Mint Hill Legion takes down previously unbeaten Rutherford County 10-5

Noah Howie at bat for Mint Hill. (Ed Berti)
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The Mint Hill American Legion Post 4059 baseball team has entered the North Carolina State tournament as the 16th seed in the Sweet 16.  They have been matched up against the unbeaten team from Rutherford County a good ball club who does not beat themselves as they are solid both offensively and defensively.  They also have a pitching staff that throws strikes.

In the first game of the playoffs Rutherford defeated Mint Hill 7-1 on their home field.  However, this past Sunday night behind the gritty pitching of Nick Melton the boys from Mint Hill put a whooping on the Number 1 seed with a 10-5 victory at Independence High School.

Mint Hill batter takes ball in the dirt. (Ed Berti)

The score sounds closer than the actual action during the game.  Going into the final frame of the contest Mint Hill had a commanding 10-1 lead.  In fact Mint Hill scored 10 runs on 13 hits, while committing 2 errors, virtually a clean well played baseball game.  While starter Melton yielded only 1 run on 4 hits, 3 strikeouts and allowing 2 base on balls for the first six innings.  Melton did get into trouble in the top of the seventh inning when the lead off batter reached on an errant throw putting the runner on second.  Then he began to run out of gas loading the bases with no outs yielding two additional walks and a single making the score 10-2.

Mint Hill broke out of the dugout quickly scoring 4 runs in the first inning after center fielder Noah Howie doubled up the runner off first base on a line drive to right center and threw a strike to Corbin Berkovics for the double play.  Matt Mangum started the inning with a single to left, Raja Milton would walk, after 2 consecutive  strike outs, Jacob Eason was hit by a pitch to load the bases, then Queens Grant Stallions Bryce Gorospe smacked a 2 RBI single up the middle, followed with another single by Ryan Mangum to drive in a run and the outfielder misplayed the ball allowing the fourth run to cross the plate.

Rutherford runner is out at first base on a close play. Corbin Berkovics makes nice pick. (Ed Berti)

Rutherford County scored a run in the second inning with two outs and a runner on second with a single to center field.  Meanwhile, in the third Berkovics led off with a double to left center, followed by three consecutive singles by Jacob Eason putting runners at the corners, then RBI singles by Bryce Gorospe, and  Mitch Cope would give Mint Hill a comfortable 6-1 lead.

Mint Hill would add 2 more runs in both the fourth and fifth innings with some good situational hitting from Matt Mangum, Raja Milton, and clutch hitting slamming two doubles for additional RBI’s each were Noah Howie and Mitch Cope for a 10-1 advantage.

Mint Hill reliever Drew Harris finishing out the ball game. (Ed Berti)

In the top of the seventh relief pitcher Drew Harris entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs.  He promptly was able to get two quick outs without the runners advancing.  However, the third out became elusive as Rutherford scored three more runs on base hits before Harris was able to strike out a batter for the final out and preserve the win.

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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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