MINT HILL, NC – On Tuesday night the Independence High School varsity baseball team, with their new head coach R.J. Merli, opened the 2023 season with a home opener 5-2 victory over the Pride from Pine Lake Preparatory.
Indy scored first by plating two runs in the bottom of the second inning. Garrett Lawrence and Zac Mangum led off with back-to-back walks. The runners advanced to third and second on an Isaiah Redfearn sacifrice and Cooper Golden infield hit. Lawrence scored on a passed ball making the score 1-0. After Frankie Jones Jr. walked to load the bases, Nick Reddish also drew a walk scoring Mangum giving the Patriots a 2-0 lead after two full innings.
Pine Lake answered by scoring a run in the top of the third. The Pride’s Michael Heis led off with a single. Heis attempted to steal second, however, the throw to second ended up in the outfield, and Heis wound up on third. After a Pine Lake strike out, Tate Allison hit a long sacfrice fly to right field to score Heis making the score 2-1 after two and one half innings.
Pine Lake tied the score in the top of the fifth after Cameron Poppen reached on an error. After reaching second on another error and advancing to third on a fielder’s choice, Tate Allison picked up the RBI on a sacrifice fly to right field tying the score at 2-2.
In the bottom half of the inning, Frankie Jones, Jr. led off with a single to center field. After attempting to steal second base, Jones ended up on third base after a wild throw to second and scored on a called balk on the Pine Lake pitcher giving Indy a one-run lead 3-2. Sam Merli and Nick Reddish added runs for the Patriots to give Indy a 5-2 victory on opening day. After the game Coach Merli said, “It feels really good to get the win, the first one. It was a really hard-fought game for the guys. I thought our pitching was outstanding. The team did a great job at the plate working on their approach to Pine Lake’s pitchers.
I preach a lot of pride about the school and the team. I tell the guys it is about the name on your chest and not the name on your back. These guys know that and show up every day ready to play.
It was really cool to come out here and see these kids play their tails off. It was awesome and it was a great team win.”
Pine Lake Prep 001 010 0 – 2
Independence 020 030 X – 5