ZEBULON- The Carolina Mudcats (1-0) took both ends of the double header against the Wilmington Blue Rocks (0-1) on Saturday to sweep the first series of the second half.
After yielding five first innings runs to the Blue Rocks, starter Mike Rayl and the Mudcats bounced back and took the lead. An error by third baseman Giovanny Urshela in the top of the 7th looked like it might cost the Mudcats the game, but with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Urshela’s counterpart at third, Cheslor Cuthbert let a ball go through his legs with the bases loaded. This allowed the tying and winning run to come across to score, giving the Mudcats a 9-8 win in a thriller.
The Mudcats fell behind early in the second game as well, as the Blue Rocks put up three runs in the first off starter Cole Cook, who was making his Mudcat debut after being called up from Lake County. Much like the first game, the Mudcats were able to battle back. The Mudcats put up five runs in the second, and then after the Blue Rocks tied the game up in the top of the third, the Mudcats were able to answer with another run in the bottom of the inning. Behind some great relief pitching, they were able to hold on to a 6-5 win.
Rayl came out of the gate very shaky and surrendered seven hits in the first inning of the first game as the Blue Rocks batted around and took a commanding 5-0 lead before the Mudcats even had the chance to bat.
“That first game was all Rayl, he had a very tough first inning and then he battle. He never backed down, he battled and kept us in the game and he made it his game” said manager Edwin Rodriguez.
With the help of two errors, the Mudcats were able to put up five unearned runs in the fourth to tie the game off Blue Rock starter Jason Adam. A two run triple by DH Bo Greenwell was the highlight of the inning. They took the lead in the fifth on a two out rally that culminated in an RBI double by right fielder Carlos Moncrief to drive in third baseman Giovanny Urshela who got the rally started.
Rayl gott into trouble in the sixth with two outs, as he allowed two straight batters to reach base, resulting in the end of his night, as the Mudcats turned to closer Jose Flores to get them out of the jam. Flores gave up an infield single to load the bases but then he was able to get Cuthbert to ground out to first to end the threat.
Flores retired the first two batters of the ninth, but then an error by Urshela, who booted a groundball by first baseman Matt Fields, kept the Blue Rocks alive. Fields was pitch run for by Michael Liberto, who moved up to second on a single by Roman Hernandez. DH Jose Bonilla then came up with the big knock, as he drove a single to center, easily scoring Liberto. The throw from center fielder Tyler Holt came towards third as Hernandez looked to go first to third on the play. The throw was offline and got away from Urshela, allowing the go ahead run in Hernandez to score. Bonilla was able to move all the way up to third. Bonilla came around to score on a single by Catcher Kevin David, before Flores finally got out of the inning on a fly out by second baseman Whit Merrifield.
The Mudcats put together a rally in the bottom of the seventh, as they loaded the bases with one out off reliever Nick Rogers. Rogers would walk catcher Jake Lowery to push across the first run of the inning. Left fielder Anthony Gallas then smacked a hard grounder right at Cuthbert at third. Cuthbert let the ball go right through his legs, allowing two runs to come in to score as the celebration commenced by the Mudcats.
In the second game the Blue Rocks again jumped out to an early lead as they put across three in the first. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert, looking to atone for his error in the first game, nailed a two run shot over the left field wall. Later in the inning left fielder Lance Adams drove a solo shot over the left field wall, the second home run of the day for him as he homered in his first at bat in the first game.
Lance Adams had just been called up from Kane County and made the transition to High A ball seem like no problem.
The Mudcats erased the deficit and then took the lead in the bottom of the second as they put up a five spot off Blue Rock starter Tyler Sample. Moncrief got the inning started with a double to right. After a ground out by Gallas, who was the DH in the second game, second baseman Ronny Rodriguez drove a ball over the left field wall to cut the deficit to one. After a groundout, first baseman Justin Toole reached on an infield single and then would score on a double by left fielder Delvi Cid. Cid moved to third on the throw home. Holt then drove in Cid with a single to left.
Holt took things into his own hands to score the fifth run of the inning. Holt took off for second with shortstop Tony Wolters batting, but the throw by catcher Bonilla trying to nail Holt at second sailed into center. Holt without any hesitation got up from his head first slide and took off for third. He never slowed up as he got to third and rounded the bag and looked to come all the way home. Center fielder Brett Eibner originally bobbled the ball as he came in to field the errant throw from Bonilla and this cost him, as Holt was easily able to come home without a play at the plate.
Cook was unable to keep the lead for long however as he walked Cuthbert and then gave up a two run shot over the scoreboard in left to Eibner to get the third started. After striking out the next batter, Cook surrendered another hit, a single by Fields, who was the DH in the second game, resulting in the end of Cooks less then stellar debut for the Mudcats as he gave up five runs on six hits over two and one third innings. JD Reichenbach came in for Cook and gave up a hit to the first batter he faced. He got out of the inning as he induced a groundball double play by first baseman Juan Graterol.
The see saw battle continued as the Mudcats took the lead right back in the bottom of the third. Urshela led off the inning with a double down the right field line. A strikeout by Moncrief and a soft lineout by Gallas made it seem as though the Mudcats would waste the lead off double. A walk to Rodriguez and a hit batter, catcher Tyler Cannon, gave the Mudcats renewed life in the inning as Toole came to bat. Sample got Toole to groundout to second, but not before he uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Urshela to score the Mudcats sixth run of the game.
This would prove to be the last run of the game as both pitching staffs were able to shut down the offenses for the remainder of the game. Reichenbach, who wound up with the win, threw three and two thirds scoreless innings. Grant Sides then came in for the Mudcats in the ninth and would get the save in his first appearance for the Mudcats.
“We have been battling back the past few games and hopefully we can continue to do that,” said Mudcats skipper Edwin Rodriguez. “To continue do the little things that help us score runs and win games.”
Mudcat star first baseman Jesus Aguilar was struck by a pitch in the fifth inning and was then taken out when the Mudcats went back onto the field. Aguilar was not in the lineup for the second game but Rodriguez said “I think he will be alright for tomorrow.”
The Mudcats continue their home stand as the Frederick Keys come to Five County Stadium for a four game series starting on Sunday at 4:00.