April 7, 2014 11:16:13 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
CALEDONIA -- Some prefer the old-school way of overhand, while others go new wave and try a three-quarters or sidearm approach.
As the game has evolved, pitchers have continued to find success with fastballs, changeups, and curveballs and learned how to keep hitters off balance with cutters and split-finger fastballs.
Regardless of the weapon of choice, pitchers can dominate like no other player on a baseball field.
Lowndes County teams showed last week how dominating pitchers can be in three of the stingiest mound performances of the season.
On Tuesday, Columbus High School's Hunter Mullis pitched a no-hitter and struck out 13 in a 13-0 victory against Starkville in six innings. That same night, Caledonia High's Caleb Brown allowed only one hit in nine innings and struck out 12. Unfortunately, he didn't get a victory for his performance, as Houston scored twice in the 10th inning for a 2-0 victory.
On Wednesday, Heritage Academy's Cody Mordecai showed he could be just as dominating, allowing only one hit and striking out 10 in an 8-0 victory against Starkville Academy.
For their accomplishments, Mullis, Brown, and Mordecai are this week's Prep Players of the Week.
"I could feel it (was going to be a good day)," Mullis said. "I was throwing a little bit harder that day, too, and I could locate everything."
Mullis is doing it at the plate and on the mound for the Falcons (17-2). The senior, who hits and throws left-handed, is hitting .357 and has scored 19 runs and has 20 hits. In eight games, he has a 5-1 record with a 1.15 ERA. In 36 2/3 innings, he has allowed 28 hits and six earned runs. He has walked 10 and struck out 49. He will play baseball next season at Meridian Community College.
Mullis' no-hitter is even more impressive when you consider he allowed seven hits and 10 runs (three earned) in a 10-0 loss to Northwest Rankin in the outing before he faced Starkville. Mullis said he felt under the weather against Northwest Rankin and the illness cost him a few mph on his fastball. He looked every bit a senior stopper against the Yellow Jackets, though, mixing his fastball, curveball, and changeup with pinpoint control.
"I was able to put it out of my mind," Mullis said. "I knew I wasn't going to be throwing my best, but they needed me up there on the mound to try to do my best.
"You always have to have confidence when you go to the mound no matter what you threw the game before. You need to put it behind you and know it is a new game."
The victory against Starkville added to a mix that includes wins against Hamilton, Shannon, Kossuth, and Madison Central. He said against Starkville he knew in the bullpen that he would be able to control his breaking pitches and take that to the mound in the game. Turns out he was exactly right.
"You have to try to get a feel for it in the bullpen and not overdo it because you know it is going to be different throwing off the mound," Mullis said. "I knew (I had a no-hitter). I kept trying to put it out of my mind so I wouldn't jinx it, but it ended out turning good."
Brown has been even tougher to reach. The senior right-hander, who will play baseball at Mississippi Delta C.C., is 2-1 with a 0.00 ERA in six games. In 29 innings, Brown has surrendered only eight hits and three runs (zero earned). He has three walks and 41 strikeouts. He also leads the Confederates (10-8) in batting average (.420), runs (14), hits (21), RBIs (15), and doubles (11).
With a fastball in the mid 80s, Brown said he doesn't worry about maxing out with his fastball when he warms up. Instead, he said he throws two fastballs, two curveballs, and two changeups for three sets to find his control. He said he felt pretty good in the bullpen prior to the game against Houston. He also was hitting his spots and then found his groove after he said he came out and wasn't throwing as hard as he was capable.
"Through the later innings, it felt like I was getting a lot better and throwing a lot harder and better," Brown said.
As pitchers often do, Brown remembered one of the few mistakes he made in the middle innings -- a pitch right over the middle that went for the only hit. Brown said his defense, especially the play of Bubba Brauer, helped him limit his pitch count to 96 through nine innings. He said he knew he had a no-hitter and said he got "a little too comfortable" and didn't hit his spot. He more than made up for the only blemish.
"I was just hitting my spots really good and getting them to pop up a lot of pitches," Brown said. "Bubba Brauer made a couple of good diving catches for me and I was hitting my spots."
With a good fastball and solid command, Brown feels he is a mix of a power and a finesse pitcher. He believes his cutter, or cut fastball, is his best pitch. He even said he can break down and throw sidearm, but he stays with an overhand delivery.
Mordecai has been a dual-threat for the Patriots (12-9). The senior right-hander, who hasn't committed to a school but is interested in playing at the next level, is hitting .306 and is tied for second on the team with 19 hits. He has scored 17 runs and has seven RBIs. In 38 innings, he is 2-1 with a 1.36 ERA. In seven gams, he has allowed 21 hits, nine runs (four earned) and 10 walks. He has struck out 55.
Mordecai has confidence in his two-seam fastball and his off-speed pitches. Against the Volunteers, he was able to get ahead in counts and then mix his fastball with a curveball and slider to keep hitters off balance.
"I can do either one, sometimes it depends on my day," Mordecai said. "If my fastball is working good, I can throw it decently hard. Whenever my fastball isn't working as good, I have a good off-speed pitch and I can hit my spots most of the time. I don't walk many batters."
On Wednesday, Mordecai admitted he didn't feel well at all. He wasn't sure how things were going to work out, but he quickly settled down and found his rhythm.
"Usually my first inning is my worst inning, but I had a pretty good inning against them," Mordecai said. "I did pretty well the rest of the game until the sixth inning when they got their only hit. I just missed my spot there. Besides that, I was hitting my spots really well and all of my stuff was working well."
Mordecai smiled when he was asked about the no-hitter. He admitted he didn't say anything about the gem because it is against the baseball code to mention the word no-hitter when a pitcher is throwing one. He said he couldn't help but be excited about the chance to throw his first no-hitter, but he was more than happy to help his team get an important victory on its march to a playoff berth.
"I started off pretty rough, but the last few games I have done pretty well. I have had two shutouts the last two games," Mordecai said. "I feel like I have kind of zoned in and started hitting my spots and my off-speed pitches are working better."
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Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.