behind 1-0 in the first.

“I think their pitcher went 11 (innings),” Kurfees said last week. “Zack threw two three-pitch innings. It was unreal. And their pitcher did the same thing.”

Mocksville gave its fans chills in the sixth. Cope singled and later moved up to second. Howell tied the game at 1-1 with an opposite-field single to right.

“It kept you on the edge of your seat,” Kurfees said. “It was a dang good crowd. I couldn’t believe the following.”

Mocksville (34-5) pulled out its seventh straight win in the 12th. Long slapped one on the right-field chalk for a double. That put the spotlight on No. 9 batter Nifong.

“I said: ‘If Long gets on, you’re going to bunt him over,’” Kurfees said. “Nifong said: ‘What if he’s on second?’ I said: ‘Then you’re going to hit one in the gap.’ He looked at me and smiled real big, and by gosh he ripped it.”

With two outs and the count full, Nifong picked the perfect time for his one hit, lacing a single to right-center to score Long. The walk-off win gave Mocksville a memory to cherish for a lifetime.

“The kid laid out for it and couldn’t come up with it,” Jones said. “Nifong does what he’s supposed to do everyday. He comes ready to play with a great attitude.”

Notes: Shortstop Bret Peterson made a defensive gem in the 11th, leading to an ejection of the Wayne County coach. “He went back in the hole and threw a guy out on a bang-bang play (at first),” Kurfees said. … Catcher Jacob Vernon suffered a broken ring finger on his catching hand in the first inning. No matter. He stayed in and caught all 133 of Russell-Myers’ pitches. “That took a lot of guts. That’s pretty incredible,” Jones said. “He started dropping some balls because he was hurting, but then he put three fingers to the side and caught the pitches with his index finger and thumb.”