MINT HILL, NC – The Mint Hill American Legion baseball team swept Hickory in the first round of the state playoffs with a comeback 7-6 win to move into the second round against Burke County.
The # 1 seed in the West Mint Hill Patriots have now accumulated a 12-2 record on the season. The ‘Boys of Summer’ continue to make baseball fun, interesting, and exciting. However, in order to go deep into the playoffs, the team needs to keep many of their key players intact. Especially, their top three starters, solidify the defense, as this year’s team has shown they can spread the ball all around the diamond with hits.
They don’t have the power hitters of the 2019 version that went yard more often and almost reached the state championship with a one-run loss in a delayed ball game in the semi’s. However, they are willing to play small ball, hit-and-run, steal bases, and have owned the right center and left center field gaps throughout the season. Their pitching has held up but remains suspect as some players must report for college workouts, and have a few tired arms.
In the third game sweep of Hickory, the visitors took a quick 3-0 lead scoring 2 unearned runs in the first and second innings off of starter Timmy Cotton. Mint Hill uncharacteristically made 3 errors in the first inning on balls that should have been outs. Cotton certainly deserved better from his defense.
However, in the bottom of the second Mint Hill bounced back to narrow the gap to 3-2 after two innings of competition. Tommy Walker led off with a double, Carson Gesing smashed a single up middle to drive in the first run, Andy Duran doubled deep to the left center field wall driving in Gesing who was on the move for the second run of the inning.
Hickory added a run in the fourth inning to increase their lead to 4-2, and another run in the fifth inning taking a 5-2 advantage. But in the home frame, Mint Hill scored 2 more runs on a base hit by Adam Wilkerson, two errors, a double steal, a walk by Tommy Walker, and a sacrifice fly by Gesing to make it a 5-4 ballgame.
In the sixth, Mint Hill scored three big runs when Jake Stanley doubled, Chris Ronek followed with another double to right-center to score Stanley, a heads up play by Ronek on a ball bouncing in front of home plate rolled behind the umpire, he broke for third and slid in ahead of the throw. Wilkerson hit a grounder in the hole between shortstop and third baseman who dove to knocked it down, Ronek broke for home on contact and scored easily. Nathan Samii then doubled to drive in the final run of the inning giving Mint Hill a 7-5 lead going into the final frame.
The seventh inning became interesting after relief pitcher Ick Cirino was able to get the first two quick outs. However, a tapper went for an infield hit, a stolen base, followed by a base hit drove in the final run of the ball game. The next batter would hit a lazy fly ball to Duran in RF for the third out and the sweep.