Dash rally late to knock off Mudcats, 5-4
Winston-Salem's eight inning comeback ended the Mudcats five-game win streak
ZEBULON, NC — Behind an eighth inning rally, the Winston-Salem Dash came from behind to steal a victory from the Carolina Mudcats, 5-4, on Sunday.
A three-run homer from Courtney Hawkins capped the comeback as the Dash ended Carolina’s five-game win streak.
Carolina grabbed a quick lead, finding some early success off Dash starter Brad Goldberg. With one out in the bottom of the first, Erik Gonzalez singled to right then stole second with Joe Sever at the plate. Although Sever was retired on strikes, Yandy Diaz followed with a RBI single to center scoring Gonzalez to put the Mudcats up 1-0.
But Winston-Salem quickly battled back to tie the game after Jason Coats doubled off Mudcats starter Ryan Merritt (9-3, 2.10) to open the top of the second. Keon Barnum’s fly out to center then allowed Coats to advance to third. Nick Basto followed with a fly out to medium right-center, seemingly plenty deep for Coats to tag and score, but the right fielder elected not to test Luigi Rodriguez’s arm. However, Merritt couldn’t make Coats and the Dash rue the questionable decision as Joey DeMichele singled up the middle to pull Winston-Salem level at one apiece.
A leadoff double again put Merritt in a jam in the top of the third as Cleuluis Rondon’s soft liner just got past Sever’s outstretched glove at first. Jacob May’s sacrifice bunt moved Rondon to third, allowing the shortstop to score on Keenyn Walker’s slow grounder to second as the Dash took a 2-1 lead.
The Mudcats seemed poised to draw level or perhaps take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Todd Hankins led off with a double before Gonzalez put men on the corners with a bunt single down the first base line. Goldberg recovered to strike out Sever and Diaz, but walked Lucas to fill the bases. However, Carolina left the bases loaded as Goldberg forced Washington to fly out to right ending the frame.
Men left on base haunted the Mudcats Sunday. They stranded eleven, compared to just two men left on by Winston-Salem, a stat that Carolina manager Scooter Tucker knows won’t get it done.
“Unfortunately, that’s the number that probably did us in. We certainly should have driven in more,” Tucker admitted. “Their guy (Goldberg) did well in a spot start and their bullpen was good, but we had our chances.”
Carolina would find the tying run in the fourth. With two away, Yhoxian Medina tripled down the third base line setting the table for Hankins, who brought the Mudcats level on a chopper to third.
This prompted Winston-Salem to turn to its bullpen, ending Goldberg’s start after 3.2 innings. The right-hander earned a no decision allowing two earned runs on seven hits. He struck out six and walked a pair in the emergency outing as he replaced scheduled starter Jefferson Olacio, who was scratched just prior to the game.
The Mudcats then surged ahead in the bottom of the fifth with Sean Hagan on the mound for the Dash. Sever singled to center, then advanced to second on Hagan’s wild pitch to Diaz. The third baseman then brought Sever home with a liner up the middle as Carolina took the lead at 3-2.
LeVon Washington provided insurance for Merritt in the bottom of the seventh. With Diaz on first after walking, Washington roped a double down the left field line allowing Diaz to come all the way around to put the Mudcats up 4-2.
But Winston-Salem battled back in the top of the eighth to spoil what had been a strong start from Merritt. A one-out double from Rondon and walk to May put Merritt in a jam. But an athletic play from the left-hander on Walker’s comebacker put Merritt just an out away from escaping the inning.
However, with an 0-2 lead in the count, Merritt served up a juicy pitch to Hawkins and paid dearly. The leftfielder sent his fourteenth homer of the year sailing over the fence in left as Winston-Salem shot ahead 5-4.
Merritt took his first loss since May 27 after allowing five runs on seven hits. The southpaw struck out six and walked one.
Despite the loss, Tucker was encouraged by another lengthy start from his ace.
“I saw a guy that pitched extremely well, it was just unfortunate how it went in the eighth,” said Tucker. “He certainly gave us a chance to win the game, we just didn’t do some things around him to make it happen.”
As it has so often this year, Merritt’s efficiency stuck out to Tucker: “He’s great, he’s a guy who goes deep in games so often. He didn’t throw more than 14 pitches in an inning today.”
The Mudcats never recovered, and would not get a hit the rest of the way against Dash reliever Kyle Hansen (6-4, 3.80). Hansen earned the win with 2.1 scoreless innings. Jeremy Lucas, who earned a two-out walk in the ninth, was the only Mudcat to reach base off the right-hander.
Carolina falls to 15-10 since the All-Star break, 44-48 overall. Winston-Salem improves to 13-12 on the second half and 43-51 for the full season.
The Mudcats will look to start a new win streak as their series with the Dash concludes with Monday’s matinée. Michael Peoples is scheduled to start for Carolina while Winston-Salem will counter with Tony Bucciferro in a battle of righties.
First pitch from Five County Stadium is set for 11:00 AM.