by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s Game 3 of the five-game set between the Carolina Mudcats and West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, and so far it has been a very competitive series at a win apiece.
There’s a decent crowd in the house as the “Memorial Day weekend” gets going. The Mudcats are running a “five millionth fan” promotion in their 20th season, and the big fireworks show is set to follow.
Scott Carroll (0-1) is going for the Mudcats against Asheville native and Elon alumnus Steven Hensley (5-1), who is currently the best pitcher in the Southern League.
Kris Negron scores both runs and the Mudcats knock Hensley off his perch in a 2-1 victory.
West Tenn gets a run in the second. UNC alumnus Dustin Ackley doubles with one out — with Jose Yepez gunned down at the plate — and scores on Carlos Triunfel’s single to right.
The Mudcats tie it up in the fourth, as Negron leads off with a single to left and scores on Mike Costanzo’s two-out single to right center.
Carolina takes the lead in the sixth, beginning with a great hustle play by Negron. The shortstop leads off and slides around the tag from Hensley, then steals second before Jake Kahaulelio hits an RBI single to left.
The Jaxx outhit the Mudcats 9-7 and get all three of the game’s extra-base hits on doubles from Ackley, Carlos Peguero and Johan Limonta, but the home team is better on the basepaths.
Jeremy Horst (1-0) is the winning pitcher, while Philippe Valiquette comes on to set up Jordan Smith for his eighth save.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Negron made a great play. He’s a good athlete. Not everybody’s even capable of doing that. It was good thinking and good athleticism. He has that kind of ability that, as he moves up and the game speeds up he’ll be right there with them. It’s nice to win a low-scoring game like that. Our pitching was good. Horst again did well and Valiquette and Smith were good.”
Negron: “(The play that set up the winning run) was a 2-0 pitch and I was trying to drive the ball, and I cut my swing off and accidentally put the ball in play. It’s all good. If it helped the team win the game, whether it’s an error of a hit it’s all good.”
Mudcats outfielder Sean Henry: “To me (Hensley) was throwing a lot of sliders and fastballs away. He’s a good pitcher. He was very consistent, probably the most consistent pitcher I’ve faced all year. Carroll did a great job for us and so did the bullpen.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats remain in fourth place, but have pulled to within five games of the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League’s North Division.
Play of the game
Negron’s slide into first.
Stars of the game
Mudcats lead 2-1.
Carolina: Won 1.
West Tenn: Lost 1.
West Tenn: none.
West Tenn at Mudcats, Saturday, 6:15 p.m.
Ryan Feierabend (L, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Tom Cochran (L, 2-1, 2.72)