by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats continue their opening homestand looking for some success against the Montgomery Biscuits, who are currently atop for Southern League’s South Division.
The Mudcats are two games behind the Tennessee Smokies, who will arrive in Zebulon on Monday, in the North Division race.
Today Carolina will send the Dutch lefty Alexander Smit to the mound against Jeremy Hall.
It’s sunny, windy and cool as the game gets going. Montgomery is in control most of the way, but the Mudcats score three in a stirring ninth-inning rally to win 8-7 in front of a decent crowd of 5,924.
Smit is not sharp early, hitting leadoff man Shawn O’Malley, balking him to second and then hitting Emeel Salem. Greg Sexton’s single to center scores the run before Smit strikes out Matt Fields. Chris DeLaCruz then hits a grounder that gets Salem caught in a rundown before a walk to Cody Strait loads the bases. Ryan Royster pops out to first on Smit’s 35th pitch of the inning, which somehow ends with the score just 1-0.
The Mudcats tie it in the second as Eric Eymann leads off with a double to right, moves on Brandon Yarbrough’s single to left and scores on Jose Castro’s one-out broken-bat grounder to the pitcher.
But the third inning is a disaster for Smit. Salem leads off with a single to right, and with one out Fields is hit by a pitch. DeLaCruz’s single to right scores Cruz, and then with two out Royster walks. Ian Paxton follows by hitting a popup to just the proper place to the exact place to foul up communication between the right fielder, first and second basemen and it drops for a three-run double.
The Mudcats make some more noise in the fourth. Yarbrough hits a one-out single through the right side, followed by Jake Kahaulelio’s double off the left-field wall. Jose Castro then hits a sizzling bouncer at the third baseman that ends up in shallow center field for a two-run single.
Carolina adds another in the fifth as Yonder Alonso doubles to left, takes third on Sean Henry’s single to left and scores on Denis Phipps’ fly to the warning track in left.
The Mudcats tie it in the seventh when Alonso rockets a 1-2 offering from Justin Garcia out yonder over the wall in right center.
It all falls apart for Sean Watson in the eighth. Strait greets him with a double to left, and scores when Royster reaches on Watson’s throwing error past first. Drew Anderson’s one-out single to right scores Royster and it’s 7-5.
But the Mudcats rally in the ninth off Ryan Reid. Sean Danielson ignites it with a double to left, followed by a walk to Kris Negron and an Alonzo’s RBI single to right center. Henry is hit by a pitch, and then Negron scores on a wild pitch. After Phipps gets an intentional walk, Eymann pokes an 0-2 pitch into right field for the walkoff RBI single that makes Philippe Valiquette (1-0) the winning pitcher.
The Mudcats finish with 15 hits to the losers’ nine. Three Carolina players finish with three hits each, led by Alonso with a homer, double and single for two RBI. Yarbrough added three hits including the double and Henry three singles.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “It was kind of a crazy game. The ballpark was playing pretty big today. There were some well-hit balls that didn’t go anywhere. The bullpen did a great job giving us a chance, and the guys kept swinging the bat. They stayed after it and found some holes. Alonso’s been swinging the bat well this whole series, really. And now he’s getting some results. Smith struggled early, but to his credit instead of going into a shell there he finished strong for two innings and ended up being a key to the game.”
Alonso: “I felt good, but you’ve got to give the credit to Eymann. He stepped up for us. It definitely was a team game. It was fun to see. I’ve been making adjustments better this series. We had a lot of things not go our way today. If you want to describe a team win, we did it all. We came from behind and we played good defense at the end.”
Eymann: “I’d been hitting the ball well all day. I figured it was my time to get this one done and help the team. A lot of guys got on before me. He threw me a slider and I was kind of fighting to get it through a hole. We just kept fighting back today, made the pitches when we needed to and got the hits when we needed to.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats will carry some nice momentum into their next home series against Tennessee.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Eymann’s game-winning single.
Montgomery leads 3-2.
Carolina: Won 1.
Montgomery: Lost 1.
Carolina: OF Luis Terrero assigned from Louisville. IF Logan Parker released.
Tennessee at Mudcats, Monday, 7:15 p.m.
Andrew Cashner (R, 1-0, 4.35) vs. Matt Klinker (R, 1-1, 2.53)
Chattanooga at Montgomery, 7:15 p.m.
Chris Withrow (R, 0-1, 7.27) vs. Alex Torres (L, 1-0, 1.00)