Whitaker throws a gem for junior legion

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

The Mocksville Junior Legion baseball team had a miserable go of things in the early going, but the scuffling stopped in the fourth game thanks to pitcher Joshua Whitaker and hitters Luke Foster and Joe Barnes.

With coach Blake Little in his first year at the controls, the season began with a 9-4 road loss to Randolph County on May 26. Mocksville was held to five hits and its pitchers handed out 12 walks. Barnes (2 for 4) was the top offensive guy, while Dylan Garwood (1-4), Westin Vestal (1-2, two walks) and Whitaker (1-3) had one hit each.

Four days later at home, Mocksville experienced a lot more turbulence as it fell 8-0 to West Forsyth Blue. It was 4-0 before Mocksville stepped into the batter’s box. The cold numbers at that point: 0-3 record, 28-5 running score in favor of the opponents. West had 10 hits to four by Mocksville, which got one apiece from Foster (1-3), Brayden Carter (1-2, two steals), Joakim Rose (1-2) and Junior Vazquez (1-2).

Despite the record on May 30, there were some good things happening, like Rose’s 2.1 scoreless innings in relief against West, when he threw 20 of 32 pitches for strikes.

“Joakim came in and did some good damage control, and Westin continued to be a 10-foot brick wall behind home plate,” Little said. “Joshua’s pitching has been great. Dashel DesNoyers has stepped up big time and improved at shortstop. Joe Barnes has been doing it all – in center field, pitching and at the plate.”

Mock 9, Mt. Pleasant 2

Mocksville got the ship righted against Mt. Pleasant on May 31. Because of rain, the game began May 27 and was completed four days later as part of a doubleheader.

It was suspended with the score 0-0 in the fourth. Mocksville exploded when play resumed.

“There were smiles all around,” Little said. “They were ready to get the monkey off our back.”

Whitaker played a huge role in the first win. He went the distance with one walk and nine strikeouts, retiring nine in a row between the second and fifth innings.

“That was just a gem,” Little said. “For him to throw three innings on Monday and come back four days later and lock it back in and throw four more, you can’t really teach that.”

The offense failed to launch before rain halted play at Rich Park. Even though it was facing the same arm when the teams hooked up at Mt. Pleasant, the bats went crazy.

In the fifth, two walks were sandwiched around a Carter single. The defining moment followed a bases-loaded walk that put Mocksville on the board, 1-0. Foster, who fouled off two pitches, provided a two-run double. Mocksville would score five runs off five walks and two hits.

The sixth was another Mocksville avalanche, scoring four runs on four hits and three walks.

When it was over, Little didn’t have to lament missed opportunities from the early innings.

“In the first inning and the third inning, we had two runners on,” he said. “In the third, Joe Barnes (of Forbush) hit a screamer right at the second baseman. He made a jumping catch; that probably would have scored two. Joe always puts up a good at-bat. Even when he gets out, he’s hitting the ball hard somewhere and puts pressure on the defense. They made a good play in the first inning that kept us from getting a run.”

The most impressive offensive player was Foster, who went 2 for 3 with two doubles and four RBIs. Barnes went 2-3. Getting one hit were Garwood (1-1, walk), Carter (1-2), Rose (1-3, two steals) and Jesse Willard (1-3, two RBIs, double).

Foster has been hammering the ball all season.

“From out of the gate, Luke has been crushing the ball,” Little said. “The past few games, he’s been hitting it hard and not finding the holes. We talked about just trusting the process and just keep hitting it hard, they’re going to fall. They are starting too, and it’s going to be scary.”

Mt. Pleasant 5, Mock 3

The second game of the DH was a fantastic battle that just happened to go the road team’s way.

Vazquez logged 5.1 innings before giving way to Carter, who struck out two in 2/3 of an inning.

Mocksville erased a 3-1 deficit in the sixth as Foster singled, Rose doubled and Charlie Young singled to tie the score. Mt. Pleasant retook a 5-3 lead in the last of the sixth on three hits and two walks.

Mocksville kept fighting after the first two batters in the seventh went down. Vestal singled and Foster walked to put the tying run on base. But a grounder to second ended it.

Mocksville’s five hits were spread among Vestal (1-3), Foster (1-2, two runs, two walks), Rose (1-3), Evan Shore (1-3) and Young (1-2).

“It was another good pitchers’ duel,” Little said. “Junior got some groundball outs. A couple of fluky little hits and a couple miscues on defense ended up being the difference.”