GREENSBORO – Mooresville continued its winning streak through the entire month of May into the first weekend in June, which concluded with the school’s first baseball state championship.
Sophomore pitcher Nick Merriman went the distance for the 11-seeded Blue Devils in Game 2 of the 4A state title Saturday night, holding Corinth Holders, the 3 seed out of East, to three hits in the 8-2 Blue Devil victory. It was the second consecutive complete-game outing for a Mooresville pitcher, as senior righty Justin Poris went the distance in Game 1 earlier in the day and was named the championship’s Most Valuable Player.
“Nick just goes out there and does his thing,” Mooresville coach Jeff Burchett said following his team’s on-field celebration. “He just goes out, 15 years old, for a sophomore to go out there and have composure like that, he doesn’t get rattled. … To use two pitchers in two games, it doesn’t get no better than that.”
The Pirates out of northern Johnston County had a 2-0 lead in the third after a walk, sacrifice bunt and eventually a throw from catcher Davis Turner that ricocheted off the batter and into the Corinth Holders dugout.
The Blue Devils, like they did in Game 1 and throughout the postseason, made a comeback. A double by first-baseman Cameron Clonch scored two and was followed by a Turner single that brought in two more.
“We really just came back that inning,” senior shortstop Blake Burchett said. “we were trying to scratch one back, just to show them we were still in the game. From there on out, they knew we were there.”
In Game 1, the Blue Devils were down 2-0 after the first and didn’t allow another run. Against Pinecrest in the second round of the playoffs, Mooresville was down 5-0 after two innings and 6-4 after five. But they scored three total over the last two frames to advance in the West bracket.
The stands at the UNC-Greensboro baseball stadium were filled with folks wearing the Mooresville blue, and the top of the Blue Devils’ dugout was lined with members of the student body.
“I honestly don’t think we could’ve done it without them,” senior center fielder Tafton Hensley said. “They brought us energy all year.”
It’s a community that dealt with tragedy in the last month with Mooresville Police Officer Jordan Sheldon shot and killed during a traffic stop May 4.
“Unbelievable community support,” said Coach Burchett, who is in his 22nd season at his alma mater. “Everything that has went on, our community went through some hard times and this is for all of Mooresville. All the former players, former coaches. This is 22 years in the making.”
Mooresville won the regular-season I-Meck championship by going 12-2 in league play and sweeping rival Lake Norman. But a loss in the conference tournament gave them a lower seed. This is the second team state championship for Mooresville the year, as the wrestling team won its second consecutive individual team state title in February.
• With the bases loaded and one out, Clonch hit a ball deep to right field that wen over the fence but was just foul, leaving the crowd ooh-ing and ahh-ing. After a few more foul balls, he hit his game-tying double. “That’s just team baseball,” Blake Burchett said. “You can’t win baseball with just one player, that’s why you have nine.”
• All of the Corinth Holders pitchers threw exclusively out of the stretch –usually only used when base runners are on. “We did notice that,” Coach Burchett said. “I would say since they all do it, that’s just their philosophy. It got them to the state championship.”
• In the top of the second, a Corinth Holders bunt was called foul by the home plate umpire, indicating the ball hit the batter in the box. But after Mooresville’s coach had a discussion with the umpire, the four-man crew huddled and determined the ball made contract with batter outside the box and was ruled out.