Rally keeps senior Legion in playoff contention

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

After winning five of six games, the Mocksville Senior Legion baseball team had a downturn. But after laying an egg in the first matchup with Kannapolis, Mocksville restored belief that it can finish in the top two in the division by clipping Kannapolis in the second meeting.

The top two teams in the Southern Division and Northern Division will qualify for the playoffs. Only one team from Area III will advance to the state tournament. With a 2-1 division record, Mocksville entered the week with as good a chance as anyone to take the Southern Division.

Hamlet 10, Mock 7

In a home non-league game on June 10 that was on the heels of Mocksville’s 5-1 surge, things didn’t go as well for Post 174.

“It did not go as planned,” coach Tristan Wyatt said. “We had seven walks from our pitchers. We only had six hits. We had two errors and they had 12 hits. They found holes, they did their job. That’s all I can say.”

It looked bleak when Mocksville faced a 3-0 deficit going into the bottom of the third. But then a three-run rally created a clean slate.

Alas, it all unraveled when Hamlet erupted for seven runs in the sixth. It was 10-3 after the visitors used five hits and two walks to do the damage.

Hamlet dominated the hits category 12-6. Jay Brookshire (1-4, double), Riley Campbell (1-3, walk), Myles Crocker (1-3, walk), Cooper Bliss (1-2, walk), Evan Hyde (1-3) and Jacob Fleming (1-2, two RBIs) had the hits for Mocksville. Aaron Hutchens was twice hit by a pitch.

Wyatt used four pitchers. The fourth, Caden Irvin (1 IP, 0 R), was the only one who was able to keep Hamlet from scoring.

Kann 8, Mock 3

The second division game of the year was a snoozefest for the visiting team. Kannapolis scored twice in each of the first three innings to build a 6-0 lead, and Mocksville never threatened in a road loss on June 11.

“We were absolutely horrible,” Wyatt said. “The pitching wasn’t good. We had an error on the very first play on a ground ball. From then on, Riley Campbell’s trust in his defense went down. We had five errors, maybe six. Give credit to Kannapolis for hitting the ball on the ground.”

Irvin went 2 for 3 and scored twice. The other three hits came from Morrison (1-3), Hyde (1-3, double) and Will Wands (1-1, walk).

Kannapolis chased Campbell in the third and had no problem protecting the lead with Daxton Savage on the hill. Bliss did do a solid job in relief, allowing one earned run in 3.1 innings and striking out six.

But other than that, pretty much everything went wrong.

“There were mental mistakes,” Wyatt said. “We missed signs on the bases. We got picked off at first on a back throw from the catcher. A runner got caught stealing when the pitcher stepped off the back of the rubber. We had runners on first and third at the time with one out. We missed bunts. There was a lot of miscommunication.”

Mock 6, Kann 5

The setting was dramatic for a regular-season game – Mocksville was facing a tough team two days after losing decisively to that same team and the tension was high because the margin for error is thin when only two division teams will make the postseason.

Kannapolis pushed the heck out of Mocksville in the early going, but Post 174 came back to win thanks to Hutchens’ pitching and clutch hits from Crocker and Shawn Sealey.

“It was something else, man,” Wyatt said after the payback win on June 13. “There were a lot of emotions.”

It was a blah start for Mocksville’s offense. After three scoreless innings, Kannapolis went up 3-0 in the top of the fourth – and Post 174 was still searching for its first hit against Zach Helms. Making matters worse, Mocksville wasted three hits in the bottom of the fourth. Morrison, Irvin and Mason Moxley had consecutive singles, but a strikeout with the bases loaded kept Kannapolis ahead 3-0.

But this game would tell a story of determination. Mocksville turned the tide in its favor with a four-run fifth, and the last two and a half innings were filled with fireworks.

The fifth-inning rally began with a Sealey double. When Aundray Russell’s bunt was errored (bad throw by the pitcher), Sealey came all the way around to score. Bliss knocked in Russell with a hit. Hutchens bunted for a hit. Then Crocker (double) and Irvin cracked RBI hits to lift Mocksville in front 4-3.

“We played small ball and it paid off,” Wyatt said. “Helms was on a roll. I said: ‘We just need a couple hits to change our mentality.’ Then it was like we knew (Helms) could be hit. That’s something a lot of teams have been doing to us.”

Kannapolis answered immediately, with Conner Coy slamming a game-tying homer to lead off the sixth. “He absolutely tanked it,” Wyatt said. “He hit a bomb in left field.”

In the top of the seventh, Kannapolis regained a 5-4 lead by punching a grounder between first and second.

But this night saw a gutty display of resilience from Mocksville, which wound up winning in walk-off fashion. The first batter in the bottom of the seventh was Crocker, who saved his first homer of the season for the perfect time – a drive that tied the score at 5-5. Interestingly enough, Mocksville had only left the yard twice in 12 games.

“Myles came up to me and goes: ‘Coach, I’ve got you. Don’t you worry,’” Wyatt said. “He hit a tank over the scoreboard. He got all of it – I mean, all of it.”

Morrison walked and took second on a passed ball. Irvin’s bunt moved Morrison to third, and Kannapolis intentionally walked Moxley to put runners at the corners and set up a potential double play.

“I needed (Irvin) to bunt,” Wyatt said. “He’s not the greatest bunter in the world, but after (the loss at Kannapolis) they were there early. We were working on two-strike approach, bunting and small ball stuff. Lo and behold, he bunted Morrison to third.”

A strikeout made it two outs. Now it was up to Sealey, the ninth man in the order. He produced exhilaration by driving a game-winning hit between short and third.

“We need to win (two of three against Kannapolis),” Wyatt said. “Then we need to take Rowan one more time and sweep Concord. Like I said earlier in the season, this team has so much potential. If we keep the mentality after (this comeback win), not giving up, we’re going to be contention for first place.”

Crocker (2-4, two RBIs), Irvin (2-4) and Sealey (2-3) were huge offensively, and the inspiration in the field was Hutchens, who was all Jeep and no Jaguar while going six innings on the hill. Yes, he gave up 10 hits, but he shook off the three-spot in the fourth, only walked one and gave Mocksville a chance to come back and steal it.

“Pitching was thin and boy did Aaron ever show out,” Wyatt said.

Notes: Morrison (1-3), Bliss (1-4), Hutchens (1-4), Moxley (1-4) and Hyde (1-4) had one hit each in the win. … Brookshire got the win by pitching the seventh. … Mocksville’s division rivals are Concord, Kannapolis and Rowan County. The four teams in the Northern Division are Eastern Randolph, Randolph County, High Point and Davidson County. … Mocksville lost to Hamlet for the second time in five days, falling 13-2 on the road on June 14. … Mocksville entered the week 6-8 overall and 2-1 in the division.