Carolina Mudcats use 5-run 5th to beat Frederick Keys, 6-4
FREDERICK, Md. — A five-run fifth inning powered the Carolina Mudcats to a 6-4 victory against the Frederick Keys Thursday at Harry Grove Stadium.
Jeremy Lucas opened the scoring for Carolina in the visitor’s half of the fifth with his team-leading 12th home run of the season, a two-run shot to pull the Mudcats out of an early hole.
Frederick came out swinging in the bottom of the first as the Keys jumped out to the lead against Carolina starter Dylan Baker. After a pair of singles from Jerome Pena and Adrian Marin, Trey Mancini’s double to center drew first blood for the Keys as Pena came in to score. Frederick quickly doubled their advantage as Marin then scored on Chih-Hsien Chiang’s groundout to short.
Keys starter Branden Kline kept the Carolina offense confused early as Fredrick’s 2-0 advantage held into the fifth. But Yandy Diaz’s leadoff double set the table for Lucas’s long ball to left as the Mudcats drew level on one swing from their backstop.
Carolina was far from done in the top of the fifth. With two away, Todd Hankins got himself aboard with a bunt single, then stole second with LeVon Washington at the plate. After Washington earned a walk off Kline, Luigi Rodriguez put the Mudcats ahead with a base hit to left as Hankins scored. Logan Vick then added a pair with a double to center as Washington and Rodriguez came in to put Carolina ahead 5-2.
The disastrous top of the fifth earned Kline (7-6, 3.93 ERA) the loss. The right-hander allowed five runs, four earned, on nine hits in 6.0 innings. He walked one while fanning six.
The big inning also put Baker (2-2, 4.91 ERA) in line for the victory as the right-hander grabbed his first win since April eighth. Baker went 6.0 innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out three.
Frederick made things interesting late, cutting into Carolina’s lead against Ben Heller in the bottom of the seventh.Brenden Webb welcomed Heller to the game by sending his offering over the fence in right as the Keys moved within two. Tucker Nathans then reached on a Heller error before Wynston Sawyer earned a walk to end Heller’s evening as the righty failed to record an out.
With Josh Martin on the hill, the Keys added another in the seventh as Sawyer scored on Pena’s one-out single to right. The base hit also moved Lucas Herbst, the potential tying run, to third. But Martin escaped the jam, striking out Marin before Mancini grounded out to short to end the frame.
The Keys again got the tying run to third in the bottom of the eighth after Chiang led off with a double then tagged up on Jason Esposito’s fly out to center. But Martin was again up to the challenge, forcing Webb into a fielder’s choice and striking out Nathans as the Mudcats took their slim lead into the ninth.
In the top of the ninth, Vick provided valuable insurance for the Mudcats sending a solo shot to right off Dennis Torres to put Carolina up 6-4.
The Mudcats turned to Grant Sides in the bottom of the ninth as Fredrick looked to create more late drama. Sawyer led off with a base hit to right, followed by Herbst going down looking for the first out. Pena then put the tying run on base again with a single to right of his own. However, like Martin, Sides was up to the task striking out Marin and retiring Mancini thanks to a great catch from Vick in left as the right-hander picked up his fourth save of the campaign.
After taking two of three in Frederick, the Mudcats are 23-23 for the second half. They now trail the Winston-Salem Dash by a half game for the final playoff spot in the Southern Division.
Carolina will return home to Five County Stadium for a weekend series with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Adam Plutko (3-6, 4.63 ERA) is set to start Friday’s opener for the Mudcats with first pitch set for 7 p.m.