Merritt wins 13th as Carolina Mudcats top Frederick Keys, 6-2
ZEBULON, N.C. — The Carolina Mudcats cruised to a convincing 6-2 win over the Frederick Keys on Tuesday night behind an early lead and a strong performance from Carolina starter Ryan Merritt
Merritt (13-3, 2.49) earned his thirteenth win of the season by allowing just four hits and one earned run over 7.0 innings. Carolina’s ace pounded the strike zone to throw 58 of his 78 pitches for strikes without allowing a single walk. Three of the four hits came off infield singles.
“I think I came out and competed to the best of my ability and I just made them hit my pitches and get themselves out,” Merritt simply put it. “I have to give my defense credit because they played awesome tonight.”
Manager Scooter Tucker was once again pleased with the young right hander’s performance. Tucker acknowledged Merritt’s ability to keep hitters off balance when analyzing the win.
“He is very deceptive and the ball comes out of his hands very deceptive,” said Tucker. “It’s not like he over powers guys or anything but he gets them to swing and miss. It was a typical outing for Ryan.”
The Mudcats offense also aided their starter with good run support by staying patient and scoring runs with timely hits.
Carolina jumped out to a first inning lead thanks to a shaky start from Frederick’s Parker Bridwell. Despite having hit into two outs, the Mudcats loaded the bases in the first inning behind three walks from Bridwell. Carolina’s Torsten Boss capitalized on the early opportunity by plating two runs with a ground rule double down the first base line.
Joe Sever would have easily scored from first had the ball stayed in play but the Carolina first baseman was held at third and eventually stranded after aRyan Battaglia strike out that ended the inning.
The Mudcats continued to put runs on the board in the bottom of the second on their way to a 5-0 advantage. With two outs already in the books,Yhoxian Medina knocked a double down the left field line and Yandy Diaz stayed patient to earn a walk, setting the stage for Jerrud Sabourin. The Carolina left fielder showed off his power as he followed it up by blasting a three run shot over the right field wall.
The three run second inning brought the Frederick starter’s night to an abrupt end. Bridwell (5-10, 4.79) was hit three times for five earned runs across 2.0 innings during the poor start. The right hander struggled to the tune of five walks on his way to the loss.
Merritt was perfect in his first time through the Frederick order, but the Keys made adjustments going into the top of the fourth that resulted in a John Ruettiger score. Frederick’s center fielder dropped a double down the third base line and scored after Jason Esposito beat out a slow rolling infield single.
It would be the only blemish during Merritt’s otherwise stellar night.
Carolina would get the run back in the bottom half of the frame to maintain their five run cushion. A leadoff walk from Yhoxian Medina and a Jerrud Sabourin single gave the Mudcats a runner in scoring position. Hard-hitting Eric Haase drilled a ball past the third baseman for an RBI double that scored Medina from second and put the Mudcats up 6-1.
With runners at second and third, Joe Sever had a chance to really break the game open but poor base running from Sabourin resulted in a ground ball double play that ended the inning.
The Mudcats loaded the bases in the bottom of the eighth behind two walks and a single but a Jerrud Sabourin line out to second left three stranded and the score at 6-1.
Carolina’s Benny Suarez came in to finish the game in the ninth but ran into some trouble. Tucker Nathans singled to right and moved to second on a pick off attempt that got away from the first baseman and dribbled towards foul territory. Jason Esposito then brought Nathans home with a single off the wall in right that made it 6-2.
Suarez would recover to halt the Frederick comeback attempt by recording back to back outs to end the game.
Tucker was pleased with the complete nature of the win, citing quality pitching and hitting during a post game discussion.
“Guys were patient tonight, we earned a lot of walks, and the big hit by Torsten in the first really got us going,” the Mudcats manager said. “It was a solid night, nothing fancy, just really clean.”
On the night, the Mudcats failed to out hit their cross divisional foes but a total of ten walks for the home team played a big part in the final outcome.
After losing four straight and eight of their last ten, the Mudcats find themselves at the bottom of the Southern division. So Tuesday night’s win carries a great deal of importance as the Mudcats attempt to make a late push for the playoffs. Scooter Tucker’s ball club now needs to overcome a 2.5 game deficit over the final twelve games to reach the postseason.
Tucker hopes to maintain their consistent approach to each game on their path to the playoffs.
“Play the game the right way and play the game hard, you should be playing to win everyday,” Tucker said. “We haven’t really said anything different. You just have to keep plugging away and you never know what will happen.”
The Mudcats return to action on Wednesday night as they continue their series with the Frederick Keys. Right hander Dylan Baker (3-2, 5.27) is set to start for the home team and Branden Kline (8-6, 3.84) will take the mound for the Keys. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.