Hot diggity dog!
Including a helpful healthy helping of mustard, Mooresville High School’s baseball team combined all the additional condiments needed to put the finishing touches on the most appetite-appealing accomplishment in program history.
Once again overcoming a multiple run deficit, a modus operandi employed throughout their weather-influenced stay, the Blue Devils plated all the remaining scoring strikes over a consecutive three-inning span. They rode another strong start-to-finish pitching performance to an 8-2 decision over Corinth Holders in what wound up being the deciding game of the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s 4A class championship series.
Mooresville, defying its No. 11 seeded status from the West Region bracket, battled back from its second two-run deficit in the course of the single-day play held in the best-of-three-games set at University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s Spartan Baseball facility. That lit the spark on a celebration torch that continued to be lit all the way back to the awaiting welcoming party back home.
The successful sweeping of the first doubleheader – somewhat spaced out with game one of the affair held mid-morning before the eventual finale was held later in the afternoon – of the season by the Blue Devils awarded them with their program’s first-ever state championship team first-place plaque.
The back-to-back wins extended the Mooresville’s season-best winning streak to cover all eight games played during the course of the three-week-long postseason phase to close out this memorable campaign’s record at the 24-9 mark.
The trek to the top featured a total of six wins against teams all shouldered with higher-seeded status. Prior to the sweep of Corinth Holders in the final series, Mooresville bested the likes of No. 6 seeded Pinecrest and No. 2 seed Providence before also taking both games of the West Region title series over No. 8 seed Ronald Region to merit the state finals berth.
“I’d like to say,’’ said Jeff Burchett, admittedly initially “speechless” just after the final out was recorded, “that this is the stuff that dreams are made of. To be honest, I never even dreamed of something like this. It just makes you speechless. You never really expect it. It’s not the real reason you get into coaching. I never even imaged this. The kids deserve so much of the credit. I feel so privileged to be a part of something like this with them. These are memories that will last a lifetime.”
The day itself lasted long enough.
The originally-scheduled opening game of the NCHSAA 4A class set was initially delayed and then postponed entirely when threatening weather conditions including a tornado warning hit the Greensboro area. That assured that West Region champion Mooresville and East Region winner Corinth Holders would each appear in two games of the series on the same day and within a six-hour span. A third game, if needed, would then be held the following day.
As it turned out, the Blue Devils made sure one day would be more than enough.
After advancing to the brink of winning the title with a come-from-behind 5-2 triumph in that opening game, the Devils followed a similar path to prevail in game two.
Spotting East Region rep and No. 3 seeded Corinth Holders Pirates – also making their program’s first appearance in a state finals -- a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning, Mooresville countered with a bottom half surge that put it ahead to stay.
Consecutive two-run-producing hits in the form of a double from junior first baseman Cameron Clonch and single by senior catcher Davis Turner turned the table upside down in the Devils’ favor.
In the following frame, the twosome of seniors Jackson Brant and Blake Burchett – the left fielder and shortstop– each connected on base knocks two batters apart in the line-up that plated a teammate apiece pushing the lead to the 6-2 mark.
Then, in the last of the fifth inning, senior centerfielder Tafton Hensley made sure the singles stroked by Clonch and sophomore pitcher Nick Merriman were rewarded with the jacking of a two-RBI double into the deep right centerfield gap capping the run production.
The abundant offensive support was more welcome than needed. Left-handed Merriman recovered from a shaky third inning in which he allowed the two runs without the benefit of a hit to limit the Pirates to just three hits total while striking out five. He clocked in with Mooresville’s second straight complete-game pitching performance in the process.
Offensively, Clonch tacked on another single to finish with a team-high two hits in the game and three total for the series. He also accounted for a total of three runs batted in for the two games.
Turner cranked up his number of RBI for the series to a team-high four.
“We knew we had this in us,’’ said Turner, garnering some additional individual attention when leg cramps set in midgame requiring a visit from on-site MHS trainer Hannah Pierce armed with a bottle of mustard to help relieve the pain. “I’m blown away.”
The duo of senior right fielder Quin Ferguson and junior infielder Trevor McHouell each added a base hit to the attack.
“Even when we got behind for a second straight game,’’ said Burchett, who also heaped some credit to his team’s staff of assistants, “we didn’t panic. We made some adjustments, both as coaches and as players. It came down to the same kind of grit that we showed throughout the playoffs.”
For his opening game pitching performance, Mooresville senior Justin Poris was selected as the series Most Valuable Player. Portis also went all seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out five.
Positive word traveled back fast to Mooresville, where upon the team’s arrival it was met with a Mooresville Police Department escort and feted to a catered meal courtesy of Epic Chophouse. An official celebration recognizing the achievement of this year’s baseball team is still in the planning process by the Mooresville High School athletic department.
The capturing of the state championship allows the baseball team to join the volleyball, girls basketball, boys soccer, football and wrestling programs as those from Mooresville High School also winning the equivalent of state titles in their respective sports as well.