By Brandon Martin
The Martinsville Mustangs capped off their season with a 6-5 win over the High Point-Thomasville HiToms on Aug. 10 at Hooker Field.
The game-winning run came off of a RBI infield single by outfielder Will Knight in the 10th inning. Knight tallied three hits on the night and even temporarily took over pitching duties for Ryan Huffman following an injury in the ninth inning — keeping the game level at 5-5.
“I just wanted to get a win for our guys one last time to come out here and play with the best group of guys that I’ve ever met,” Knight said after the game. “Nobody ever came out draining. It was always a fun group of guys always–wanted to play, bringing energy every day. Just always fun to be around.”
The Mustangs finished the season 16-10-1, with a 15-5-1 record at home.
“We had a crazy start with the whole virus going on,” Head Coach Jake Marinelli said. “These guys came together really early and a lot of guys that stuck it out–it was a great core team. They really came together more than the summer teams normally do, in my opinion.”
Mustang’s President Greg Suire also said he thought the season was an overall success.
“Not only did we navigate playing a schedule through a pandemic, but we accomplished our two goals,” he said. “Number one, we elevated the level of play on the field. It’s been a struggle in Martinsville the last 12 years with wins and losses but not this year. These guys went out and posted a winning record.”
Suire said the second goal that was accomplished was energizing fan turnout.
“Without a sales season in the spring, we weren’t able to do corporate, groups or even season tickets,” Suire said. “All the people that have been coming here are non-traditional in the minor league baseball business. They are walk-ups, which is phenomenal.”
He said that during a normal sales season, the team can count on groups like the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and churches.
“We had none of that. These were just pure Martinsville and Henry County walk-ups,” Suire added.
Suire said the biggest hurdle for the season was “calming the fears” of the player’s parents, host parents and fans.
“This is a healthy age group. We had to identify young people who could weather this storm,” he said.
During the off-season, Suire said his number one priority is “the establishment of the Junior Mustangs,” which was launched earlier in the week.
The Mustangs’ regional developmental system will focus largely on basic fundamentals as well as provide knowledge of the expectations that collegiate programs and professional organizations expect. The system will also create an opportunity for high-school aged players to play locally for their community against talented competition from other localities, and even learn from former professional players and coaches.
The schedule will run from Aug. 26 until Oct. 26 for a total of 16-18 games.
“This is getting more young people here in Martinsville and Henry County playing baseball,” Suire said. “We feel like since we are the flagship baseball institution here in Henry County, that we play at the highest level. We’ve got to take a leadership role. We’ve got to cultivate kids wanting to play baseball.”
Suire said that he would also be working to identify facility needs. “We’ve got to beautify this place and I think that the city and some of our other partners are ready to make those adjustments.”
He said he plans on announcing more specifics near the end of the third quarter of the year.
Before the game, the host families for the players were recognized on the field.
“Without your support, there is no way that the Mustangs could have played baseball this summer,” Suire said to the families. “Tonight, I tip my hat to you.”