Mudcat pitchers combine for 3-0 shutout
ZEBULON — The Carolina Mudcats (15-12) took the first game of the series from the Lynchburg Hillcats (14-13) Friday night, winning 3-0 after a 53 minute rain delay.
Starter Danny Salazar and reliever Jordan Cooper combined to shut out the Hillcats. Each pitcher went four scoreless innings. Salazar, who is still on a strict pitch count, was pulled after the fourth inning, but he was able to rack up five strikeouts and turned in a dominant effort despite not being able to factor into the decision. Cooper was the first man out of the pen for the Mudcats, and he turned in one of his better outings of the year. Cooper retired all 12 men he faced, including four by strikeout. Grant Sides pitched a scoreless ninth to get the save and preserve the shutout.
“They did great tonight,” said manager Edwin Rodriguez about his pitchers. “This game is all about pitching. Salazar set the tone, he was attacking the hitters and his secondary pitches were working for him and then Cooper followed him, and he was outstanding.”
The Mudcats' offense would do just enough behind the stellar pitching to get the win. Another standout performance by shortstop Tony Wolters, who recorded three hits on the night and scored the games first run, led the way. The Mudcats scored three runs against Hillcat starter Michael Lee. Left fielder Anthony Gallas led the way with two RBI’s as he drove in first baseman Jesus Aguilar twice, once in the fourth and again in the sixth. Right fielder Bo Greenwell also increased his hitting streak to 10 games after he recorded an infield single in the fifth.
The Mudcats were able to take the early lead for a change after trailing early in every game in their previous series against the Winston Salem Dash. Wolters started the game with a lead-off double and allowed the Mudcats to jump on Lee in the first. Wolters was then driven home after a single to center by third baseman Giovanny Urshela, which gavethe Mudcats an early 1-0 lead.
First baseman Jesus Aguilar doubled to left to lead off the fourth to start a rally that saw the Mudcats' first three batters reach base. Following Aguilar's double, center fielder Carlos Moncrief drew a walk, which put two men on for left fielder Anthony Gallas. Gallas then singled to left to push across Aguilar for the Mudcats' second run of the night.
Aguilar, Moncrief and Gallas again contributed to the Mudcats' third run of the night in the sixth as they chased Lee from the game. Aguilar drew a walk to lead off the inning before going first to third on a single to left by Moncrief. Gallas then drove a liner to left, deep enough for Aguilar to score, which gave the Mudcats a 3-0 lead.
Ryan Weber came in for Lee with one out in the sixth and shut down the Mudcats' offense from there, retiring all eight batters he faced. However, the Mudcats had done enough to pull out a win following the turmoil-filled series ender from the night before.
“It shows a lot of character to be able to bounce back like this after a tough night last night. We have seen examples of this throughout the season with the whole team contributing and tonight is just another one,” Rodriguez said.
The Mudcats will once again face off against the Hillcats on Saturday as they take the field at Five County Stadium at 6:00 for the second game of a three game series.