Photo by Derrick Mahone
Mundy’s Mill senior pitcher Corey Harmon listens to coach Patrick Smith after he pitched a two-hit win over Jones County in the first game of the Class AAAA playoffs. The Tigers would go on to win the best-of-three series to advance to today’s matchup at Marist.
Personal stats, achievements and accolades have their place for every athlete. Spend a few moments talking to Mundy’s Mill pitcher Corey Harmon, however, and you’ll get the idea that first place is not where he has put such things.
In fact, second place may be far-fetched as well.
“I’m just glad to be playing with this team,” said the senior pitcher who was last season’s Region 4-AAAA Pitcher of the Year. “It feels good being where we are right now. Everybody wants to do their job. There aren’t any selfish players on this team right now.”
To see Harmon’s team-first attitude in full display, one would only need to remind him of Mundy’s Mill’s 7-0 shutout of Jonesboro on April 26. In that game, Harmon achieved the ultimate pitcher’s prize — a complete game no-hitter wherein he retired 12 batters on the night.
A chance for Harmon to display some well-deserved hubris?
“I mean it felt good throwing that no-hitter,” he said. “But it was even better that as a team we clinched home -field in the playoffs with that win.”
There’s that team word again.
Harmon leads his Mundy’s Mill squad into its second-round playoff game at Marist brimming with confidence, and riding a stretch of dominance where the Tigers have won 18 of its last 19 games.
But just because Harmon recognizes his team’s success, don’t think he has turned his head away from his own progress as a pitcher — and not just from the physical aspect of the game. Harmon prides himself on the cerebral side of it as well.
“I think over the last year I’ve just become better at being a pitcher and not just a thrower,” he said. “When I was a freshman — and even last year as a junior — I wasn’t hitting spots well. I was just throwing the fastball trying to strike everybody out. But now, I can throw the fastball. I can give a change of speed. I can come back with another curve. It’s really all about mind games. Baseball is more mental than physical.”
Tigers coach Patrick Smith will eagerly attest to his star pitcher’s mental mastery of the game. Smith says having Harmon on the field is like playing an extension of his staff.
“He’s been a four-year starter for us. He’s like a coach on the field,” said Smith who’s in his eighth season at the school. “He’s seasoned. He knows what to expect, and I m just glad he’s on our side."
While Marist (16-12-1; 12-3) may not look as impressive on paper to some, the War Eagles will be a formidable enough opponent for Mundy’s Mill that Smith implored his team repeatedly at the end of practice Tuesday to show up mentally ready to play in today’s doubleheader.
One player’s readiness Smith said he’s not worried about his Harmon.
“I feel really good about Corey going up against anybody in the state,” Smith said. "When he’s on and he’s hitting all his spots and he’s coming with all of his stuff, he is as good a pitcher as any I’ve ever seen since I’ve been coaching.”
When asked what he thought about the potential challenges Marist could bring to him, he simply said he didn’t.
“I’m not worried about how Marist plays,” said Harmon. “I’m just worried about how we play. If we play like we’ve been playing, if we hit well, put the ball on the ground and pitch like I know we can, I think we can play with anybody."
Harmon doesn’t speak much about personal goals. He doesn’t drone on and on about his prospects on the college level. But he does give some perspective as to his remaining goals for this season.
“State champs,” he said. “That’s our main goal right now. And we’ll take it one game at a time.”