POWHATAN – Head baseball coach Ott Mullins spent probably around five years coaching in the Travel Ball circuit because he wanted something to do in the summer. But then he and his son Nate Mullins, who’s also a baseball coach, got to talking to one another and talking to Post 201 Athletic Director Wade Johnson. They were trying to figure out how they could make Powhatan Baseball better; they were bouncing some things around, and then Johnson offered them to start up the Post 201 Juniors team.
After putting the team together three years ago, the father-and-son coaches of Ott and Nate can say that they coached the Post 201 Juniors to victory in their first-ever district tournament playoff game.
Lockdown defense and explosive offense paved the way for a double-digit lead by first inning's end as the Braves, in their first year being in a district, routed visiting Post 156 from Orange County 15-5 in four-and-a-half frames on Wednesday.
“It’s good to come out and get a win, especially against a team that we lost to earlier in the year – we had a close game down there in Orange,” Nate said. “We had almost the whole team tonight I think, so it’s nice for all the guys to be together and to experience that win in the playoffs, get that playoff win…”
All but two of the Juniors’ players have come through the middle school program and played for Coach Ott, and the majority have played for Coach Nate in the JV program.
“It’s good to kind of put that wide range of guys together, even though we’re young,” Ott said, noting that a lot of the rising sophomores and juniors that the 17U Juniors would’ve had were pulled up to the Seniors program. This year’s Juniors teams features one 16-year-old and a heavy core of 14- and 15-year-old players.
“We’re always going to be competing against teams that are older than us,” Nate said, “but it’s good for them because they’re playing against tougher competition, older guys and they’ve got to step up or step out. “
Attacking the strike zone and relying on his defense to make plays, Post 201’s Brandon Lyman kept his pitch count skinny and his fielders busy while pitching two perfect innings for the win on the mound. He struck out three of the six batters he faced and etched in bagels across his statline with 0 hits, 0 runs and 0 walks allowed.
Post 201's defense carried the momentum of the opening three-up, three-down half-inning over to its bats, as the entire lineup got to produce in an incendiary bottom of the first. The Braves flooded the bases with walks and hits by pitch and rocketed out to an 11-0 mountainclimb of an advantage; they also sprinkled in some timely hits, as Andrew Cheatham, in the first inning alone, batted 2-for-2 with a double that he sailed deep into the right field corner, knocked in four runs and scored twice. Emory Bradley and Billy Thackston each sprinkled in one RBI infield single, and Lyman drilled a runner-plating hit past the left fielder's diving bid for the catch.
“The guys that got the hits, basically they just made the other team pay for their mistakes,” Ott said. “We preach it all year is basically: you take what the other team will give you, and then you build on, you pile on that – do what you can do to come out there and hit the ball well.
“Just to have them come out there and consistently make contact and put the ball in play is big,” Ott said, “because we do face some pretty good pitching, and it seems like most of the guys are stepping it up and concentrating on that.”
Orange gained back four runs in the top of the third, but Luke Burkhart, who took over the hill with one out in the third inning, helped his case by lasering a two-run single into left-center to lift his team back into a double-digit lead and help ensure the victory in five innings via the 10-run rule.
The American Legion Post 201 Juniors will play the Post 125 Juniors on Thursday in the next round of district tournament play, with time and location to be confirmed.
“We just love to coach,” said Ott, who will be coaching at the middle school for the 16th after he first took the helm the same year that Nate started ninth grade. Nate himself has been coaching for five years.
“It’s really cool for me to get to coach with my dad; it’s a very unique experience and I tell a lot of people: ‘Hey I get to coach beside my dad; I get to learn from him,’ and we kind of bounce off of each other,” Nate said. “It’s cool to coach with him and it’s cool to give back to our own community because he’s been here for 40-some years, I’ve been here since I was a little kid, and it’s cool to see a lot of these kids that we have that are seventh graders, that are eighth graders, we see the growth and it’s all about giving back to the community and making sure that those kids are the best they can be, and that’s what we wanted to do when we started this thing, and that was our goal and that continues to be our goal.”
“I just enjoyed coaching and seeing these guys progress and try to make them the best ballplayers they can be and I feel like we try to help them try to be good young men, and particularly with Post 201 Baseball I think…there’s more pride that you’re playing for a Post of veterans and these guys know that and they understand that and they have a firm realization of that," Ott said. "Hopefully it will translate into them – when they come to play for their school team – hopefully it will translate for them to be competitive and really play for each other and their teammates.”