Cannons One-Two Punch

One-Two Punch

Justin “Hootie” Harris and Stephen Kerr have consistently been every opposing pitcher’s worst nightmare this season. The relentless duo combine at the top of the Charles Town batting order and leave pitchers puzzled, and steaming, after the score quickly becomes 1-0 in the first inning. Harris and Kerr are the keystone of a dangerous Cannons lineup that averaged just over 5.7 runs and 8.8 hits per game. The two combined to score more than one-third (82) of Charles Town’s 238 run total this regular season. “They’re both co-MVP’s on our team… Kerr’s been consistent for the whole season… and Hootie’s just a run-scoring machine,” Cannons head coach Brett Fuller said. Harris, the leadoff man and centerfielder from Tulsa, Oklahoma, finished the regular season third in the league in runs scored (41), first in stolen bases (31), and first in triples (4). He also boasted the 15th-highest on-base percentage in the league (.414). The speedy centerfielder has an uncanny way of getting on base and into scoring position for the Cannons. Whether it’s hustling out a slow-rolling infield single to the shortstop and then stealing second base, or smacking a fastball to the opposite field for a triple, Harris immediately puts on the pressure. It’s hardly a surprise that Harris is taking up most of the run-scoring load for the Cannons. During his junior season at Emporia State University, Harris hit .329 with 52 runs scored and 44 stolen bases to help his team reach a 42-19 record. On defense, Harris covers center field with ease and gets to balls that might be out of reach for less fleet-of-foot outfielders. The rising senior has yet to make an error in 75 chances. Harris has also had a great deal of success since the All-Star break, most recently picking up the Valley League’s D-BAT Player of the Week award for the week of July 14 after going 9-25 (.360) with 12 runs scored in seven games. Not receiving a nomination to the Valley League All-Star Game didn’t seem to faze Harris, who batted 21-63 (.333) with 21 runs scored in 17 games after the break. Harris credits his recent success at the plate to hitting the ball where it’s pitched, keeping his hands inside the ball, and knowing the man behind him can take over from there. That man is shortstop Stephen Kerr from Margate, Florida. Kerr who batted .296 in 169 at-bats during the regular season, also ranked eighth in the league in hits (50), eighth in RBIs (28), and tied for seventh in doubles (9). Like Harris, Kerr stands in at 5-foot-9 and possesses quick hands, exceptional speed, and line-drive power to the gaps. The rising sophomore was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and Conference USA All-Freshman teams this season at Florida Atlantic University after hitting .324 and scoring a team-high 38 runs. “When I’m on-base and he needs to take [a pitch], he’ll do that… when I’m on second he hits me in…he bunts, he does it all,” Harris said about Kerr. Kerr also displays a wide range of abilities on defense for the Cannons. In Charles Town’s win Tuesday night over Harrisonburg, Kerr showed poise on a double play to save a run in the third inning when he snagged an off-target throw from the pitcher to get the lead runner, and then fired a rocket to first sideways while falling down to get the second out. “Way too much range… he has way too much range and he’s just too athletic,” Harris said. Charles Town’s coaching staff doesn’t tell their infielders where to stand defensively during the game, but that hasn’t stopped Kerr from knowing where to be in just about every situation at shortstop. He led all Valley League shortstops in putouts with 84 this regular season. “Kerr is a wizard out there. We rarely have to tell him where to be…he’s instinctual,” Fuller said. “He can play second base as well as anybody and he’s got a cannon for an arm.” Kerr and Harris work together to lock down the middle of the field for the Cannons, and lock down the top of the order – something Fuller and the coaching staff planned before choosing the 2014 team. “That’s one of the things we talked about early in the season before we even put the team together,” Fuller said. “Having a guy at the top of the order who generates runs through speed and then having a guy in the two-hole that can handle the bat… and those two guys complement each other well.” Fuller likes his team’s chances as the Valley League playoffs start Tuesday night, knowing he has a double-barreled attack at the front of a very dangerous lineup. By: Brian Reese PHOTO CREDIT: Ken Pullen and Haymarket Joe Photography

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