17-hit night powers Carolina Mudcats to 11-10 victory against Keys
ZEBULON, N.C. – The Carolina Mudcats capped an improbable nine-run comeback with a walk-off single from Todd Hankins to win, 11-10, Thursday night at Five County Stadium.
After cutting the lead to one run in the eighth, the Mudcats opened the ninth by loading the bases behind two singles and a walk. AJerrud Sabourin walk tied the game and brought Hankins to the plate with a chance to win it.
The center fielder sent a line drive down the left field line to bringJames Roberts in for the winning score.
Hankins and his teammates celebrated the stunning comeback on the field in front of the raucous home fans.
"It's always exciting when you can walk off a game like that, especially the way we came back after being down early,” Hankins said.
He went to the plate with confidence and he felt that it made the difference in his crucial at-bat.
"I got down 0-2 but I didn't panic," said Hankins. "I got a good pitch to hit and I put it down the line."
Manager Scooter Tucker said enjoyed seeing his players fight through a tough night to earn the amazing win.
Tucker said he felt that the bullpen's effort paved the way for barrage of singles that ultimately won the game.
"The bullpen is always a vital part of it, they come in at pivotal times and it can go one way or the other," he explained. "Tonight, (the) guys did a good job."
Carolina's bullpen combined to allow only one hit and two walks in 4.2 scoreless innings.
Grant Sides earned the win after pitching a clean ninth inning.
The Keys raced out to an early lead behind Trey Mancini's four RBIs, but the Mudcats started their comeback with a six-run eighth inning that put some life back into the stadium.
Holding a seven-run advantage, Frederick reliever Miguel Chalas entered the game in the bottom of the eighth and quickly pitched his way into a jam. Three straight singles from the Mudcats loaded the bases and a James Roberts single up the middle scored one. Chalas made things worse by walking Luigi Rodriguez, which brought another run home.
With the bases still loaded, Todd Hankins sent a slow rolling groundball up the third base line that forced a tough play and throw to first. The ball got away from the first baseman and allowed two runs to score. Hankins and Rodriguez made it to second and third on the play.
Grant Sides kept the Keys off the bases in the top of the ninth to set up the exciting finish.
Frederick starter Joe Van Meter earned a no decision after tossing five innings in which he allowed only three runs off of seven hits and one walk.
Carolina's Cole Sulser will want to forget Thursday night's start as soon as possible. Sulser gave up nine earned runs and 10 hits in just 4.1 innings of play.
"The bottom half of the order really hurt him and that was probably his biggest issue on the night," said Tucker.
Tucker said he remains confident in his pitcher despite his lackluster performance.
"He just needs to get the ball back down in the zone and put some guys away and he'll do that,” he said.
The Frederick hitters had Sulser's number from the very start of the game. First baseman Trey Mancini used a double to left to score Mike Yastrzemski in the top of the first.
The Keys carried the momentum into the top of the second when they plated five runs. Jason Esposito smashed a leadoff double over the head of Todd Hankins and scored on a Joel Hutter single later in the inning. A Sammie Starrsingle advanced the runner to second and a Mike Yastrzemski base hit scored Hutter to make it 3-0.
Frederick wasn't done yet, and with runners now on the corners, Mancini drilled a three run shot of the scoreboard in left to extend the lead to 6-0.
Carolina responded by giving Sulser some run support in the following innings. Joe Sever put the Mudcats on the board in the bottom of the second with a double off the wall that scored Yandy Diaz from second.
The Mudcats manufactured another run in the bottom of the third thanks to poor pitching from Van Meter. Luigi Rodriguez took a leadoff walk and made it to third on a LeVon Washington single to the gap in left center to put pressure on the Frederick right hander. With Erik Gonzalez batting, Van Meter sent a wild pitch past the catcher that allowed Rodriguez to score easily.
But the Keys continued to produce as they pushed their lead to eight runs.
Joel Hutter doubled to left and scored after a Joe Sever fielding error on a Mike Yastrzemski single in the bottom of the fourth.
Carolina continued to fight even after falling behind early. Luigi Rodriguez singled and advanced to third on a Hankins single up the middle to put his in position to cut the deficit. A Diaz RBI single to center scored Rodriguez and started the huge rally.
Sever continued his hot hitting on Thursday. The streaking first baseman went 4 for 5 with a double and an RBI on the night
The Mudcats will look to build on this big win as they embark on the fresh second half of the season.
"Hopefully you can ride that wave for a while and you try to gain a little momentum out of that," said Tucker.
Carolina is set to continue their home series with the Frederick Keys on Friday night. Adam Plutko (1-1, 4.71 ERA) is set to start for the Mudcats and is scheduled to face Mark Blackmar (4-1, 4.04 ERA).
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.