Mudcats fall to Blue Rocks 3-1 in pitchers' duel
Carolina stranded seven base runners and struck out 14 times in Friday's loss.
ZEBULON, NC – After a rough start, the Carolina Mudcats settled down, but could not rally losing 3-1 to the Wilmington Blue Rocks in a pitcher’s duel on Friday night. With the loss, Carolina fell to 13-11 on the season.
Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker was disappointed in the team’s performance offensively.
“Offensively, we got a couple of chances to get the big hit that we just couldn’t get,” said Tucker. “They pitched a nice game. I was pleased with how the bullpen came in a shut them down after a rough start, and we played some nice defense tonight.”
Right-hander Cole Sulser got the start for the Mudcats, and never got into a groove. Sulser lasted just one inning hurling 39 pitches, while giving up two runs on three hits.
Tucker said with all of the rain, pitchers are having starts moved back, and Sulser was no exception, having had nine days between starts.
“With all of the rain, he’s had nine days off,” said Tucker. “Pitching is a lot about rhythm and I’m sure he just got a little rusty having to wait.”
A leadoff single proved to be trouble in the opening inning. With one-out and a runner on first and second, a RBI double to right field brought one run in. The Blue Rocks were not done there. A single to left field brought in a second run, and kept runners at the corners, still with one out. That would be it as a strikeout followed by a pop out to the shortstop ended the inning.
After the Mudcats went one-two-three in the bottom of the first, Wilmington went right back to work in the top of the second.
Right-hander Rob Nixon relieved Sulser to start the second inning, but started much the same way. After giving up two hits to start the inning, a strikeout got the first out in the inning, and a double play ended kept the Blue Rocks off the board.
In four innings pitched, Nixon gave up only one run on five hits, while striking out three. The four innings was Nixon’s longest outing since July 19, 2012 when he, also, pitched four innings for the Mudcats.
Tucker was very pleased with the bullpen’s performance, especially Nixon’s.
“Nixon’s performance was huge,” said Tucker. “Without it, we could have really gone into the bullpen and been hurting for days because of it.”
Nixon was very pleased with his performance, saying all of his pitches were working well for him.
“My fastball command and slider were working really well” said Nixon. “I just went out there and tried to get ahead to get some quick outs.”
Last season, Nixon was used as a spot starter, so he knew he was capable of going multiple innings for the team.
“I think from last year, I knew I could go,” said Nixon. “I started until a couple of years ago, so it was nice to go out and pitch for a while tonight.”
The first Mudcats reached base on a one-out base hit by left fielder Anthony Gallas in the second inning. A wild pitch allowed Gallas to move to second base, and a ground ball by first baseman Jerrud Sabourin advanced him to third base with two outs. Gallas was stranded there when designated hitter Charlie Valerio struck out to end the inning.
Third baseman James Roberts and center fielder Logan Vick led off the third inning with back-to-back singles to put two runners on base for the first time on the night. A perfect bunt by second baseman Todd Hankins loaded the bases with no outs to bring up right outfielder Ollie Linton.
A sacrifice fly to center field by Linton brought Roberts in to score to cut the lead to one. Catcher Jeremy Lucas drew a two-out walk to load the bases, but Gallas lined out to left field to end the frame.
With a runner on second after a leadoff double to left field, a stolen base put a runner on third base with no outs. After a groundout to first base, a soft flare to center field brought the runner into score for a two-run lead.
Linton drew a two-out walk in the fifth inning and that would be it for Wilmington starter Jonathan Dziedzic. In 4.2 innings, Dziedzic gave up one run on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Shortstop Erik Gonzalez struck out to end the inning.
Right-hander Jacob Lee relieved Nixon in the sixth inning.
A hit batsman, single and intentional walk loaded the bases with one out, but a pop out and strikeout ended the inning without giving up a run in the frame.
Lee pitched two scoreless innings, allowing just three base runners and one hit.
Gallas reached for the second time on the night with a single to center field with one out, but back-to-back strikeouts stranded him there to end the inning.
Sabourin singled to right field with one-out in the ninth inning, but was stranded at first base to end the game.
Carolina returns to action on Saturday night against the Wilmington Blue Rocks. Left-hander Shawn Morimando gets the start for the Mudcats.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.