by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are definitely heading in the right direction, and tonight they open a five-game home series against a team that will be their most frequent opponent this season and has so far been their worst nemesis.
The Mudcats, meanwhile, seem to have righted their ship after their April troubles, and have won eight of their last 10 games and three straight.
Carolina will send ostensible ace Matt Klinker to the plate on a hot night against Florida State alum Elih Villanueva, and there’s a nice crowd in the house on T-shirt night.
It turns out to be the best pitchers’ duel of the season so far in Zebulon, with the Mudcats scoring a pair of runs late to emerge 2-0 victors.
Nobody can scratch until the eighth inning, when Eric Eymann leads off with a double to left. Eymann moves to third on Jose Castro’s grounder to short near the second-base bag, and scores when first baseman Mark Saccomanno muffs the throw from the catcher following a dribbler in the dirt from Chris McMurray.
The Mudcats get a little more going in the eighth. Jake Kahaulelio walks before Sean Henry singles to right to chase the starter and bring on Adalberto Mendez, who gives up a two-out RBI double to Eymann.
Klinker (3-3) finishes seven shutout innings allowing just three hits and striking out three against just one walk, while Joe Krebs finishes up for his first save of the season.
Eymann lifts his batting average to .310 with a trio of doubles and an RBI.
And there is truly joy in Muddyville.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Our starting pitching has been good and given us a chance to win games, and our defense has been constant all year. Timely hitting, and that just comes in bunches. Those three things, that combination can win a lot of games. McMurray is a real good defensive catcher who does a great job. Eymann had a couple of big hits. That was a fun game.”
Klinker: “I felt good tonight. I got a little winded. It’s probably the first hot night, real muggy. But I settled in with our new catcher (Chris McMurray). I was completely confident with him back there. It’s fun when you’re tossing up zeroes head-for-head with the other pitcher. I think the intensity comes up and the best comes out of it for both guys.”
Eymann: “Their guy was locating his pitches pretty well and wasn’t giving you anything you really wanted to hit. If he makes a mistake you’ve got to hit it. That’s what good pitchers do. We kind of knew once things turned around they were really going to turn around. We had too much talent on this team to lose all year. I think we got stuck in that losing type of mold for a while and it’s tough to break out of that. But once you do, there’s not as much pressure anymore and it’s easier to hit.”
What does it all mean?
That the Carolina Mudcats are now the hottest team in the Southern League.
Play of the night
Eymann’s double in the eighth.
Stars of the game
Suns lead 5-1.
Carolina: Won 4.
Jacksonville: Lost 1.
Carolina: LHP Lee Tabor (shoulder) placed on disabled list. Promoted LHP Jeremy Horst from Lynchburg. Signed IF Lee Costanzo.
Jacksonville: OF Lorenzo Scott promoted to New Orleans. OF David Mense promoted from Jupiter.
Jacksonville at Mudcats, 2 p.m.
Tom Koehler (R, 4-0, 3.23) vs. Daryl Thompson (R, 0-2, 3.38)