Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — In sports, through social media, television and the hottest new trends, we tend to focus so much on what’s flashy or popular.
So much, in fact, that we often forget about how difficult it can be for an athlete to simply show up and do their jobs.
As a multi-year starter on the hardwood and a three-year starter on the baseball diamond, Wheelersburg’s Connor Mullins represents the “glue guys” that we now expect to see out of the programs the Pirates have to offer.
And with three regional trips under his belt already, it’s evident that Mullins, a starting middle infielder and a wing for the baseball and basketball programs, has certainly shown up and simply done his job.
It’s all a part of the expectations that Mullins and his teammates have for each other as a part of playing under the Wheelersburg nameplate.
“There’s nothing like playing for Wheelersburg,” Mullins said. “It doesn’t matter what sport it is, the community is always outstanding and that’s the key to our success. The expectations are high at Wheelersburg and that’s what pushed me to get to where I am now. My last year here has been a blast. From winning multiple championships in basketball to competing for, and hopefully capping off this baseball as SOC Champs. This baseball season is one for the books. I’ve had a great time sharing the field with not only my five senior brothers, but the whole team. This year’s team is special. We’re all just alike and would do anything for one another. The hardest part about being a senior is the fact that I won’t be able to wear ‘Pirates’ or have a ‘W’ across my chest next year.”
A third-team all-Southeast District honoree in basketball this past season, Mullins’ three-point marksmanship allowed the senior to average 10 points per game en route to first-team all-SOC honors. He helped the Pirates win their first 26 contests before falling to eventual state champion Harvest Prep by a 52-38 margin.
Mullins also earned second-team all-SOC accolades the year prior for Wheelersburg, who finished 20-4 overall.
In baseball, Mullins’ success has been just as pronounced.
As a middle infielder who has played both the second base and shortstop positions with precision — and can also throw effective relief innings if need be — the three-year starter, as a sophomore, helped lead Wheelersburg to a Division III regional finals in 2017, where the Pirates fell by a scant 2-0 margin to Berlin Hiland — the eventual state runner-ups in Division III.
After earning second-team all-district honors for his play as a junior, Mullins’ leadership and steady play in the middle infield has been critical for a Wheelersburg team that’s recovered from a district semifinal setback and a second-place SOC II finish last season.
The Pirates have claimed share of the SOC II Championship and certainly have the talent to go on lengthy postseason run.
“I had a great time playing for [Pirates basketball coach Steven] Ater,” Mullins said. “All of the coaches were fun to be around. I honestly can say that this year, going to practice was fun and everyone enjoyed it. Now as for [former baseball] coach [Michael] Estep and [current baseball] coach [Derek] Moore, everyone knows the expectations for Wheelersburg baseball. All of the coaches love to have fun, but are serious at the same time. When we step on the field, we know what’s at stake and we take care of business. Coach Moore and his class set the bar high and everyone has followed in their footsteps. Both coaching staffs are arguably the best coaches in the state in both sports. I am honored to have spent the last four years learning and gaining experience from them.”
Learning and studying from those head coaches has also helped prepare Mullins for the big moments that he and his teammates have mastered. Of course, at Wheelersburg, winning championships is an expectation. So like Mullins says, there can’t be any hesitation toward performing a task.
“A lot of hard work is put in to gain the trust that my coaches have in me,” Mullins said. “I love being put in a situation where the game is on the line and we need a base hit or someone to field a ground ball. That’s what I live for. I think the coaches see that and that’s where the trust starts. Coming into a program like Wheelersburg, you have to have that mentality. There’s no waiting around; you have to get at it from day one. When you prepare in the offseason, it trains you to have that fearless mentality when the time comes in those big moments.”
Having that type of mentality has created lasting memories that will stick with Mullins long after his career concludes at Wheelersburg.
“Playing with your friends creates the best moments of your life,” Mullins said. “There’s no better feeling than winning championships with your best friends beside you. From a basketball standpoint, my whole senior season was my favorite memory. This year was unbelievable and unforgettable. As for baseball, my sophomore year was probably my favorite memory. We played a winnable ballgame against Berlin Hiland in the regional finals.”
However, the hope for Mullins is that those memories stay in the present day for at least three more weeks.
“I’m didn’t only hope to win a share of the SOC title,” Mullins said. “Most importantly, I’m hoping to win a state championship.”