Mitchell out of race for conference championshp, still plenty to play for
UPDATE: Mitchell lost to Mountain Heritage 3-5 Tuesday night in Burnsville. The loss, and Madison's win over Avery, effectively knocks Mitchell out of the race for the WHC championship. But the Mountaineers can play spoiler in their home game against Madison Friday. Madison's only conference loss came against Mitchell earlier this season. Mitchell is now 8-7 overall and 6-3 in conference play.
BAKERSVILLE — This is a big week for Mitchell baseball as the team looks to capture a conference championship and build momentum heading into the state playoffs.
Mitchell hosts Madison at 4 p.m. Friday. Mountain Heritage and Madison play May 5. Both games will have a big role in determining who wins the Western Highlands Conference.
“This week’s going to be huge for us,” said coach Brad Jones.
Mitchell controls its destiny and can claim the conference championship by wining out. Jones said he’s been telling his players to stay focused and not get complacent. They’ve known for a while this week would be a big one, he said.
“Keep doing the little things that have gotten us to this point,” he said.
Mitchell beat Hendersonville 5-4 April 19 to stay one game back of first place in the conference.
In a back-and-forth game, Mitchell scored in the bottom of the seventh inning to grab the win. Ben Young got a walk followed by a Trystan Jenkins single. Jake Robinson hit a ball back to the pitcher, who then threw to second looking for the double play, but the ball sailed into center field, allowing Young to score the winning run.
The Mountaineers took the lead with a run in the first inning, but Hendersonville scored twice in the top of the third to go up one. Mitchell scored twice in the bottom half of the inning to take 3-2 lead. Both teams scored a run in the fifth, and Hendersonville scored in the top of the seventh to tie the game.
Jones said his team didn’t play great, but “a win is a win.”
Jamison Burleson had 3 RBIs for Mitchell while Robinson and Justin Greene added one each. Greene had three hits to lead Mitchell.
Justin Burleson, 4-2 with a 2.71 ERA, started on the mound and went four and 2/3 innings, giving up two earned runs. He had four strikeouts and gave up five hits. Greene, 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA, finished the game and gave up one run on two hits. He had three strikeouts and three walks.
Greene was set to pitch Tuesday against Mountain Heritage with Burleson slated to start against Madison.
Greene, a junior, led western North Carolina as of this past week in batting average and RBIs, according to stats compiled by the Asheville Citizen-Times. He had 31 hits in 54 at bats for an average of .574 with 29 RBIs. Parker Williamson, of Smoky Mountain High School, was behind Greene with 25 RBIs.
Greene is also tied with Jenkins for the most stolen bases on the team – they both had eight after game against Hendersonville.
Justin Burleson has seen his batting average drop slightly to .510. He has 13 RBIs and was leading the region in batting average a couple of weeks ago.
Young and Jamison Burleson also had 13 RBIs after this past week’s game.
Mitchell finishes the regular season Tuesday at home game against Avery before traveling to Polk County Thursday for the season finale.
The first round of the state playoffs is May 11.
If Mitchell wins out, Jones said the team could earn the top seed in WNC heading into the state playoffs. That would likely mean three home games to start if the team keeps winning.
Jones said he thinks his team can make a run.
“We’re hot right now,” he said.