Sulser, Mudcats take out Pelicans, 7-2
Cole Sulser picked up his first victory of the year, lifting his record to 1-4.
ZEBULON, NC – Behind a dominant pitching performance by right-hander Cole Sulser, and a strong offensive showing the Carolina Mudcats emerged as 7-2 victors in their first contest against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
The Pelicans, who own the best record in the Carolina League, managed only nine base runners on the night.
Hitting coach Tony Mansolino, acting as manager in Scooter Tucker’s absence, was very pleased with the offensive performance from the team after a difficult series against Wilmington.
“They are young with really high ceilings, and our guys know that,” said Mansolino. “They are going to be in the big leagues in the next few years and our guys want to go out there and show they are just as good. We were real fortunate to pick up the win.”
Sulser took the mound for the Mudcats, and had his best outing since his first start of the year. Over six innings, Sulser allowed only two runs on four hits and one walk. Sulser also struck out nine, easily a season-high.
Sulser picked up his first victory of the year, lifting his record to 1-4.
“I can’t express how excited I am to finally get that one out of the way and help the team win one against this lineup,” said Sulser.
Mansolino said Sulser had arguably his best outing of the year because he kept it simple.
“He came out attacking the zone,” said Mansolino. “Sometimes he tries to be too fine and mess around the edge of the plate. He commanded his fastball on both sides of the plate and shut them down.”
Sulser said his ability to stick to the game plan really allowed him to have his best start of the year.
“We said we wanted to attack both sides of the plate,” said Sulser. “Luckily we were able to do that and keep them off the bases.”
Left fielder Anthony Gallas hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop, which allowed Medina to score, and an error put runners on the corners. However, Carolina would be unable to put another run on the board as first baseman Jerrud Sabourin grounded into an inning ending double play for a 1-0 lead after one.
After breezing through the first two innings, Sulser ran into trouble in the third inning. A one-out, two-run home run by Myrtle Beach designated hitter Nick Williams, his first of the year, gave the Pelicans the lead.
Medina walked on four pitches to lead off the bottom of the third inning, and second baseman Todd Hankins crushed a ball just to the left of the left field score board to allow the Mudcats to reclaim the lead at 3-2, which proved to be the game winner.
The homer was Hankins fourth of the year.
“I don’t hit a ton of home runs, so every time I can turn on a ball, it is really exciting,” said Hankins.
Back-to-back singles by designated hitter Jeremy Lucas and center fielder Luigi Rodriguez to lead off the bottom of the fourth allowed Carolina to put two more runs on the board thanks to a one-out, two-run single up the middle
After Washington and Gallas reached on back-to-back errors, Sabourin slapped a single up the middle to score Washington. Lucas grounded into a double play to wipe the bases clear, but Gallas scored to give Carolina a five-run lead after five.
As Myrtle Beach struggled on defense, committing three errors through the first five innings, Carolina got solid defense all over the field. Hankins made a couple of fantastic diving stops, including the last out of the game, to save hits. A leaping catch by Washington off the wall in left field saved a surefire extra base hit. Third baseman James Roberts, who is still learning the position, played arguably his best game defensively.
Hankins said his positioning on the night really helped him make a couple of improbable stops. “A lot of it is positioning,” said Hankins.
After allowing the two-run home run, Sulser retired the next ten batters he faced until walking a batter with two outs in the sixth.
Despite allowing two runners on with two outs in the sixth inning, Sulser escaped the jam thanks to a groundout to first base.
Carolina was able to shut down Pelicans star third baseman Joey Gallo, who went 0-for-3 with a walk.
Mansolino said, as good as he is, the team had Lady Luck on their side.
“We probably got a little lucky with him,” said Mansolino. “He’ll probably get us at some point, but tonight we had his number.”
Sulser said you don’t want to let it get to you when you are able to strikeout a big time player like Gallo, but it is still exciting.
“You try not to pay too much attention to that, but it’s still exciting to keep him off the bases as good as he is,” said Sulser.
Right-hander Josh Martin relieved Sulser in the seventh inning and didn’t run into any trouble until he got two outs in the eighth inning.
With two outs, Martin walked back-to-back batters and allowed a bloop single to load the bases. A short fly ball to center field allowed Martin to escape the innings without giving up a run.
Right-hander Grant Sides came on in the ninth, and pitched a perfect inning to close out the victory.
Carolina returns to action on Saturday against the Pelicans for the second game in the four-game set. Left-hander Shawn Morimando takes the mound looking to extend the Mudcats winning streak to three games.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.