Carolina Mudcats shut down Lynchburg for seven innings in win
ZEBULON, N.C. – Ryan Merritt and the Carolina Mudcats established an early lead and managed to hold on to win a close one, 4-2, on Wednesday night.
Merritt (9-2, 1.65 ERA) hurled seven innings and allowed only two earned runs off of five hits and a walk. The Carolina ace struggled through the first two innings but recovered to keep the Hillcats hitless over the final five innings.
Manager Scooter Tucker thought his ace did a good job of settling down after being hit early.
"They had a pretty good approach and they knew what they wanted to do," explained Tucker. "Ryan had to make an adjustment and he did and from there he pitched a no-hitter."
The Mudcats started the game off with a bang in the opening frame. After nearly hitting one out of the park earlier in the at-bat, leadoff hitter LeVon Washington found his pitch and sent a moon shot over the right field wall to make it 1-0 Mudcats.
It would prove to be the only score of the night for the Hillcats.
Lynchburg starter Cody Scarpetta struggled with his command in the bottom of the third and allowed the Mudcats to regain the lead. Early in the inning, Carolina loaded the bases behind a single from Yhoxian Medina and back to back walks of Joe Sever and Yandy Diaz. Without an out on the board, Jeremy Lucas had a chance to do some damage, but a disappointing double play ground out scored only one run.
Sever took third during the play and was plated by a Luigi Rodriguez single later in the inning to give Carolina a 3-2 advantage.
Lynchburg manager Luis Salazar had seen enough from Scarpetta (2-2, 2.86) and pulled him after his rough third inning. On the night, the right hander surrendered three earned runs off of six hits and five walks on his way to his second loss of the season.
The five walks on Wednesday matched Scarpetta's season total for walks going into the game.
Reliever Nate Hyatt didn't fare any better in the fourth against the Carolina batters. The Mudcats put runners on the corners behind a LeVon Washington leadoff single and a Yhoxian Medina double to left to set up another scoring opportunity. Washington tagged and scored on a Joe Sever sac fly to center that put Carolina ahead 4-2.
Carolina looked to be on the verge of adding another score in the bottom of the seventh. Jeremy Lucas reached first after being hit by a David Peterson pitch and Alex Monsalve singled to left to give the Mudcats two base runners. A Logan Vick single to right put the runners in motion and Scooter Tucker waved Lucas home but a good throw from Will Skinner made for an easy out at the plate.
With Merritt out of the game, Lynchburg earned three walks to load the bases in the top of the eighth. But relief pitcher Josh Martin got out of the jam with a clutch strikeout of Justin Bloxom to end the inning and preserve the two run lead for the Mudcats.
The Hillcats attempted to rally again in the ninth inning and managed to put runners at first and second. Carolina'sElvis Araujo stood his ground and recorded the final out with a strikeout of Daniel Caroll to secure the win.
Araujo was credited with the save after keeping the Hillcats off the board in the ninth.
The Carolina bullpen has been far from perfect throughout the year, but on Wednesday night they held together to keep the Hillcats at bay in a close ballgame.
They combined to pitch 2.0 scoreless innings in which they allowed only one hit and three walks.
Alex Monsalve went 3-3 on the night and has begun to put together a nice stretch for himself. The Boqueron, Venezuela native has gone 5-7 over the past two games with four RBI.
The top of the order hit well in Wednesday night's win. LeVon Washington went 3-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Yhoxian Medina added two doubles and a run on his way to a 3-5 night as well.
Tucker saw a lot of positives during his team's second win in as many nights.
"Overall it was a good game," said Tucker. "We obviously got very good pitching from the starters and the relievers tonight. We played solid defense, made some nice plays, and got a couple of diving catches from Washington and Vick and we were patient at the plate, they gave us some walks and we got some base runners that we turned into scores."
He hopes that his ball club will continue to succeed in all facets of the game on their way to more wins.
The win puts Carolina at 8-6 during the second half and 37-44 on the year. Lynchburg moves to 7-6 with the loss but remains at the top of the Northern division of the Carolina League.
Carolina are set to face Lynchburg again on Thursday night as they look for the sweep in the final game of the series. Michael Peoples (4-7, 4.88 ERA) has been tabbed to start for the Mudcats and will face Lynchburg south paw Daniel Watts (0-1, 3.00 ERA).
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.