By the end of the night, even Charlotte Knights fans were pulling for Mikie Mahtook.
The Durham Bulls had jumped to an early lead Tuesday night on their way to defeating the Knights 9-2 at BB&T BallPark, leaving the right fielder as the game’s main attraction by the time he came to the plate in the eighth inning.
Mahtook stepped into the box with hits in 11 straight at-bats, 9-for-9 in the series and a home run away from the cycle.
Knights reliever Taylor Thompson watched as Mahtook took a vicious cut at his first pitch – an inside fastball – and fouled it off. Mahtook then did the same thing on Thompson’s next offering.
With the count 0-2, the right-hander went with a slider away and finally put an end to Mahtook’s remarkable run with his third strikeout in two innings.
“Honestly, I should have gone up with the same approach I’d had all night,” Mahtook said. “I kind of got swing happy and got out of my approach a little bit there and he made some good pitches and I chased a couple times and he got me out.”
His run ended four hits shy of George Quellich’s International League record of 15 straight hits, set with Reading during 1929.
“It was going to come to an end at some point,” Mahtook said. “I wasn’t going to go whatever for my next whatever, you know, but it was fun while it lasted.”
Mahtook finished the night 4-for-5 and was a thorn in the side of Charlotte starter Eric Surkamp, an N.C. State product, who fell to 0-2 on the season after allowing seven runs, all earned, on nine hits over four innings.
Surkamp’s counterpart, Enny Romero (2-1) got his second win against the Knights this season with a five-inning, four-hit, one-run performance. Romero struck out five.
Catawba College alumni Jerry Sands also had a big night for the Bulls, finishing with two home runs and four RBIs.
Sands’ first home run was a no-doubter to center field, but his second traveled about 320 feet down the right-field line.
Asked if he was a fan of the Knights’ new home, Sands replied, “Yeah, we all were fans of this new ballpark already. The first day we took (batting practice) out here, we knew it was a nice place to hit. Down the lines, it definitely goes, the gaps get a little bit, but right and left it goes pretty good.”
Alex Liddi (2-for-4) hit his first home run of the season in the seventh inning and was Charlotte’s only player with more than one hit.
The win was the sixth in a row for the Bulls (10-3), whose pitchers limited the Knights (6-7) to just five hits Tuesday and eight during the two-game series sweep.
After doubling in the second inning, singling in the fourth and lacing a triple in the fifth, Mahtook actually wound up with two chances to complete his cycle.
In the seventh inning, he took the first two pitches he saw from Thompson for balls before lining a single up the middle.
“Mikie is a pretty talented guy,” Sands said. “He’s got a bunch of tools and that was one of the more impressive streak I’ve ever seen.”
Hickory 3-2, Kannapolis 1-9: The Crawdads and Intimidators split their doubleheader at L.P. Frans Stadium. Jeremy Dowdy had 4 RBIs for Kannapolis in Game 2.
Bulls 9, Knights 2
E–Liddi. DP–Charlotte 1. LOB–Durham 10, Charlotte 8. 2B–Mahtook, Christian, Figueroa. 3B–Kiermaier, Mahtook. HR—Rodriguez, Sands 2.
|Romero (W, 2-1)||5||4||1||1||3||5|
|Surkamp (L, 0-2)||4||9||7||7||2||5|