Mudcats open second half with strong 7-3 win
ZEBULON- The Carolina Mudcats (1-0) beat the Wilmington Blue Rocks (0-1) by a score of 7-3 on Thursday night to get the second half of the season started.
The Mudcats took the lead by scoring two runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back scoring two in both the sixth and seventh and adding another run in the eighth. Jordan Cooper came in to relieve Mudcat starter Danny Salazar in the fourth inning and pitched four scoreless innings out of the pen as the Mudcats kept the Blue Rocks off the scoreboard till the eighth inning.
“Salazar pitched okay," Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "He really didn’t have command of his secondary pitches but Cooper was outstanding. He did a great job mixing his pitches, he kept us in the game and ended up getting the win."
Led by first baseman Jesus Aguilar’s three RBI night the Mudcats offense was able to bring the momentum from the end of the first half of the season to the second half.
“We ended the first half with ten hits against Salem, and it’s good to see us keep that up and start the second half strong like this,” Rodriguez said.
Shortstop Tony Wolters was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the first. Following the hit by pitch third baseman Giovanny Urshela drove a shot off the center field wall for a double and Wolters came all the way around from first to score the first run of the game. After a strikeout by designated hitter Jeremie Tice, Aguilar drove in Urshela with a single to left.
Salazar escaped damage in the third inning thanks to a base running blunder by the Blue Rocks. With one out in the inning catcher Kevin David singled to center, the Blue Rocks first hit of the game. Following the single left fielder Whit Merrifield drove a ball to left center. David was motoring around from first and was waved home but he eventually threw on the brakes and turned to go back to third. However Merrifield rounded second trying to move to third on the relay that had gone home, and with David returning to third Merrifield had to turn and try to retreat to second. A good throw by catcher Jake Lowery easily beat Merrifield to the bag as the second out of the inning was recorded. Second baseman Angel Franco then grounded out to first to end the inning.
A lead off double by Wolters in the bottom of the third inning was wasted as the Mudcats were unable to advance him past second. Urshela lined out to short, Tice flew out to shallow right and then following a walk by Aguilar, second baseman Ronny Rodriguez flew out to shallow center to end the threat.
The Blue Rocks again threatened in the fifth as the first two batters reached in the inning against Cooper. Shortstop Orlando Calixte led off the inning with a single to left which was then followed by a single to left by desingated hitter Roman Hernandez. Calixte moved to third as he tagged on a deep fly ball hit by first baseman Juan Graterol. With David batting Hernandez was picked off first. Hernandez got himself into a short run down but was eventually tagged out by Rodriguez. Calixte took off from third to try to score during the run down but after he tagged out Hernandez Rodriguez threw a strike home easily gunning down Calixte to end the inning.
Wolters led off the fifth inning with another double and again the Mudcats were unable to capitalize. Following the double Urshela laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Wolters to third; however Tice popped out to short and then Aguilar grounded out to third to end the frame keeping the score at 2-0.
The Mudcats doubled their lead in the sixth inning and chased Pounder from the game. Rodriguez led off the inning with a single to center. With Rodriguez running, right fielder Carlos Moncrief drove a ball to the wall in right resulting in a double as Rodriguez was held up at third. Rodriguez came home on a wild pitch by Pounder as Moncrief moved to third. A single by left fielder Bo Greenwell to left allowed Moncrief to come home for the Mudcats fourth run of the game. The single by Greenwell spelled the end of the night for Pounder as the Blue Rocks turned to Edwin Carl. Carl was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.
Carl yielded two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Tice led off the inning with a double down the left field line. Aguilar then drove a shot over the left field wall off the scoreboard to push the lead to 6-0.
Dale Dickerson came in for Cooper in the eighth and the Blue Rocks finally pushed across a run. The Blue Rocks loaded the bases up with one out. Dickerson then struck out Eibner to give him the opportunity to get out of the inning unscathed; however, Dickerson unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Merrifield to come in from third to score. Dickerson got right fielder Geulin Beltre to pop out to end the threat.
Cole White came in for Edwin Carl in the eighth inning and the Mudcats tacked on a run against him on an RBI single by Urshela scoring center fielder Tyler Holt.
The Blue Rocks tacked on two more runs in the top of the ninth on a home run by David off reliever Kyle Petter who had come in to pitch the ninth.
The Mudcats will look to continue their hot bats on Friday as they again take on the Blue Rocks at 7:15 at Five County Stadium.