Mint Hill Legion defeats Union County for first place with 3-2 win

Mint Hill's Sam Kagan taking a good lead off of first base. (Ed Berti)
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Jacob Beard delivering a strike for Mint Hill. (Ed Berti)
J.D. Yakubanis with nice stretch to nip runner at first base. (Ed Berti)
Ryan Mangum hustles back to shortstop after keeping runner close to second base. (Ed Berti)

On Friday night the long awaited match-up between the two top clubs in the division came to fruition. It was a well played ball game and both teams went toe to toe on the diamond with Mint Hill mounting a come from behind 3-2 victory.

Owen Tappy took the mound for Mint Hill from Providence Day, he is heading to Hampton-Sydney College in August to enroll and get ready to play collegiate baseball. While, Weddington High School and one of Union County’s top hurler’s Cooper McKeehan who is heading to Brigham Young University to compete at the collegiate Division 1 level was on the mound for Union County. This game had all the makings of a big showdown and it did not disappoint the crowd who showed up for the ball game.

In the first inning, McKeehan retired the Mint Hill hitters down in order. Tappy took four batters giving up a base hit but striking out one batter in the process. However, McKeehan struggled in the second inning allowing three walks, but he struck out two batters to keep Mint Hill from scoring.

Meanwhile, in the second frame, Tappy had his most challenging inning of the game, after a runner was able to reach first base on an error, the next batter would hit a base hit, a sacrifice bunt advanced the runners to second and third with one out, he would strike out the next batter, however, the number 9 hitter would blast a double deep into the right-center field gap scoring both runners for a 2-0 lead.

The game would remain 2-0 for 5.5 innings of competition with both pitchers showing dominance putting up goose eggs. However, in the sixth inning, Mint Hill would bounce back and take the lead on Union County as it appeared McKeehan was beginning to get tired as he had thrown a lot pitches. The writer does not have an accurate count, but my best guess would be around 90 pitches.

Sam Kagan had a great at bat working a 3-2 count on 9 pitches and walked to lead off the sixth, Noah Howie would put down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving Kagan on to second base with one out, Matt Mangum would single scoring Kagan, after Caleb Embry would hit a long drive to center field for an out, J.D. Yakubinis, the Providence High School standout and ASU bound varsity player smacked a line drive single putting runners on the corners, then Bryce Gorospe taking an outside pitch drilled a line drive straight down the right field line fair by only a foot that rolled to the wall for a triple and 2 RBI’s to give Mint Hill a 3-2 lead.

Owen Tappy pitched five solid innings for Mint Hill allowing 2 runs on 4 hits with 5 strikeouts and 2 walks. He was highly competitive and focused throughout the contest. However, he had hurled 72 pitches, and the coaches wanted to rest his arm. They decided to bring in the lefty from Queens Grant High School Jacob Beard to pitch the final two frames. In the sixth after getting the first batter on a fly out, he allowed just one hit, and put down the next two batters in order.

In the seventh, the lefty went to the mound, he threw one pitch and it was lined right at the first baseman for the first out, the next batter hit a drive to deep left-center that Bubba Comer chased down at the warning track, the final out came on the second pitch to the batter who hit a grounder to third baseman Matt Mangum who gunned him down at first base for the final out of the game.

For his good relief work, Beard would earn his first win of the summer and secure the teams biggest win of the season over Union County. Mint Hill remains in first place with this comeback win against a solid baseball club.

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Ed Berti
Ed is retired and remains active as a freelance writer, local journalist and independent contractor. He is engaged in print and electronic media writing stories covering business, sports, hometown news and veteran's affairs including articles of interest to various media outlets. Ed is a graduate of Wagner College where he earned an MBA and holds a BBA from Pace University.
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