Mount Mourne IB Middle finds success on baseball field
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Sunday, Jun. 15, 2014

Mount Mourne IB Middle finds success on baseball field

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/10/28/qPFNi.Em.138.jpeg|215
    - ANNE ZIRKLE PHOTOGRAPHY
    Mount Mourne IB Middle baseball coach Reece Honeycutt, second from left, gets doused with water by his players after the school's varsity team won the Iredell-Statesville Middle Schools conference tournament in mid-May. Surrounding Honeycutt are MMIB players, from left, Slade Wallace, John Sadoff, Harrison Livingston, Ryan Zirkle and Davis Turner.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/10/28/Wq6G4.Em.138.jpeg|222
    - COURTESY OF MIKE NUTTING
    Mount Mourne IB Middle's junior varsity baseball team won the Iredell-Statesville Middle Schools Conference regular season championship. Team members are: front row, from left, Jack Fortin, Byrnes Pearson, Adam DeLoach and Brock Mokoff; middle row, from left, Tripp Dolan, Connor Cingolani, Tafton Hensley, Austin Robinson, Derek Finizio, Jack Cutler, Will Cole, Adam Grisham and Spencer Norman; back row, from left assistant coach Mike Nutting, assistant coach Doug Hensley and head coach Ed Bice Sr.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/10/28/1t6HHY.Em.138.jpeg|230
    - ANNE ZIRKLE PHOTOGRAPHY
    Mount Mourne IB Middle varsity baseball coach Reece Honeycutt, right, talks to his players as assistant coach Peter Livingston looks on during a recent game.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/10/28/QVdh1.Em.138.jpeg|445
    - COURTESY OF MIKE NUTTING
    Mount Mourne IB Middle junior varsity baseball coach Ed Bice Sr.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/10/28/1e3tNc.Em.138.jpeg|222
    - ANNE ZIRKLE PHOTOGRAPHY
    Mount Mourne IB Middle's Scotty Diekman slides into home plate ahead of the tag during an Iredell-Statesville Middle Schools Conference game against North Iredell.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/06/12/10/28/o7loE.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF MIKE NUTTING
    Mount Mourne IB Middle's varsity baseball team holds up its trophies after going undefeated and winning the Iredell-Statesville Middle Schools Conference's regular-season and tournament championships. Team members are, front row, from left: Slade Wallace, Nate Alexander, Davis Turner, Dean Arriviello, John Sadoff and Harrison Livingston; back row, from left, assistant coach Peter Livingston, Ryan Zirkle, Scotty Diekman, head coach Reece Honeycutt, Chase Williams, Josh Seals, and assistant coach Kevin Zirkle.

Heading into their final year at Mount Mourne IB Middle School, rising eighth-graders John Sadoff and Harrison Livingstone faced a dilemma.

Should they stick with their baseball-playing friends at Brawley Middle School and head on to Lake Norman High, or stay with the International Baccalaureate program and attend South Iredell High?

Sadoff and Livingstone – as well as nearly two dozen other students – don’t have to make that decision now.

This past school year, Mount Mourne IB Middle fielded baseball teams at both the varsity and junior varsity level, the school’s first interscholastic athletic programs.

The aim of starting the teams, according to founder Mike Nutting, the husband of MMIB principal Boen Nutting, was to prevent losing students from the IB program after they left Mount Mourne.

Under Iredell-Statesville Schools regulations, students at Mount Mourne IB Middle who wish to participate in sports can do so at their “home schools” – either Brawley Middle or Lakeshore Middle in the case of MMIB.

“My wife told me that we were losing several kids out of the IB program because they were playing at Brawley,” Mike Nutting said. “Those kids go on to attend Lake Norman. They were playing baseball at Brawley, and forming relationships with those kids. Then, when it came time to move on (to high school), they wanted to stick with their friends.

“So we started the team to keep the kids in the academic IB program, and move on to South Iredell (which also has an IB program). We figured that if we started them all playing together on the same team, then they’d move on together.”

The groundwork for Mount Mourne IB’s baseball program began last October, when Nutting and the other parents and school officials involved began letting students – especially the baseball players among them – know about the new team.

“We wanted to give them enough notice,” Nutting said. “Once we officially started the team, then under the rules, they couldn’t play for their home school anymore. We wanted to get them excited to play for our school.

“We actually had three kids who were ready to drop out of the IB program so they could go to Lake Norman stick around so they could play baseball for us.”

Said Sadoff: “It was pretty exciting. We were always talking about how we wanted to play sports for our own school, because it felt weird playing for Brawley.”

The next – and most important – step, according to Nutting, was finding the coaches. Reece Honeycutt, the junior varsity coach at South Iredell High the previous five years, was brought on to lead the MMIB varsity team. Ed Bice Sr., a retired educator and coach in New York, was picked to head the JV team.

“I was lucky enough to find Reece and Ed,” Nutting said.

Once those pieces were in place, one big question remained: How many kids would want to play?

That question was answered at the first scheduled workout.

“We had 20-some kids show up,” Honeycutt said. “We knew there were a lot of kids (at Mount Mourne IB) that played baseball, but the number of kids wanting to come out for a still non-existent team really surprised us.”

Another surprise came during the season, with the success of both the varsity and junior varsity teams.

Mount Mourne IB’s varsity team went 16-0, winning the Iredell-Statesville Schools middle school league’s regular-season and tournament championships. The JV team finished 11-2 and won the I-SS league’s tournament title.

“We had some great players,” Livingstone said. “From the bottom of the lineup to the top, everybody could hit it well. Reece coached us pretty well, and we kept getting better as the season went along.

“I knew it could be a special season when we beat Lakeshore (Middle) in our first scrimmage. We beat them 14-1, and I knew right then that we were going to win the championship.”

The success of the baseball program has Mount Mourne IB officials and parents thinking of expanding the school’s sports offerings. Nutting said that officials are looking at starting a cross country team for the next school year, with other sports being added as financing becomes available.

“We’re going to start slowly,” Nutting said. “We could do a lot of things pretty quick, because there’s a lot of talented kids there, but it takes money, time and energy.”

Bill Kiser is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Bill? Email him at bkisercltobs@gmail.com.

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