by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are right in the race for a playoff spot as the season goes into its stretch run.
In fact, if the season started today Carolina — which was the losingest team in Organized Baseball in the first half — would have a Mills Cup Playoff spot.
But as long as they stay in second-place behind the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, there’s a problem. They would have to play the entire Southern Division series on the road.
Heading into the three-game series that starts tonight on a warm evening, the Pelicans have a 2 1/2-game pad over the second-place Mudcats with Salem four out.
The Mudcats have had a pair of key callups to Akron, as center fielder Tyler Naquin and pitcher Cody Anderson are now in the Eastern League. Tonight’s starting pitcher Cole Cook is down from Akron, while center fielder Logan Vick will make his Carolina League debut following his callup from Lake County in the Midwest League.
Southpaw Luis Parra (0-0, 3.00) will go for the Pelicans.
This is an easy one for Carolina, as three pitchers combine for the 7-0 shutout.
The Mudcats put up two in the second. Bryson Myles leads off with a walk and scores on Erik Gonzalez’ one-out single to left, while Gonzalez comes home on Todd Hankins’ two-out single to right.
Carolina adds another in the third. With one out, Paddy Matera and Myles single before Gonzalez’ RBI single up the middle.
And the Mudcats tack on more in the fourth. Vick draws a one-out walk, steals second and takes third on an error before scoring on Jordan Smith’s single up the middle.
It goes to 5-0 with two out in the fifth, as Gonzalez singles and scores on a wild pitch. And catcher Alex Lavisky makes it a rout with one out in the seventh, rocketing Randol Rojas’ 2-1 offering off the scoreboard in left for a two-run homer.
Cook goes six innings and allows three hits, striking out four against one walk in a very high-quality start.
Gonzalez is the only player who finishes with two hits.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Wallace: “It was a big win for us. I was really impressed with the way Cole Cook threw the ball. It says a lot about him, obviously. He’s a good teammate. I’m sure he wasn’t excited about coming down, but he stepped up and threw a good game for us. He did his job tonight. He definitely came in with a great attitude. … Logan is going to figure in very well here. He plays hard and grinds out at-bats. He’s going to help us. He doesn’t have to try to be Tyler Naquin.”
Cook: “That was actually the easiest send-down of my entire life. I kind of knew it was coming. Cody was going to get called up, and I’m real excited for him. But this is cool. This team is in a post-season race so that will be fun. I’d love to be at a higher level, but I’m still in baseball. As long as I’ve got a job and am not unemployed, it’s good.”
Lavisky: “That was my second time seeing the guy. I was actually looking for a curve ball. He had thrown me three curve balls in a row and I was kind of sitting on the fastball. Cook had everything going, so we were able to get ahead. He was able to spot his fastball, and then get a lot of swings and misses at off-speed pitches.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats remain on track for a playoff spot if they keep winning.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Smith’s catch of Kellin Deglan’s sinking liner down the right-field line with the bases loaded and two out in the eighth.
Mudcats: Won 1.
Myrtle Beach: Lost 1.
Myrtle Beach leads 12-3.
Mudcats (Shawn Morimando 8-11, 3.11) vs. Myrtle Beach (Kevin Pucetas 1-1, 6.55), 7:15 p.m.