The Senior Mint Hill American Legion baseball team played their home opener on Saturday night at Independence High School against Gastoina Post 23. These players are among the best the area has to offer in the age group of 17-19.
Bryce Gorospe the ace of the Queens Grant Stallions started the ballgame. He struck out the first two batters he faced, however, Gastonia slugger Dakota Caughey, a Pfeiffer University freshman ballplayer crushed a first pitch fast ball 400 feet or more deep over the left field fence to take a 1-0 lead. The ball landed on the football practice field. After an infield hit on a soft grounder, a walk on a 3-2 pitch, Gorospe would strike out the next batter to end the threat getting his third of the inning.
In the bottom of the first, Guilford College freshman Bubba Comer beat out an infield hit, the next batter would walk putting runners on first and second with no outs. However, the home team could not advance the runners and came up empty.
In the second, Gastonia would score two more runs on 4 hits including an RBI line drive single by Caughey to take a 3-0 lead. In the third, they would add to their lead scoring two more runs on a walk, three consecutive hits and a sacrifice fly to take a 5-0 lead. In the fourth, the visitors would pad their lead with another run on a grounder to deep second base trading a run for the out at first.
In the bottom of the fourth, up steps former Independence standout and UNCC college freshman Corbin Berkovits. He would smash a second pitch fastball, crushing a towering drive around 400 feet over the left field fence for a solo home run.
In the sixth, Gastonia would pick-up two insurance runs. Jacob Beard a crafty lefty from Queens Grant who took over from Gorospe, pitched one and two thirds scoreless innings got himself into trouble, so with two outs and two runners on base, on a 2-2 count, coach Stu Brown would pull him to bring in former Indy stopper Jake McDaniel. Unfortunately, Jake would load up the bases, the next batter would line a single to center field to drive in two runs, the next hitter McDaniel would strike out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, with two runners on base and two outs, Berkovitz would hit another long high towering drive, but just missed the bats sweet spot by a quarter of an inch to drive the ball to the warning track area just a few feet from the fence. The score would remain 8-1 Gastonia in command.
In the seventh, McDaniel would keep the score unchanged and retire the side for a solid first relief appearance of the season.
Now down to their final at bat, and facing relief pitcher Dakota Caughey, the Mint Hill Legion Army team showed their competitiveness. This can do attitude will benefit them throughout the next 21 games.
Braden Smith would reach on an error by the shortstop, Indy’s All-Conference player Noah Howie would single to right center, Bubba Comer would walk loading up the bases, Mike Dansky worked a base on balls for an RBI, Shane Russell on a 3-2 count would hit a double into the right center field gap to empty the bases for 3 RBI’s to make the score 8-5. Sam Kagan would hit a fly to center for the first out, Caleb Embry, would leg out an infield hit putting runners on the corners, J.D. Yakubinis would hit an infield fly for the second out of the inning. Setting the stage for power hitting Corbin Berkovits, on a 3-2 pitch he would hit a low line drive smash on one hop right at the second baseman for the final out of the contest.
The Seniors will hit the road for the next five games. They will play Huntersville, Cherryville, Union City, Maiden, and Gastonia before returning home to Independence on June 6th against the Gaston Braves at 7:00 pm.
Gastonia – 1 2 2 1 0 2 0 – 8 – 16 – 1
Mint Hill – 0 0 0 1 0 0 4 – 5 – 5 – 3