CORNELIUS North Mecklenburg High is riding a wave of confidence into the MECKA 4A Conference baseball final.
The Vikings beat A.L. Brown 6-2 at Hough on Thursday to earn a spot in the championship game and continue their late-season push in which North Mecklenburg (17-7) is peaking at the right time.
“Bottom line is these kids don’t give up,” Vikings coach Sean Ryan said. “Even when we’re down or behind, they’re a very resilient team and we never count ourselves out. We give ourselves a chance.”
North gave itself every opportunity to succeed in the semifinal. The Vikings broke a tie at 1 with a three-run fourth inning in which catcher Zack Ruttkamp’s single drove in winning pitcher Ryder Ryan, followed by Ruttkamp and Stephen Langford scoring on wild pitches.
“As the season has gone on, we’ve become more and more aggressive at the plate,” Sean Ryan said, “a little bit better pitch selection at the plate and getting ourselves into good counts to hit and we’re coming through with some big hits.”
That advantage was more than enough for Ryder Ryan, who limited the Wonders to a pair of hits while striking out 13, including eight of the first nine hitters he faced. A.L. Brown (15-11) forced a tie in the top of the fourth when center fielder Cameron Sherrill singled and scored during a rundown, but Ryder Ryan caught Zach Mullinax stealing home to kill the threat.
“You have to be aggressive against a pitcher like Ryder Ryan,” Wonders coach Empsy Thompson said. “We battled, and I’m proud of that.”
Said Sean Ryan: “Ryder pitched a heck of a game. He left it all on the field today, and Zack caught a heck of a game.”
North Mecklenburg extended its lead in the sixth when Mike Coss drove a two-run single to right, scoring pinch runner Malik Byrd and Stephen Langford, who reached on a single.
“We made some plays out there that were big,” Sean Ryan said. “We just got momentum and it just kept steamrolling.”
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