ZEBULON- The Carolina Mudcats (17-12) could not complete the sweep as they fell to the Lynchburg Hillcats (14-15) 7-4 on Sunday afternoon.
Mudcat starter Michael Goodnight had one of his worst outings of the year as he found it hard to find the strike zone all day. In his four innings of work Goodnight would walk six batters. “Goodnight’s release point was very inconsistent and he lacked command of his fastball. He had way too many pitches in the early part of the game” said manager Edwin Rodriguez.
To compound the problem Goodnight also saw three errors committed behind him, one of which was of his own doing, that led to three of the six runs he gave up being unearned. Once the Hillcats reached base they were looking to run as they ended with six stolen bases on the day, keeping constant pressure on Goodnight and the Mudcat defense. “Our pitchers have to do a better job holding runners. Are pitchers are taking to long to come to the plate and it’s making it really easy to steal” said Rodriguez.
A bright spot for the Mudcat was the performance of reliever Will Roberts who came in to settle the game down in the fifth. Roberts tossed five innings, giving up only one run. “Roberts came in and saved the bullpen, he gave our offense a chance to come back. He did an outstanding job for five innings” said Rodriguez.
On the other side the Mudcats had a hard time with Hillcat starter Dimasther Delgado as they were only able to scratch across one run in the five innings he worked. However the Mudcats were able to put together some offense against the Hillcat bullpen as they scored three runs in the eighth off reliever Ryne Harper. The Mudcats would load the bases up off Hillcat closer Matt Chaffee to put the tieing run on first with two outs in the ninth but Chaffee would get catcher Alex Monsalve to groundout to end the game.
Goodnight would come out and have a lot of trouble getting the ball over the plate in the first as he walked three batters and had to throw over thirty pitches. Compounding the problem there would be two errors in the inning allowing the Hillcats to score two unearned runs without the benefit of a hit.
The only ball put into play in the inning was a swinging bunt by shortstop Nick Ahmed that Goodnight fielded and then threw into left field. This allowed the first run of the game to come around to score in center fielder Dan Brewer who reached on a walk to lead off the game and advanced to third on a throwing error by Monsalve as he attempted to steal second. Ahmed, who ended up at second after Goodnight’s error would then steal third as Goodnight walked DH Shawn McGill. After a strikeout by left fielder Adam Milligan, McGill would take off for second. When the throw went to second from Monsalve, Ahmed would take off from third and have no problem scoring as he crossed the plate without a throw. McGill would get tagged out in between second and first after a short run down. After another walk to third baseman Edward Salcedo, Goodnight would finally get out of the inning with a strikeout by right fielder David Rohm.
Another lead off walk would end up hurting Goodnight in the second. First baseman Michael Spina would draw the lead off walk, and then would move to second on a fielder’s choice. After a fly out by catcher Chad Comer, Brewer would come up with a two out single to center to score Spina giving the Hillcats a 3-0 lead.
The Hillcats would double there lead in the fifth as they pushed across three more runs as Goodnight saw his day finally end. After the first two batters of the inning reached, an error by usually sure handed shortstop Tony Wolters allowed Salcedo to reach. The first run of the inning would come in to score on the play while putting runners on the corners as the Mudcats pulled Goodnight and turned to Will Roberts. Roberts would quickly load the bases as he hit right fielder David Rohm. Spina would then come up and smack a single to center to score to more before Roberts could get out of the inning.
The Mudcats would finally get to Delgado in the fifth as a one out double by center fielder Delvi Cid led to their first run of the game. Following a walk to Wolters, a single to left by right fielder Bo Greenwell would drive in Cid. The single by Greenwell extended his hit streak to 12 games.
Milligan would tack on to the Hillcat lead as he drove a towering solo shot over the center field wall to lead off the seventh to put the Hillcats up 7-1.
A two out rally against reliever Ryne Harper would allow the Mudcats to close within three. First baseman Jesus Aguilar got the rally started with a double to left. Aguilar would move to third on a single by left fielder Anthony Gallas. Aguilar would come in for the Mudcats second run of the game on a wild pitch by Harper as Gallas moved up to second. DH Tyler Cannon would then double in Gallas to keep the rally going. The next two Mudcats would reach to load up the bases for Cid who would come through with an infield single to plate Cannon. The Hillcats would then turn to Matt Chaffee to try to get out of the inning and he would be able to do just that as he induced a groundout by Wolters to end the inning.
Chaffee would walk the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth giving Monsalve a chance to be a hero. However Monsalve was unable to come through with a big two out hit as he grounded out to short to end the game.
The Mudcats will now head towards Winston Salem to take on the Dash on Monday night at 7:15.