MINT HILL, NC – Entering the Southwestern 4A Conference baseball playoffs the fourth-seeded Independence Patriots played host to the fifth-seeded East Mecklenburg Eagles in the first round playoffs on Monday night at Butler High School. In the top half of the first inning, East Meck’s Brantley Truitt led off with a single to center and scored on Brock Fowler’s hit to left field. Ryan Hawkins added the Eagles’ second run after reaching on a walk and scored on a James Rantala single to center field to take a 2-0 lead. In the bottom half of the frame, Indy’s center fielder Frank Jones Jr. led off with a walk and scored on a Jake Stanley hit to center field, and the Eagles led 2-1 at the end of the first inning.
East Meck plated four more runs in the second inning. Rajuhon Jones led off with a walk and scored on a Carter LeGrand double to right field. LeGrand added the Eagles’ second run. Brantley Truitt and Brock Fowler made their second appearance at the plate. Each hitter received an intentional walk and both scored on a Woody Gray hit to right field giving East Meck. a 6-1 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Indy’s Joseph Reddish reached on an error by the Eagles’ shortstop. Cooper Golden came to the plate and picked up an RBI with a shot to left field to make the score 6-2 after two full innings. For the next three and one-half innings neither Indy or East Meck could post any runs.
Entering the bottom half of the sixth inning with a 6-2 lead the Eagles fell victim to a Patriots’ four-run rally to tie the score 6-6. Indy’s Joseph Reddish led off in the the bottom of the sixth with a base hit to left field. Cooper Golden laid down a sacrifice bunt moving Reddish to second base. Catcher Daniel Ramos came to the plate and drew a walk. After DJ Springs came in as a courtesy runner for Ramos, Garrett Lawerence stepped into the batter’s box and hit a shot to center field scoring both Reddish and Springs. Frank Jones Jr. was next up for the Patriots and reached on an error. After Indy’s next batter flew out, Jake Stanley doubled to center field scoring Lawrence and Reddish to tie the score 6-6 heading into the seventh and final inning. The seventh inning didn’t go Indy’s way. The Eagles scored three runs on three hits and one walk to make the score 9-6 going into the bottom half of the inning. In the bottom half of the final inning, Cole Coates led off and grounded out to third. Joseph Reddish followed and reached on an error. Cooper Golden followed and bunted, but Reddish was called out at the second base for out number two. Daniel Ramos hit a slow grounder that was fielded by East Meck’s pitcher. The throw to first was over the first baseman’s head and Ramos was safe at first and Golden was as third. Unfortunately, Indy’s next batter flew out to center field which ended the game with East Mecklenburg taking a 9-6 victory.
In my interview with Coach Skinner after the game, he said: “As for tonight’s game, we got down early, but Michael Short settled down and continued to give us a shot. He had three shut-out innings. The team had a couple of opportunities. One time we had the bases loaded. Another time we had runners at second and third, but we couldn’t get the timely hit we needed.” “In the bottom of the sixth we were able to break through and tie the game up. Jake Stanley had a really huge hit. Really good base running by Joseph Reddish. In the sixth, we were able to put the ball in play, and when you put the ball in play good things happen. We were able to tie the game which gave us a chance to win. However, things didn’t go our way at the top of the seventh, and unfortunately, things didn’t come out our way. “As for the season, this game was indicative of the season. Our players fought and competed in each and every game. In my opinion, we made the most out of our opportunities, and we made the most out of our talent and got the most out of our talent. And that is what I’m most proud of this season. Seeing our players to continue to fight in every game. We had a bunch of close games. Some went our way. Some didn’t.” “We got a good young core coming back. But this is my first graduating class as a head coach. Talking to the guys and talking about their growth and development in baseball but also as young men was a little bit emotional for me. And that is what it is all about at the end of the day. The wins and losses come and go, but watching these young men develop into responsible citizens is what it is all about.” “This was a tough way to go out.”
East Mecklenburg 2 4 0 0 0 0 3 – 9
Independence 1 1 0 0 0 4 0 – 6