The Mint Hill American Legion baseball club has now won nine straight games in a streak that has improved their overall record to 12-3 with just two regular season games remaining.
The team will hit the road for their final two games against Lincoln County and with the Gaston Braves. The club just needs to win 1 of 2 games to clinch first place in their division giving the “Boys of Summer” home field advantage in the upcoming playoffs scheduled to begin on July 2nd at Independence High School.
Starter Bryce Gorospe sailed through the first inning, however, in the second inning Pineville would strike first on two hits, a batter hit by a pitch including a sacrifice fly ball out scoring the runner from third base.
In the third inning, Michael Dansky would walk, Sam Kagan reached on an error on a long fly ball to left field, Ryan Mangum followed with a hard grounder booted by the Pineville shortstop to load the bases, then J.D. Yakubinis and Matt Mangum would both earn base on balls with two good at bats on full counts. Caleb Embry could have broken the game wide open when he blasted a drive to deep center field that was tracked down by the outfielder with the bases loaded to end the threat.
Pineville would even the score in the top of the fourth on another sacrifice fly to deep left field on an excellent running diving catch by C.J. Brown from Independence to save two or three runs in the left-center field gap. His defensive play in left field this season has been outstanding as he has made several spectacular catches.
Gorospe pitched 3-1/3 innings for Mint Hill allowing two runs. Jacob Beard would take over in relief and pitch a solid 2-2/3 innings, however, got into trouble in the sixth with runners on the corners, and one run already crossing home plate. Coach Stu Brown would call on relief specialist Jake McDaniel with two outs, and Jake “The Snake” would get the final out striking out the batter on a nifty change-up. He had the hitter way out in front, to avoid any further damage.
Meanwhile, in the fifth frame, Dansky lined a single up the middle, Kagan followed with another solid line drive hit to center, then Ryan Mangum drilled a ball deep into the right-center field gap that rolled to the wall for a triple and 2 RBI’s. Mangum scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Yakubinis for the third and final run of the inning.
In the sixth inning, Mint Hill would score four big insurance runs to put this game into cruise control. Noah Howie led off with a base hit, and after Bubba Comer made the first out on a fine defensive play, the hit parade continued Dansky singled, Kagan singled, Ryan Mangum doubled, Yakubinis hit a ground ball up the gut toward second base, it looked like a hit, but was thrown out by a step on a fine play by the Pineville second baseman moving Mangum to third. Then Matt Mangum, the older of the brothers would smack an RBI double scoring the younger sibling to complete the scoring for a comfortable 9-4 lead.
In the seventh, McDaniel walked a couple of batters on 3-2 counts, gave up an infield tapper for a hit to load the bases, however, he was able to settle down and focused on the final out by throwing a fastball by the batter to get the save. The crafty lefty picked up three strikeouts in his 1-1/3 innings of relief.
After the game, Coach Stu Brown was very proud how his team bounced back after being down early to maintain the winning streak. “This team has heart, they respect the game and give it everything they have, they compete, this is all a coach can ask of his players,” said Coach Brown.