Mudcats victorious in opener
Carolina Mudcats open the year with 6-3 win over Potomac Nationals
Zebulon, NC — The Carolina Mudcats opened the 2014 campaign with an impressive 6-3 victory over the Potomac Nationals. A timely double from leadoff hitter Todd Hankins and a solid pitching effort made the difference for the Mudcats on Thursday night.
A four-run sixth inning secured the win for Carolina in a game they never trailed. Yhoxian Medina, who filled in for the injured Yandy Diaz, led the inning off with a single and stole second base. After a strikeout of Jeremy Lucas, Joe Sever was hit by a pitch. LeVon Washington capitalized with a RBI single scoring Medina to give the Mudcats a 3-2 lead. Alex Monslave was then walked to load the bases. Ollie Linton was hit by a pitch driving in Joe Sever, which pushed the lead to 4-2. Hankins capped off the inning by firing a shot down the left field line scoring Linton and Monsalve to put the game away for good.
Manager Scooter Tucker’s high expectations for Hankins seem to have been validated after what was, undoubtedly, the play of the game. Fielding a question about the key double after the game Hankins replied, “I was looking for a good pitch and he threw me one.”
After a quiet first inning from both clubs, the Mudcats struck first with a RBI single from Diaz in the bottom of the second that scored Joe Sever.
Late in the third, Erik Gonzalez capitalized on the Mudcats hot start with a two-out single to left that scored Todd Hankins from second base. The run opened up a 2-0 lead for Carolina going into the fourth inning.
The Potomac Nationals fought back with a two run fourth to tie the game at 2-2. An uneventful fifth inning left the game hanging in the balance setting the stage for Hankins big hit.
The Nationals managed to keep the game interesting deep into the night. Randolph Oduber kicked off the top of the eighth with a deep triple to third. Mudcats centerfielder Logan Vick made an incredible effort to reach the ball, but was unable to make the play. Tony Renda singled up the middle to score Vick giving Potomac some life. RelieverJacob Lee made a big play to work his way out of the inning, but not with his pitching instead by flashing some leather. Nationals Kevin Keyes slapped a pitch back to the mound forcing Lee to drop to his knees to make an incredible catch and throw back to first, catching the runner off the bag, to turn two and ending the National’s attempt at a comeback.
In his first career Opening Day start, Shawn Morimondo went five strong innings allowing two earned runs and five hits. The lefty looked to be in control early as he headed into the third inning without allowing a hit. “I was trying to pound the strike zone and get ahead of hitters,” said Morimondo.
Despite cruising early displaying great command of his fastball, Morimondo had trouble the second time through the order. A tough fourth, forced pitching coach Steve Karsay to come to the mound to settle down the young lefty. Showing confidence in their starter, Carolina elected to leave Morimondo in the game and it proved to be a sound decision. Getting ahead 0-2 in the count early, allowed Morimondo to force a pop-up to end the inning leaving three runners stranded.
Relief pitcher Josh Martin (1-0) was credited with the win after pitching two shutout innings and striking out three.
Diaz, a Cuban third baseman with lofty expectations, left the game after the third inning with a wrist injury caused by a hard slide into third base. He is set to be evaluated on Friday.
The win gave manager Scooter Tucker a homecoming gift of sorts. “It’s good to get the first game behind you, and then it’s obviously good to win one” Tucker said after the game. While remaining excited about a season-opening win, Tucker acknowledged that there were things to work on. Fortunately, Tucker and the Mudcats have a long season ahead of them, and plenty of time to build on the win.
Carolina continues their series with the Nationals on Friday night at Five County Stadium in Zebulon. Carolina’s Michael Peoples (0-0) will face off against Ronald Pena (0-0) of the Nationals in a battle of right handers.
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.