Mint Hill Seniors drop opener 10-9 to Gaston County Braves in 10 innings

Michael Dansky greeted first by Matt Mangum after hitting a two-run homer. (Ed Berti)
Jake”The Snake” McDaniel on the mound. (Ed Berti)
Caleb Embry about to drill a hit for Mint Hill. (Ed Berti)
Bubba Comer ready to smack a base hit. (Ed Berti)
CJ Brown set to take off for home. (Ed Berti)
Braves runner steals second base as ball heads to center-field. (Ed Berti)
Ryan Mangum delivers a strike. (Ed Berti)

In a ten inning marathon both teams faced off to compete until the final out was made on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded for Mint Hill.

Baseball is a different game than most. First there is no clock, it is played on a diamond  shaped field, there are nine players on the field, and it’s the little things that happen or don’t occur which bring you victory or defeat. Tonight’s contest was a perfect example of how the little things can beat a good ball club.

There were both mental and physical errors made on the field throughout the game that were costly to both teams which eventually led to the loss in a game the home team should have won. There also were lost opportunities as Mint Hill stranded eight runners on the base paths.

In the first inning, with starter Ryan Mangum on the mound, Gaston County scored four runs. However, the first run scored with runners on the corners and two out, catcher JD Yakubinis made a mental error, the runner with a good jump from first base broke for second, he made the throw to second, the runner from third base on the toss immediately scampered home to score easily. Mangum struggled to get the final out giving up multiple hits and a base on balls. Thus, a quick 4-0 deficit, and a hole for the team to have to climb out of was created.

In the second frame, Mint Hill bounced back scoring three runs of their own. Shane Russel led off with a base hit, Owen Tappy singled, Caleb Embry singled, Ryan Mangum singles scoring Russell, then Yakubanis hit a scorching low line drive through the right side of the infield scoring two more runs. However, with no outs and runners on the corners, Matt Mangum would pop out to shortstop, Bubba Comer struck out swinging, and Michael Dansky would hit a soft liner for the third out. Thus, a huge lost opportunity to score the runner from third and tie the ball game.

In the third, both teams would score a run with Gaston County maintaining a 5-4 lead. Mint Hill scored on a double hit in the outfield gap by Russell and followed with an RBI single up the gut by Embry.



The fourth inning, Mint Hill would tie the ball game when Comer smacked a solid base hit, stole second base, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a bouncer hit to second base by Dansky.

Starter Ryan Mangum pitched four-two thirds innings, he allowed his fifth earned run on a double and a single with one out, he struck out his last batter he faced for the second out. However, Coach Stu Brown went to his bullpen for lefty Jake “The Snake” McDaniel who would face one batter, he promptly recorded the third out on three pitches with a lazy fly ball to right field.

McDaniel would pitch a scoreless fifth inning to keep the game close, but would need a little assistance from Drew Harris to get the final out in the sixth. In the bottom half of the sixth Mint Hill would score two runs and take the lead for the first time in this ball game. With two outs and a runner on base, Michael Dansky would connect on a long drive that cleared the right field fence for a two run homer for a 7-6 advantage.

In the seventh, Dansky would take the mound. He got the first out on a soft fly ball. Then the nightmare would begin, a couple of base on balls, multiple base hits, and the back-breaker on a bases loaded grounder to first baseman Shane Russell was fielded, Dansky was late covering the bag, an errant throw by Russell to Dansky would score two runners giving Gaston County a one run lead. They would add another run in the inning to take a 9-7 lead into the bottom of the seventh.

There is no quit on this team. After Tappy hit a hard grounder to second base for the first out, Embry walked, Ryan Mangum hit a liner to center toward the left-center field gap that was dropped, then Yakubinis stepped up to the plate to deliver another two RBI single with a bullet to tie the score at 9. Matt Mangum worked a base on balls, now with runners on first and second with one out, relief pitcher Wes Hall for the Braves entered the game, with the winning run on second base, he would promptly erase Comer and Dansky by strikeouts stranding two base runners sending the game into extra innings.

Tappy now took the mound, he would pitch a scoreless eighth and ninth innings. However, Mint Hill was struggling against Wes Hall who matched Tappy pitch for pitch with two scoreless innings of his own.

In the ninth, Matt Ryan would hit a towering blast to left-center that first sounded and looked like a home run. However, the air was thick tonight, the ball hit off the fence for a double. Ryan who also thought he had hit the game winner, was not running hard should have ended up on third base. Another mental error and lost opportunity with only one out.

In the tenth, with two outs, Gaston would finally get to Tappy for a run. They lined back-to-back doubles into the left-center field gap to score the eventual game winner before Tappy was able to end the outburst.

Mint Hill now facing relief pitcher Jason Szot would try to bounce back one more time. This team is resilient, a one run deficit is not a challenge they cannot overcome. With two outs, Russell would smack a single, Tappy was hit-by-a-pitch, Ryan Mangum would get an infield hit to load up the bases, then on a 3-2 count Szot would strike out Yakubinis for the final out of the ball game.

Team – Game 1     1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   R   H   E

Gaston County      4   0   1   0   0   1   3   0   0   1    10  15  3

Mint Hill                0   3   1   1   0   2   2   0   0   0     9   13  4