Mudcats late surge not enough, fall to Nationals 4-2
Mudcats starter Ryan Merritt pitched 5.2 innings with six strikeouts and allowing just one earned run, but it was not enough to beat the Nationals on Friday.
POTOMAC, MD – Despite keeping it close throughout and a late inning rally, the Carolina Mudcats were never able to take control of the game as they fell to the Potomac Nationals 4-2 on Friday night.
Carolina (5-3) trailed by no more than one run until the seventh inning, when the team gave up three runs with the score tied at one to fall behind by more than they could catch up to.
Left-hander Ryan Merritt took the mound for the Mudcats to face the Nationals for the second time in as many starts. Merritt finished the night with another dazzling performance, allowing just one run on five hits in 5.2 innings. This came after shutting out Potomac over six innings in his first start of the season.
Carolina shortstop Erik Gonzalez continued his early season success, as he reached base four times in the game on two hits and two walks. Despite this, Gonzalez proved to be the final out of the game as he struck out with the tying run in scoring position.
After trading scoreless frames to begin the game, the Nationals pushed the first run of the game across in the third inning.
Potomac shortstop Stephen Perez reached base to open the inning on a bunt single and proceeded to steal second during the next at-bat. With one-out, and Perez still on second base, a RBI single to right field allowed Perez to race around to score to push the Nationals ahead in the early going.
Despite having at least one runner aboard every inning, the Mudcats were unable to capitalize as the team could not push a run across until the seventh inning.
With one-out in the inning, third baseman James Roberts reached on a throwing error, and center fielder Ollie Linton drove him home on a RBI double to center field allowing Carolina to tie the score at one run apiece.
After Carolina managed to tie the game in the top of the seventh, the Nationals took the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning, pushing three runs across, all with two outs.
Right-hander Josh Martin, who entered the game with two outs in the sixth, struck out the first two batters in the seventh, but that is when trouble struck for Carolina. A single and a stolen base put a runner on second, but a throwing error by catcher Alex Monsalve allowed the runner to advance to third base. An infield single was all the Nationals needed to drive in the go-ahead run, but they were not done there, as the very next batter crushed a ball over the left field wall to give Potomac a late three-run lead.
Carolina attempted to rally in the eighth inning as Gonzalez reached base for the fourth time on the night, this time with his second hit of the game. Right fielder Anthony Gallas followed with a single of his own to put two on with no outs. First baseman Jeremy Lucas hit a ground ball to the hole at shortstop that forced Gallas out at second, but Gonzalez was able to race around to score to pull the Mudcats within two.
A throwing error on the relay to first on the Lucas groundout allowed Lucas to advance to second on the play. A wild pitch with one out allowed Lucas to advance to third, but he would be stranded there as the final two batters of the inning struck out.
The Mudcats threatened once again in the ninth inning, getting the tying run into scoring position, but, ultimately, were unable to put a run on the board in the inning to end the game.
Carolina takes the field in Potomac once again on Saturday, as they send right-hander Cole Sulser to the mound.
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.