Carolina Mudcats fall to Salem Red Sox, 4-3
ZEBULON, N.C. – The Carolina Mudcats dropped a close one, 4-3, to the Salem Red Sox on Saturday night in front of 4,248 boisterous fans at Five County Stadium. It was the fourth straight loss for the Mudcats, who fell below .500 for the first time all year.
Manager Scooter Tucker remained optimistic in defeat and praised his players effort on both sides of the ball despite the tough outcome.
"I thought it was a good night where we pitched pretty well but made a couple of mistakes in crucial situations," said Tucker. "We played good defense tonight and swung the bats better."
Cole Sulser (0-4) struggled early but produced a solid start for the Mudcats. The right hander tossed 5.1 innings and gave up three earned runs off five hits while striking out five and walking four.
"I wish I could have limited them some more but hopefully next time we will be able to get them," Sulser said. "I was fairly happy with it."
After a rough second inning where Sulser gave up two runs and three walks, he recovered and looked like a completely different pitcher for the rest of the night. He attributed the turnaround to some minor in-game changes and discussions with his coaching staff and catcher Jeremy Lucas.
"I just went in and talked to my catcher and he told me what he thought he was seeing. He thought I was rushing to the plate a little which made sense," Sulser explained. "I was throwing too many balls up in the zone which led to some long counts and some walks. so when I came out there I just tried to relax, calm down, and go after the guys and after that it seemed to be working a lot better."
Tucker was pleased with his starter and appreciated his fight after falling behind.
"He threw a lot of pitches early and he got behind early but he kept battling away and he gave us a quality start so I was very pleased with that," said Tucker.
Josh Martin (2-2) took the loss after pitching 2.2 innings of relief for the Mudcats in which he gave up one earned run off three hits.
Salem starter Pat Light (1-1) earned the win after pitching 6.0 innings and allowing three earned on five hits. Kyle Martin hurled three scoreless and hitless innings for the Red Sox in route to his fourth save of the year.
It didn't take long for Salem to find their swing against Sulser. The Red Sox put two runs on the board in the top of the second and held several long at-bats against the right hander. Kevin Heller reached based with a leadoff walk and was brought home by a Carson Blair double off the wall. Later in the inning, Kevin Mager doubled down the right field line to score Blair and make it 2-0.
The Mudcats responded in the bottom of the third with a couple of two-out runs of their own. Todd Hankins sent a double down the left field line that scored Luigi Rodriguez from first to get one run back. Yhoxian Medina then singled to left to score Hankins from second and level the game at two runs apiece.
The Red Sox plated another run in the top of the sixth to regain the lead. Kevin Heller doubled to the gap in left center before being scored by Carson Blair's second RBI double of the night.
It was Blair's eighth double and his thirteenth multi-base knock out of fifteen total hits on the year.
Salem didn't hold the lead for the long before Carolina knotted things back up at three in the bottom half of the inning. With Jeremy Lucas on first after a single, Anthony Gallas blasted a double off the wall in left to score the runner. Gallas was left stranded at second on a Jerrud Sabourin groundout to end the inning.
The Red Sox added another run in the top of the seventh to take the lead for good. With two outs, hard-hitting third baseman Jonathan Roof sent a solo shot over the wall in left. It was his second home run in his last two games and proved to be the game winner.
Carolina staged a comeback attempt in the bottom of the eighth that ultimately fell short. Salem relief pitcher Kyle Martin hit leadoff man Todd Hankins with a pitch to start things off. Hankins was then advanced to second on a ground out back to the pitcher from Yhoxian Medina. A passed ball sent Hankins to third and set the Mudcats up with a chance to even the score. Jeremy Lucas sent a groundball to second baseman Reed Gragnani who threw home where Todd Hankins was ruled out by the tag of Carson Blair. Hankins argued the call claiming that he had gotten under the tag of Blair but his dispute fell upon deaf ears.
Carolina are scheduled to look to turn things around against the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon before an off day on Monday. Shawn Morimando (4-2) has been tabbed to start for the Mudcats and will face Simon Mercedes (1-3).
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.