by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Back for Game 3 of the Carolina Mudcats' series with the first-place Chattanooga Lookouts, and as the action begins the series is all tied up.
The rains hit Zebulon in late afternoon, but the tarp comes off the field about 45 minutes before the game and everybody's going to be ready to go on time.
Tonight we'll go with barbecue sauce on the cheeseburger, remembering a commercial starring Michael Jordan who played here in a handful of games with the Birmingham Barons.
Chattanooga lefty James Adkins does get the first pitch off at precisely 7:15, and after last night's 13-inning saga that makes everyone who pays attention to such things very happy. And the home fans aren't disappointed tonight as the Mudcats eke out a 2-1 win.
Everything is sailing along fine until there's a spontaneous blackout in the middle of the fourth, which only blips the press box but puts the stadium lights out for quite some time.
After a delay of 14 minutes that seems a lot longer, everything seems to be proceeding normally.
Chattanooga gets it going in the sixth off starter Tom Cochran. With one out, James Tomlin singles to center. After Andrew Lambo is hit by a pitch, Gaby Martinez scores the run with a single to left.
Cochran is very solid but can't get the win, leaving with the 1-0 deficit after seven.
The Mudcats finally get to Adkins in the eighth, and give him the hard-luck loss.
With one out, Justin Tordi singles to left and Jason Bour singles to left. After pinch-hitter Zack Cozart draws the intentional pass, Kendy Batista comes on in relief.
Sean Henry ties the score with a ground ball to short, and Jake Kahaulelio wins it with a single to left - his batting average is now .172 but that doesn't matter much after the game. Ruben Medina gets the win and Emilio Del Rosario strikes out the last two in the ninth to get the save.
And for the second straight night, there are happy times in Mudcatville.
Thursday's game will be "Pack the Park" night saluting all things N.C. State, with football coach Tom O'Brien and former standout wide receiver Alvis Whitted firing the ceremonial first pitches.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats manager David Bell: "Kahaulelio can really hit the fastball. From what I've seen of him he's a good player. Cochran pitched extremely well tonight and we needed it. He's gotten the job done ever since he came here. ... We've won two straight and there are plenty of games left to go. The race is going to be close, and we want to make sure we're one of the teams in it at the end."
Kahaulelio: "With a 3-2 count, I was just thinking 'If he throws a strike, I've got to put it in play. If it's a ball then (Todd) Frazier is up next.' We played as a team in that last inning. For two straight nights we've come through when it counted."
Cochran: "I felt really good out there. It was my first time together with (catcher) Bour, and we did a good job getting on the same page before the game and then going out and executing. My fastball-changeup combination was working well."
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats, who remain in last place in the Southern League's North Division, have trimmed Chattanooga's lead over them to three games.
Stars of the game
1. Kahaulelio, for his clutch hit in the eighth.
2. Cochran, for his quality start in the no-decision.
3. Adkins, for the quality start in the loss.
Play of the game
Kahaulelio's game-winning hit.
It's all tied at 12-12.
Carolina: Won 2.
Chattanooga: Lost 2.
Chattanooga at Carolina, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.
Tim Corcoran (R, 3-6, 5,63) vs. Camilo Vazquez (L, 2-3, 5.44)