by Mike Potter
At least for April, there aren’t much better nights for baseball around here, as the rain is gone and there is no wind and it’s 62 degrees at first pitch.
The Mudcats start the season with a three-game series against the Winston-Salem Dash, and the Carolina roster looks to be a lot stronger than the one that wasn’t really competitive in either half last season.
The Mudcats have a pair of first-round draft picks on their roster in shortstop Francisco Lindor (2011) and center fielder Tyler Naquin (2012).
Cody Anderson (4-7, 3.20 at Lake County) will start for the Mudcats tonight against Bryan Blough (2-0, 3.93). Blough’s two wins last season were against the Mudcats.
Carolina has the hot bats tonight, banging out 14 hits to the in-state rivals’ four in a 10-1 romp.
The Mudcats score early and often.
Carolina takes a 2-0 lead in the first on a Tony Wolters sacrifice fly and a wild pitch, and the Dash responds in the second on a two-out sacrifice fly from Mark Haddow.
Then the rout is on. The Mudcats score twice in the second on an error and Naquin’s RBI single. And the big inning is in the third, as the Mudcats bat around and Naquin’s two-out, three-run homer high off the scoreboard in right makes it 9-1.
Blough goes three innings and allows nine runs — eight earned — on 10 hits with a walk and no strikeouts.
Anderson goes six and allows the run on four hits with four strikeouts against a walk.
The Mudcats tack on one more in the eighth as Lindor hits a one-out triple and scores on Wolters’ sacrifice fly to center.
Naquin finishes with three hits and four RBI on the homer and double, while Lindor chips in three hits including a triple.
Mark Tracy’s triple is the only extra-base hit for Winston-Salem.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Wallace: “It was pretty much best-case scenario. Cody went out there and threw strikes and we played some good defense behind him. The guys swung the bats well. Obviously Tyler had a great night in the leadoff hole. Frankie had a great night too, and a lot of guys had quality ABs. That’s what we want to see happen.”
Naquin: “This was special, especially being on Opening Night. But you just take this one and put it in the past and move on to the next game. Hitting is hitting and there’s going to be ups and downs, so we’ll see that happens. (On the homer) I got a slow changeup. If I get runners on and get something good to hit I’m going to try and drive my runners in.”
Anderson: “I just stayed aggressive with the fastball and kept getting outs with it. They were chasing the curveball a little bit and I kept going with that. I got great run support and some great plays in the outfield. I’ll take it.”
Lindor: “This is a great team, and everybody’s playing together well. Of course tonight means something. We knew coming in we had a great team, and we showed we’re going to do a lot of damage in this league.”
What does it all mean?
That an apparently loaded young Mudcats team is definitely off on the right foot.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Mudcats: Won 1.
Winston-Salem: Lost 2.
Mudcats lead 1-0.
Mudcats (Jacob Lee 4-2, 3.12 at Mahoning Valley) vs. Winston-Salem (Chris Bassitt 5-4, 3.66), Saturday, 6:15 p.m.