Mooresville and Corinth Holders never made it to the third game of the three-game series in the 4A baseball finals on the campus of UNC-Greensboro.
The Blue Devils completed the two-game sweep of the Pirates thanks to big third innings in both games, sparked, ironically enough, by the same two players.
Twice Corinth Holders jumped out to a two-run lead, and in each game Mooresville tied the game in the third. The second game, a 8-2 win by the Blue Devils, secured their first state championship. Corinth Holders ends the season at 23-9 and left Greensboro empty handed, done in by a meltdown in the third inning not once, but twice.
“We didn’t get it done today,” Pirates coach Adam Weaver said. “It’s kind of hard knowing either team can have one bad day and it can be the state championship. We told them to win the day and we didn’t win the day. That’s putting it in simple terms.”
A pair of Blue Devils - Cameron Clonch and Davis Turner - were like a reoccurring nightmare.
After the Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third in game two on a pair of passed balls, it looked like Corinth Holders was prepared to send the series to a third and final game on Sunday. But the entire tone turned in the third once again. Pirates’ starter Tyler Stufano hadn’t given up a hit through the first two innings, but started out the fourth with consecutive walks. The first hit of the game for Mooresville came on a perfect bunt from Trevor McHouell to load the bases. Stufano then struck out Blake Burchett, with Clonch coming up and Turner on deck.
That same duo combined for three of the five runs in the first game, but proved they were far from done. The tide of the game was bound to turn one way or the other - either Stufano was going to pitch his way out, or the Blue Devils were going to take the momentum. It turned out to be the latter. Clonch drove in two runs with a double to tie the game at two, and Turner matched that with two runs of his own to make it a 4-2 game in favor of Mooresville. Corinth Holders wasn’t the same when they came back out.
“We had a couple of innings where they put pressure on us,” Weaver said.
The Pirates went three up, three down in the top of the fourth, and the Blue Devils added two more runs in both the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings.
Mooresville rallied back from two down to win game one, 5-2, picking up some momentum at the plate and riding the strong arm of senior pitcher Justin Poris, who surrendered six hits, three of those to Pirates’ senior Tanner Smith. Other than that, Poris got stronger as the game went on and his fellow Blue Devils followed suit.
Poris, the championship series MVP, struck out five batters in the game, and only gave up two hits after the fifth inning.
Mooresville tied the game at two in the top of the third thanks to consecutive RBIs from Clonch and Turner, and took the lead for good on a passed ball in the top of the fifth. That added to that lead when Turner drove in a run to make it 4-2 and Nick Merriman added the final run with a single.
“We got a little hesitant, but I guess that’s to be expected,” Weaver said after the first game. “Hats off to them, they are a good club. The difference in the game was we made some mistakes and they pushed runs across.”
Corinth Holders wasted no time getting on the board in the bottom of the first. Smith started the inning with a double and came home when Ty Cummings hit a single. Two batters later Nick Tyler scored a run and the Pirates led 2-0. That was the highlight for Corinth Holders, who couldn’t get any hits the rest of the way - other than Smith - and left runners on third on a couple of occasions.
The Blue Devils matched the six hits from the Pirates, but they didn’t commit any errors, compared to three from Corinth Holders.
In the second game Mooresville finished with nine hits, while the Pirates only finished with three.
After the game Blue Devils’ shortstop Blake Burchett came over and briefly spoke with Weaver. As he walked away Burchett turned to Weaver and told him Corinth Holders will be back next year. Weaver only has three seniors on the roster, and returns a lot of talent from the junior class. That should make the Pirates an early favorite to come out of the east next season. Weaver knows that’s not a guarantee, and afterwards he chose to reflect on his final moments with his 2019 team.
“Getting beat in the state championship is a disappointment, but at the same time it’s an accomplishment,” Weaver said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys for what they’ve done this year.”