Marvin Ridge High baseball coach Mark Mennitt had waited 21 years to win a state championship, and after his Mavericks beat Pikeville Aycock 7-3 Saturday in Raleigh, he said the feeling of winning a title wasn’t what he expected.
“In a lot of ways, I thought it would give validation to me as our coach and to our program,” said Mennitt, in his eighth season as the Mavericks’ coach. “But I suddenly realized, after we’d won, that a lot of great coaches who are a whole lot better than me have never set foot in a state championship game.
“I think what will validate me is my relationship with our players – and maybe it won’t show up until 15 years down the road when my (players) have kids – and in how they treat their kids.”
After watching his team win 2-0 Friday in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series behind championship MVP Max Wotell’s one-hitter, Mennitt saw his team fall behind 2-0 Saturday.
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But Marvin Ridge (29-5) scored three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth to stop Aycock (23-7). Wotell’s run-scoring single broke a 2-2 tie and gave Marvin Ridge the lead for good. All nine Mavericks batters had a base hit, and left-handed sophomore pitcher Jake Kuchmaner recorded the win.
“It’s kind of the story of our season,” Mennitt said. “We get down and we don’t panic, and we had guys come through in the clutch. Our pitcher kept us in the game.”
In the past 19 months, Marvin Ridge sports teams have won 10 state championships. Baseball joins boys’ soccer, girls’ swimming (2), boys’ (2) and girls’ track, boys’ and girls’ indoor track and boys’ tennis with state title hardware.
For Mennitt, who also coached seven seasons at Independence and four at Parkwood, winning Saturday was something he won’t soon forget.
“I’ve waited 21 years for this moment,” Mennitt said, “and it’s finally here. I think we were so close to being here (Marvin Ridge had reached three quarterfinals and one regional final before this season) and, frankly, we had some teams that just got ousted early.
“These playoffs are like the Hunger Games, survive and advance. That’s the tough thing. So no question, this is the best feeling of my professional life.”