by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The second half of the season sure hasn’t been like the first half was for the Carolina Mudcats.
David Wallace’s team went 22-48 over the first half of the season, finishing last in the Carolina League with one of the worst records in baseball.
But in the second half, the Mudcats have been contenders.
Carolina is currently solidly in second place — and in a presumptive playoff spot — in the CL’s Southern Division with a 21-16 mark. Tonight they’ll open a three-game series with the Frederick Keys, with Nick Pasquale (3-6, 4.31) taking on Frederick southpaw Trent Howard (3-0, 1.78).
Tonight the Mudcats put up crooked numbers in the sixth and seventh innings, rolling to a 9-5 win and moving to within a half game of first-place Myrtle Beach.
The Mudcats score once in the first, as Bryson Myles leads off with a double to left center, advances on Jordan Smith’s single to short and scores on Joey Wendle’s one-out fly to center.
They tack on another in the third, as Charlie Valerio leads off with a single to left, followed by Justin Toole’s double to the left-field corner and Myles’ fly to center.
But Frederick responds with three in the fifth. Glynn Davis hits as one-out infield single, followed by a double from Jason Esposito and a two-run double from Tucker Nathans. Then with two out, Johnny Ruettiger hits an RBI double to right.
The Mudcats strike back in a big way in the sixth off Matt Hobgood. Wendle draws a leadoff walk and Paddy Matera is hit by a pitch before Tony Wolters walks. Erik Gonzalez reaches on a fielder’s-choice ball to second for the RBI before Bo Greenwell’s triple to right center makes it 5-3. Greenwell then scores on a wild pitch for a three-run lead.
Carolina tacks on more in the seventh. Myles and Smith single to left, and when the players execute a double steal Hobgood’s throw to third is wild to allow Myles to score. Wendle’s single to center then scores Smith to chase Hobgood and bring on Matt Price. With two out, Gonzalez singles up the middle to score Wendle for a 9-3 lead.
Myles leads the Mudcats at the plate, going 3-for-4 with the double and sac fly and scoring twice.
Pasquale goes six innings in the quality-start win, allowing three runs on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
They said it …
Wallace: “It was a good night. Nick went out there and set the tone early by getting outs. We’ve been playing well and playing great defense and doing the things we need to do to win. Myles is doing a great job in the leadoff spot, but the more I watch him the more he’s looking like a middle-of-the-order guy. He can run and do a lot of things, and that’s one of the things that makes him special.”
Myles: “I’ve been feeling great. I’ve been putting a lot of work in in the cages working with (hitting coach Rougie) Odor. But I’m glad we got the ‘W.’ Now we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Pasquale: “I’m feeling a lot more comfortable out there. Getting ahead of hitters makes everything a lot easier. It’s a lot easier to pitch.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats remain solidly in that presumptive playoff spot.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Greenwell’s go-ahead triple.
Mudcats: Won 2.
Frederick: Lost 4.
Frederick leads 9-6.
Mudcats (Cole Cook 1-1, 7.20) vs. Frederick (Tim Berry (8-6, 3.90), Friday, 7:15 p.m.