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Hough High 7, North Mecklenburg 2

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Hough routs top-seed North Meck

By Bill Kiser
Correspondent

CORNELIUS Hough’s baseball team had to share the MECKA 4A regular-season title with rival North Mecklenburg.

But the tournament championship? That belongs to the Huskies outright after they routed the top-seeded Vikings 7-2 Friday in the finals at Hough High.

Brooks Carroll and Ethan Whitman had two-run singles early as Hough (21-6) jumped out to a five-run lead, and Justin Baker struck out eight as the Huskies won their 10th straight game.

“We wanted this to ourselves,” Baker said. “We wanted to prove something, because people had doubted us at the beginning of the year. We had something to prove.

“We also broke that tie, so that gave us some extra incentive in the later innings.”

Hough and North Mecklenburg (17-8) shared the MECKA 4A regular-season title after bothe teams finished with 12-2 records, but the Vikings wound up with the tournament’s No. 1 seed thanks to their season sweep over third-place Hopewell.

But on Friday, the Huskies took advantage of the Vikings' mistakes to take the early lead. Hough then put the game away with two more runs in the top of the seventh inning.

“Our guys have been motivated all year long,” Huskies coach Jimmy Cochran said. “But (playing North Mecklenburg) added something to it. That was something we had talked about – breaking that tie, that was something they certainly wanted to do.”

Hough got to Vikings starter Zack Ruttkamp for seven hits, but they also took advantage of four North Meck errors to score three unearned runs. Ruttkamp (4-4) also had six strikeouts.

But it was Baker (9-0) who had a better game, holding the Vikings to four hits – all coming from the top of their batting order – to overcome four Hough errors. North Meck wound up stranding five baserunners, four of those in scoring position.

“Baker's been huge for us all year,” Cochran said. “He's transformed himself into a heck of a ballplayer, and has been a catalyst of this ball team.

“We've started to turn things on the last 15 ball games, and the biggest adjustment we've made is hitting with runners in scoring position. We've found a way to take some pressure off of ourselves in those situations, and that's been the turning point for the season.”

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