Barr’s clutch hit lifts juniors

Published 11:40 am Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The Mocksville Junior Legion baseball team’s 4-3 home win over South Rowan on June 13 felt momentous. Not only did Mocksville erase a deficit and win in dramatic fashion in the seventh inning, it defeated the same pitcher who cuffed Mocksville 11-0 on May 31.

Several players came up big, but the seventh-inning hero was Nate Barr, who knocked in two runs on the final swing of the game.

“It was a dogpile celebration on Nate,” coach Chad Cox said. “The dugout cleared and ran to second base. That was cool.”

Mocksville’s Aaron Hutchens and the South hurler locked up in a pitchers’ duel. It was 0-0 in the top of the fourth when South put two runners on with one out. Hutchens got out of it unscathed by getting a groundout and a strike three looking.

Likewise, South escaped a two-on, no-out threat from Mocksville in the last of the fourth. After Kason Stewart and Hutchens opened the inning with singles, Mocksville failed to score as Stewart was thrown out at home for the second out, followed by a popup to short.

But Mocksville broke through in the fifth. Carson Queen singled with one out. Craig McBride got a bunt hit. Courtesy-runner Jacob Morgan and McBride both scored on a hit by Stewart.

Mocksville’s 2-0 lead was short-lived, though. South rallied to tie on a single, a walk, a passed ball, a sac fly and a single.

Mocksville threatened in the sixth, but left two runners. Logan Allen and Parker Davis were on first and third, respectively, with one out, but a strikeout and flyout kept the score 2-2.

In the top of the seventh, South made Mocksville pay for a hit batsman and a passed ball, a hit knocking in the tiebreaking run. That’s how Mocksville faced a 3-2 deficit going into the bottom of the seventh.

After the first batter flew out, Stewart singled up the middle. Hutchens followed with a sharp single, and when the threw went home, the runners advanced to second and third. On a 1-1 count, Barr singled through the right side. Hutchens scored the clinching run with ease as Mocksville stopped a two-game slide.

“We saw the same exact pitcher (from the 11-0 loss),” Cox said. “He threw a lot of curveballs and we still had a hard time hitting his curveballs. But when we got the opportunity to strike, we were doing it.

“Nate hits it well. That’s why we’ve got him in the four or five slot most of the time.”

Stewart (3 for 4) kept doing his thing in the No. 3 spot in the order. He’s had a string of eye-catching performances at the plate, including 2-3 against West Forsyth, 4-5 against Mt. Pleasant and 4-4 against High Point.

“He’s seeing the ball well right now,” Cox said. “He’s hitting line drives.”

Hutchens was a major factor. Not only did he go 2 for 4, he pitched a complete-game four-hitter with one walk, six strikeouts and 71 strikes in 97 pitches.

“It’s impressive to go seven innings under 100 pitches,” Cox said. “He’s had to miss a lot of games, so we haven’t had a chance to see him a lot. But from knowing these players from past seasons, I knew that was in the cards for him.”

But no one was more important than Queen, who filled a huge void behind the plate on a day when both catchers were unavailable.

“Both of our catchers were out of town,” Cox said. “Carson normally plays shortstop, but he stepped up and had a really, really good game behind the plate. I was told he caught at the Little League level and that was it. He’s been a middle infielder for a long time. I gave them an ultimatum and said: ‘Guys, if we don’t have a catcher, we don’t have a game, so who’s doing it?’ Carson said: ‘I can do it.’ Going into the first inning, we told Aaron: ‘You don’t have a traditional catcher back there, you have to pitch to contact tonight.’ I think Carson had one passed ball all night, so Aaron did his job as a pitcher and Carson didn’t have to get beat up and punished behind the plate.”

Notes: The win improved Mocksville to 4-5 overall and 3-4 in the division. … Mocksville outhit South 11-4, including one hit from Queen (1-3), McBride (1-4), Barr (1-4), Davis (1-3), Allen (1-3) and Joe Barnes (1-3). … Cox said all three outfielders made plays – Davis in left field, McBride in center and Barnes in right. “They got on their horse and ran them down when they needed to,” he said.