Junior baseball goes out on positive note

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Joe Barnes pitched superbly and Aaron Hutchens, Carson Queen and Kason Stewart delivered big hits as the Mocksville Junior Legion baseball team closed its season with a 4-2 win over Kannapolis Post 146 on July 1 at Rich Park.

Mocksville won the last two games to finish 9-9 overall and 8-8 in the division. One day earlier, it mounted an improbable rally to deny Kannapolis Post 115 by a score of 7-6.

Post 174 failed to make the playoffs. It finished fifth; the top four received postseason berths. Mt. Ulla, Davidson County, High Point and Carson finished in the top four. Finishing behind Mocksville were Kannapolis Post 146, South Rowan, Kannapolis Post 115 and Mt. Pleasant.

“The boys backed themselves into a corner, but they will not quit,” coach Chad Cox said. “They have a lot of tenacity and they fight til the last out.”

Barnes couldn’t have pitched much better. The Forbush High product worked a four-hitter for five innings, walked none and fired 39 of 54 pitches for strikes. The one run he allowed was unearned.

In the bottom of the first, Queen scored on a wild pitch. Corbin Angus walked to load the bases, but Mocksville left 3 runners on and settled for a 1-0 lead.

Two errors gave Kannapolis a run in the third. The half-inning ended with catcher Jacob Hicks and Barnes getting an out at home.

Mocksville took control in the fifth, thanks in part to a pinch-hit single by Hutchens. “Aaron had been absent for several games,” Cox said. “I couldn’t start him, but it was an opportunity when the game was close to put him in as a pinch-hitter. He got a spark going.”

Joshua Whitaker bunted Hutchens into scoring position. Then Queen (double) and Stewart (single) came through with RBI knocks to give Post 174 a 3-1 advantage.

In relief in the 6th, after walking a batter and hitting a batter, Hutchens responded with back-to-back strikeouts. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Hutchens induced a grounder to third baseman Angus to get out of the jam.

In the sixth, Nate Barr walked and advanced on a Barnes single. Barr scored on a sac fly by Hutchens.

In the seventh, Kannapolis’ first two batters reached. Queen, the shortstop, turned a double play to put his team on victory’s doorstep. But Kannapolis scored on a wild pitch and Hutchens walked a batter. Cox took the ball and called for Stewart, who was greeted by a single that put runners at first and second. A groundout to Angus secured the second narrow win over Post 146; Mocksville won the first meeting 5-3 on June 18.

“Kason isn’t a pitcher, doesn’t claim to be a pitcher,” Cox said. “He’s a position player that can throw the ball across the plate consistently. When we need strikes, he’s a good one to go to.”

Mocksville’s offense was led by Queen (2-3, two runs), Logan Allen (2-3) and Barnes (2-3). Stewart (1-2) and Hutchens (1-1) had one hit each.

“It was a quality game, for sure,” Cox said. “We got to .500. I’m real happy with how the season ended and how we progressed since the beginning.”