Solid pitching lifts Independence to first-round win over East Mecklenburg

Ryan Mangum rounds second and digs for third base. (Ron Morris)
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Indy’s Bryson Jusko 3-for-3 from the plate

The 2018 North Carolina High School Athletic Association Baseball playoffs got underway Tuesday evening with the number 16 seeded Independence Patriots hosting the number 17 seeded East Mecklenburg Eagles in a first round matchup at the John W. Matthew Field.

Indy’s pitcher Corbin Berkovics fires to the plate during the first round of the NCHSAA baseball tournament. (Ron Morris)

Senior right hander Corbin Berkovics got the start and earned the win for the Patriots, allowing no runs on two hits and giving up one walk in four innings pitched.  Raja Milton came in to close the game and pitched three innings of relief.  Milton allowed no runs on two hits as the Patriots shut out the Eagles 5-0 in the first round of the state playoffs.

East Mecklenburg’s pitching ace senior Luke Little pitched five innings, giving up one run on three hits and striking out eleven Patriots batters.

Indy got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth inning.  Ryan Mangum drew a walk and went to second on a passed ball.  Raja Milton also drew a walk putting runners on first and second.  Bryson Jusko was next up with a single to load the bases.  CJ Brown stepped to the plate and hit a hard grounder to short scoring Mangum, and Brown was safe at first.  Indy finished the inning leading 1-0.

Indy’s Nate Brown trying to avoid Luke Little’s tag.(Ron Morris)

In the top of the sixth with Indy leading 1-0, East Meck’s Devine Summers walked with one out.  Rafael Pena came to the plate and hit a fly ball in the gap between left and center field.  Both center fielder Bubba Comer and left fielder CJ Brown started for the ball.  CJ laid out to make the catch.  With the Eagles thinking that the ball was going to drop in for a hit, Summers was already at second base when CJ made the catch.  CJ got the ball back in to Matthew Mangum who threw to first baseman Corbin Berkovics for the double play that ended the inning.   Coach Cooke said,  “Credit CJ for the game saving double play.  That was a game changer.”   After the game CJ said, “Bubba and I were going after the ball.  Bubba told me you got room man.  You got it.  I made the catch and saw Matt jumping up and down.  I got the ball back in to him, and he got the runner at first.”

Indy had a big sixth inning scoring four runs on five hits.  Ryan Mangum led off with an infield hit.  With one away and Mangum on third, Bryson Jusko hit his third single to drive in Mangum.  CJ Brown picked up an infield hit putting two runners on.  Bubba Comer followed with a single scoring Jusko and Brown.  Comer came home on a Matthew Mangum single to make the score 5-0.

The Eagles were unable to score in the seventh giving Indy the first round victory.

Indy’s third baseman Bryson Jusko comes up throwing to get a runner at first base in Tuesday’s game against East Mecklenburg.(Ron Morris)

Indy’s sophomore third baseman Bryson Jusko led the Patriots hitting three singles in three at bats. I asked him if this was his first time going 3-for-3 and he said, “Yes sir it was, and it feels good.”  When I asked if he did anything different he replied   “No sir.  Just go up there and try to hit the ball and good things will happen.  I just tried to put it in play.”

Bubba Comer, Nate Brown, Matthew Mangum, Ryan Mangum and CJ Brown had one hit each.

After the game Coach Cooke said, “Credit East Meck and Luke Little.  He has a really good arm, and we saw that he was on tonight.  But we battled, and grinded.  We were a little out of focus.   Early we made some mental mistakes, but I think they know how to win.  They believe in each other more than ever, more than most teams I’ve ever coached.  I’m excited for the challenge to go over there and play Providence Friday night.  I couldn’t be more excited.  We are in the win and advance mode.  It’s playoff time.  I’m just super excited for the players.”

On Friday night the Patriots will travel to Providence High School to take on the number one seed Providence Panthers.

East Mecklenburg    0  0  0  0  0  0  0  –  0

Independence          0  0  0  1  0  4  X  –  5

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