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Carolina Mudcats fall to Wilmington Blue Rocks in extra innings

Carolina Mudcats fall to Wilmington Blue Rocks in extra innings
Photo credt: Tony Lastoria/IBI
July 23, 2014
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ZEBULON, N.C. — The Carolina Mudcats’ struggles with the Wilmington Blue Rocks continued Wednesday as they fell 7-6 in 10 innings.

Michael Antonio’s sacrifice fly won the game in the tenth as Wilmington outlasted the Mudcats in a back-and-forth affair.

The Blue Rocks jumped ahead before Carolina even had a chance to hit. With one away in the top of the first, Raul Mondesi doubled to right then crossed the dish to push Wilmington ahead as Bubba Starling singled to left putting the Blue Rocks up, 1-0.

But Carolina grabbed the run back and took the lead for themselves in the bottom of the frame. After Todd Hankins flew out to center, Yhoxian Medina reached safely on a base hit up the middle then moved up to second after Blue Rocks starter Glenn Sparkman was called for a balk. LeVon Washington then sent a chopper to first, but reached safely as Sparkman dropped the throw covering first as Medina took third.

Yandy Diaz’s groundout to short then leveled the score as Medina touched the plate. The next batter, Jeremy Lucas, followed by putting the Mudcats ahead 2-1 as he doubled to left center, scoring Washington.

Wilmington clawed back in the top of the fourth. Bubba Starling opened the inning with a double over the head of Hankins in center. Mark Threlkeld then drew the Blue Rocks level when his single to right popped off first base and over the head of Jerrud Sabourin as Starling crossed the plate to make it 2-2. 

Frustrated with plate umpire Brian Peterson’s strike zone in the top of the inning, Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker was ejected in the middle of the inning after a lengthy argument with Peterson.

The usually mild-mannered Tucker’s dismissal immediately sparked his club, as Carolina retook the lead in the bottom of the inning. Alex Monsalve singled and Sabourin walked before James Roberts brought in Monsalve thanks to a Sparkman throwing error on his attempted sacrifice. Logan Vick followed with a fielder’s choice as Roberts was retired at the plate, but Medina doubled the Mudcats lead with a single to left making it 4-2.

But the Blue Rocks came roaring back in the top of the fifth. Daniel Rockett reached on a Medina error, and was followed by a Terrance Gore base hit to left putting men on the corners. Gore then stole second, setting the table for another Mondesi double as Rockett and Gore scored to tie the game. A wild pitch moved Mondesi to third before the shortstop scored on Bubba Starling’s single to left. Threlkeld followed with another single to end Sulser’s evening before Michael Antonio plated Starling with his own single off to left off reliever Jacob Lee as Wilmington grabbed a 6-4 advantage.

Sulser earned no decision for Carolina, allowing six runs, five earned, on eight hits in a 4.1 inning outing. The right-hander struck out three and didn’t yield a walk.

Wilmington’s starter also didn’t see the sixth as the Blue Rocks pulled Sparkman after 5.0 innings. He also took no decision after allowing four unearned runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four.

With reliever Aroni Nina on the hill for Wilmington in the bottom of the sixth, the Mudcats fought back as singles from Monsalve and Roberts put men on the corners with one away. Nina then shot himself in the foot, uncorking a wild pitch to Vick allowing Monsalve to score and Roberts to take second. After Vick walked and Hankins grounded out, Medina evened the score on a single that bounced off third base and over Blue Rocks third baseman Jared Schlehuber as Roberts came in to make it 6-6.

Lee and Josh Martin held Wilmington in check, combining for 4.2 scoreless innings to send the game into extras as Blue Rocks relievers Kyle Bartsch and Yender Caramo stymied the Mudcats over the final 3.1 innings of regulation. 

But Wilmington quickly found the decisive run in extra innings. With one away, Bubba Starling’s liner to right center fell off the glove of a diving Hankins. After Grant Sides intentionally walked Threlkeld, Antonio brought in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to center. 

Sides (3-1, 2.82 ERA) took the loss, allowing the one earned run on a hit and two walks in his only inning of work.

By closing out the Mudcats in the bottom of the extra frame, Mark Peterson earned his tenth save of year as Caramo (4-5, 2.84 ERA) grabbed the win.

Tucker was not available for post-game comment, with hitting coach Tony Mansolino answering questions in his place.

Although the team lost, Mansolino said he was encouraged by his players’ ability to fight back again and again Wednesday.

“Yes, we lost the game, but it was great to see our guys compete and play hard,” said Mansolino. “They’re fighting like a team in the hunt and it’s great to see.”

Carolina drops to 19-15 on the second half and 48-53 overall. The Blue Rocks improve to 17-15 since the All-Star break to sit at 50-50 overall.

The Mudcats will look to avoid the sweep Thursday as they send Ryan Merritt (10-3, 2.13 ERA) to the mound against Jonathan Dziedzic (5-5, 2.60 ERA) in a battle of lefties.

First pitch from Five County Stadium is set for 7:00 p.m.

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