Carolina crushes Winston-Salem on Opening Night
An impressive six-run eighth inning scoring frenzy propelled the Carolina Mudcats to an 11-2 victory over the Winston-Salem Dash on Friday, April 6th. Shortstop Ronny Rodriguez, center fielder Tyler Holt and first baseman Jesus Aguilar combined for seven RBI’s. Aguilar went 4-for-5 with three singles and a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh that put the Mudcats up 5-1.
Carolina was able to put the game out of reach in the eighth inning when they took advantage of Dash pitchers Paul Burnside and Phil Negas. With the bases loaded, Holt belted a two run single off Burnside to get the scoring started. Negas came in to relieve Burnside, but Carolina continued to score. RBI singles by third baseman Giovanny Urshela and designated hitter Jeremie Tice, along with a wild pitch and a groundout that scored runners from third, gave the Mudcats an insurmountable 11-1 lead.
Winston-Salem managed to make some noise in their final at-bat of the evening. Mudcats’ closer Clayton Ehlert surrendered a single and two walks to load the bases. Another walk by Ehlert allowed Winston-Salem to get a free run and the remaining fans that battled the crisp evening began to express their disapproval. Ehlert was able to pull himself together and strike out the final two batters to give Carolina their first win of the season.
Winston-Salem, the High-A affiliate to the Chicago White Sox, started the game with aggressive base running which allowed them to score the game’s first run. With Nick Ciolli at second base after beating the throw from Mudcats’ catcher Jake Lowery, Trayce Thompson dropped a blooper into shallow right field for a hit that easily scored Ciolli from second.
Winston-Salem threatened to break the game wide open in the second inning. Mudcats’ starting pitcher Clayton Cook hit the first batter Mike Blanke, and surrendered a single to Jake Oester when second baseman Tony Wolters failed to make the throw to first on an acrobatic fielding play. Following a wild pitch that advanced the Dash runners to second and third, Aguilar ended the threat when he made an effortless catch in foul territory for the third out.
The Mudcats, who boast a talented roster filled with several top-30 Baseball America prospects, wasted no time answering Winston-Salem’s run. Catcher Jake Lowery quickly singled up the middle off Winston-Salem pitcher Jason Petricka and right fielder Carlos Moncrief was able to draw a walk. With two runners on, Rodriguez blasted a triple off the wall in deep center field that scored both runners. With a 2-1 advantage, Holt battled Petricka for a single that scored Rodriguez from third base.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Winston-Salem relieved Jake Petricka after allowing three runs off five hits. Right-hander Nick McCully took the mound for the Dash and duplicated Petricka’s earlier performance by striking out the first two Mudcats he faced. McCully continued throwing heat in the bottom of the 6th, striking out Lowery and Moncrief, but Rodriguez gave him trouble and managed a walk.
The next batter, left fielder Delvi Cid, hit a line drive off the upper wall in right field. Rodriguez tried to score from first base, but was instead thrown out at home by a spectacular throw from Dash right-fielder Nick Ciolli.
The game remained 3-1 into the bottom of the seventh inning when Mudcats’ batters were reenergized following another Winston-Salem pitching change. McCully was replaced by Dash’s Kyle Bellamy who gave up consecutive singles to Wolters and Urshela. With runners at the corners, Aguilar came through with a two run double increasing the Mudcats’ lead by two.
Cook pitched five solid innings allowing only one run off two hits.
“We got a good team win,” Cook said while admitting he struggled a little bit with his command. Over the last two years, his command has reduced due to recent mechanical changes in his form. He is trying to “bridge the gap” and get the command back that he had in his early years.
Cody Allen threw two impressive innings of relief for Carolina striking out five of the six batters he faced.
Carolina will host the Winston-Salem Dash Saturday night, April 7th at 6:15 for game two a three game series against their in-state rival. On the mound for Carolina will be lefty Mike Rayl and Andre Rienzo gets the start for Winston-Salem.