by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The second half of the season has been good to the Carolina Mudcats so far, and tonight they’ll look to clinch a series against the first-half Southern Division champion Winston-Salem Dash.
Tonight, Joseph Colon will make his Mudcats debut while Justin Collop (7-2, 3.98) will go for the Dash.
It isn’t Colon’s or the Mudcats’ night, as they go down easily in a fight-marred 7-0 loss.
Winston-Salem jumps on Colon for four runs in the first. Keenyn Walker reaches on a two-base error and then scores on Marcus Semien’s one-out single to right. With two out, Dan Black hits an RBI single to right, and then Cyle Hankerd launches the first pitch he sees off the scoreboard in left center.
And in the Mudcats’ second all hell breaks loose. Collop hits Ronny Rodriguez with the first pitch and Rodriguez charges the mound — bat in hand — before the benches clear and almost everybody seems to want to get involved.
Rodriguez and Collop — who tosses the ball over the umpire’s head following the ejection — are booted as are Carolina first baseman Jesus Aguilar and reliever Cole Cook.
Winston-Salem stretches the lead to 5-0 with two out in the third, as Trayce Thompson blasts a 3-2 offering over the wall in right.
It goes to 6-0 in the fourth as Juan Silverio draws a one-out walk and scores on Miguel Gonzalez’ double to center.
And 7-0 in the fifth as Semien leads off with a single, advances on a two-base throwing error from pitcher Colon and scores on Hankerd’s single to right.
Hankerd finishes with a the homer, a double and a single while Walker has two doubles.
Bryan Blough (2-0) gets the victory, going five innings and allowing six hits with three strikeouts against a pair of walks.
Reliever Rob Nixon has the best night of any Mudcat, going the final four shutout innings and allowing just two hits with three strikeouts against a pair of walks.
They said it …
Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez: “We had our chances to score but we just couldn’t get it done. Nixon was really good. That was his second outing with us since he came up from Lake County. He was doing good throwing strikes, and pitching four innings for us was huge. With Cole Cook getting thrown out the pen was short. … They were pitching in and that’s the way you should be pitching. I don’t think when he hit Ronny or Aguilar (in the first inning) those were intentional. He was pitching in and that’s part of the game.”
Nixon: “I felt pretty good. I need to get the ball down more and get more ground balls than fly outs. But I’ve been a starter all my life and I’m used to throwing longer innings. Whatever I can do to help the team out I want to do, whether it’s throwing one or four. … That was my first fight ever. I wasn’t too sure what to do. I just ran out there with everyone else and watched what was going on.”
Mudcats shortstop Tony Wolters: “We’ve cleared the benches a couple of times with this team. That was crazy. When you go out there you never know what’s going to happen.”
What does it all mean?
That Ronny Rodriguez is probably going to learn a very hard lesson from league president John Hopkins.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Mudcats: Lost 1.
Winston-Salem: Won 1.
Winston-Salem leads 10-6.
Mudcats (Danny Salazar 0-2, 2.63) vs. Lynchburg (Michael Lee 0-0, 4.91), Friday, 7:15 p.m.