Ninth inning rally lifts Mudcats over Dash
On a gorgeous Easter Sunday, the Carolina Mudcats found some ninth inning magic, and a little bit of luck, to defeat the Winston Salem-Dash 10-9 and win the opening series at Five County Stadium.
Winston-Salem entered the top half of the ninth inning trailing 8-6 to Carolina. Mudcats’ closer Clayton Ehlert entered the game and surrendered an infield single when his lob toss to first base was beaten by Dash catcher Miguel Gonzalez.
Ehlert gave up a walk to third baseman Daniel Wagner and a perfectly executed bunt by second baseman Carlos Sanchez loaded the bases for Winston-Salem. Ehlert was clearly shaken up because he threw a wild pitch while facing Dash right fielder Nick Ciolli that allowed Gonzalez to score from third reducing Winston-Salem’s deficit by one. With runners now at second and third, Ciolli punched a sacrifice fly to left field and the game was all tied at 8.
Dash Center fielder Trayce Thompson followed Ciolli’s lead with a sacrifice fly of his own and Winston-Salem took the lead for the first time. Winston-Salem had just completed a nine unanswered run rally that had Carolina on the ropes. Ehlert was able to compose himself long enough to strike out Dash first baseman Dan Black to end the inning.
If Carolina was hoping for an Easter miracle, they would have to start praying quickly. Standing in the way of that miracle was Dash closer Nick McCully. All seemed lost when Mudcats’ second baseman Tony Wolters struck out to lead off the inning. A little bit of hope was restored when Mudcats’ third baseman Giovanny Urshela drew a walk from McCully.
Justin Toole came in to pinch run for Urshela and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Toole made it to third base on a long out to left field by Carolina first baseman Jesus Aguilar that had fans on the edge of their seats with excitement.
Carolina Designated hitter Jeremie Tice earned a walk and now two runners were on for catcher Jake Lowery. Earlier in the game Lowery had hit a towering two run homer off of the scoreboard in right field capping a five run Mudcats’ third inning. McCully was not afraid to throw right at Lowery, but his aggressiveness backfired. A spectacular line drive double to right field gave Lowery his third RBI of the day and Toole completed his trip around the bases tying the game at 9.
Even though they surrendered the lead, Winston-Salem had the chance to send the game to extra innings if they could just manage to get the third out. With two outs, Mudcats’ right fielder Carlos Moncrief appeared to make that a reality when he popped up to shallow left field. Just behind third base two Dash players went to make the routine out but neither one came away it.
The ball landed in fair territory and the game was over when Tice crossed home plate giving the Mudcats an impressive come from behind victory. As fireworks exploded overhead, the entire Carolina bench raced onto the field to celebrate the win.
Getting the start for Carolina was right hander Michael Goodnight who pitched five outstanding innings. Goodnight was working a no-hitter into the sixth inning before he allowed a single up the middle to Gonzalez for Winston-Salem’s first hit of the afternoon. With a comfortable 8-0 lead in the top of the sixth, Goodnight lost all of his confidence when he lost the no-hitter. Before he knew it four runs had scored and Winston-Salem was back in the game. Goodnight, who was acquired by the Indian’s in the 2010 draft, racked up seven strikeouts before he was relieved by Jose Flores.
Edwin Rodriguez, the new manager of the Carolina Mudcats, was pleased with the resilience of his young team. To come from behind after surrendering such a huge lead “shows [the level of] character” that his players possess.
"The good thing about this game [was] that the team never gave up. Trailing in the ninth, with two outs, they went out and they battled to tie the game . . . and we got the win," Rodriguez said.
Carolina is set to host the Wilmington Blue Rocks for a three game home stand beginning Monday, April 9th at 7:15 p.m. at Five County Stadium.