Carolina Mudcats top Lynchburg Hillcats, 10-4, behind 13 hits
ZEBULON, N.C. — The Carolina Mudcats demolished the Lynchburg Hillcats, 10-4, Thursday to complete a three-game series sweep.
The Mudcats offense exploded for five runs in the fifth and four in the sixth as Carolina brought out the broom in impressive fashion after falling behind early.
Lynchburg put Mudcats starter Michael Peoples (5-7, 4.66 ERA) in a jam in the top of the third after Emerson Landoni singled andBlake Brown doubled to put two Hillcats in scoring position with no outs. Although Peoples struck out Daniel Carroll swinging, a wild pitch to the next batter, Eric Garcia, allowed Landoni to come in for the game’s first run while Brown moved up to third. Garcia ultimately earned a walk to put men on the corners for Jose Martinez.
Peoples struck out Martinez before his defense got him out of the inning on the base paths. On the third strike to Martinez, Garcia made a late break to steal second, but with a poor jump was well beaten by Lucas’s throw and attempted to retreat back to first. Seeing his teammate caught in a rundown, Brown broke for home attempting to catch the Mudcats defense napping. But second baseman James Roberts saw Brown takeoff and alertly threw home, with Lucas eventually applying the tag after a rundown between third and home.
Peoples cruised through the rest of his 5.0 innings en route to his fifth win of 2014. He gave up just the one earned run on three hits while striking out five and walking four.
Manager Scooter Tucker was pleased with the right-hander’s ability to find the strike zone and get himself out of trouble.
“He threw strikes for the most part and let the defense make some nice plays behind him,” said Carolina’s skipper. “He kept the tempo going, he had a couple stretches where he got out of wack but settled down and did a nice job.”
Carolina finally managed their first hits off Hillcats starter Daniel Watts (0-2, 6.08 ERA) in the bottom of the fourth. With one away, Lucas doubled to left center before Alex Monsalve reached with an infield single on a chopper down the third base line. Jerrud Sabourin flew out to left for the second out, but a bit of luck gifted the Mudcats the tying run. James Roberts popped into shallow centerfield, which sent both Lynchburg middle infielders and the centerfielder, Brown, charging in for what should have been a routine inning ending pop out. But a failure to communicate somehow allowed the ball to drop in the middle of the Hillcat trio as Lucas came in to tie the game at 1.
The Mudcats then jumped ahead in the bottom of the fifth. After Watts hit the leadoff man, Logan Vick, Yhoxian Medina followed with a single to left. Joe Sever then provided the big hit as his slow-roller snuck between third and short allowing the speedy Vick to score standing up as Carolina grabbed a 2-1 lead. Yandy Diaz then walked to load the bases, still with nobody out. After Lucas popped out, Monsalve busted the game wide open with a bases-clearing double down the leftfield line as the Mudcats went up 5-1. Sabourin then kept the rally going with an RBI single up the middle plating Monsalve and ending a tough start for Watts.
Watts took the loss for Lynchburg, allowing six earned runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings of work. The lefty walked four and struck out two.
Although it took three innings to get a hit, Tucker was happy with the patience his hitters showed, taking lots of pitches and eventually wearing Watts down in the decisive fourth and fifth.
“We faced him (Watts) last year in the Midwest League, he’s a guy that always like to touch the corners of the strike zone so you have to be patient,” Tucker said. “With the weather like it is, this humid, I’m sure it helped to make him throw more pitches.”
With reliever Ronan Pacheco on the mound for Lynchburg in the sixth, Carolina’s offense kept pouring it on. Logan Vick earned a one out walk then took second on a wild pitch to Medina. With Medina still at the plate, Vick stole third before Medina’s double to the right field corner scored the Mudcats leadoff man. Pacheco hit Joe Sever next, and Diaz followed with hard-hit triple down the first base line to score two more. Lucas then continued the rally with a double to right center plating Diaz as Carolina’s lead ballooned to 10-1.
Seven of the nine batters in Carolina’s lineup recorded an RBI in a balanced attack that delighted Tucker: “You like to see multiple guys come through, it’s definitely a good thing for us.”
The Hillcats cut into the sizeable Mudcats advantage in the top of the seventh. With Benny Suarez on in relief, Lynchburg rallied thanks to a leadoff walk to Tyler Tewell and a single to center from Landoni. Brown flew out for the first out, but a wild pitch to Carroll advanced Landoni putting men on second and third. Suarez got Carroll swinging for the second out, but Garcia’s single up the middle scored a pair. Garcia broke for second on the throw from center to the plate, and ultimately scored after Lucas’s errant throw to second went all the way past Vick in center as the Hillcats drew within six.
Suarez’s final line showed three runs allowed, two of which earned, on three hits in 1.2 innings. He struck out two and walked four. Rob Nixon closed out the game for Carolina going 2.1 scoreless innings.
With the victory, Carolina improves to 9-6 on the second half and 38-44 overall. The Hillcats fall to .500, 7-7, for the second half and 41-43 for all of 2014.
The Mudcats will remain at Five County Stadium for a three-game series with the Salem Red Sox. The opener comes Friday, Independence Day, and is set for a 7:00 p.m. first pitch. D.J. Brown is scheduled to start for the Mudcats against Pat Light in a battle of righties.