by Mike Potter
Once again I’m blogging about the Carolina Mudcats from Durham Bulls Athletic Park, where I’m primarily covering the Pawtucket Red Sox for the Providence Journal.
Adam Sobsey is of course covering the Bulls for Triangle Offense, and is apparently the only keyboard journalist in the house who’s writing about this game for a local publication.
Today they’re serving pizza in the press box, imported from a national chain. Good thing my ladies took me to one of the restaurants across the street for Father’s Day.
Anyway, it’s hot and the Mudcats’ game is already under — no, check that, it’s raining up in Sevierville, Tenn., where they’re supposed to playing the Tennessee Smokies in the final game of their first half. Carolina and infielder Joes Castro (pictured) are tied atop the Southern League’s North Division with the Huntsville Stars, who have been whipping boys for the homestanding Birmingham Barons for the previous five games.
Southpaw Alexander Smit has been activated from the disabled list. Onto the disabled list go catcher Chris Kronski with a bad right shoulder and infielder Juan Francisco, retroactive to Saturday with a bum right hamstring. Up to replace Francisco is infielder Jake Kahaulelio, who was hitting .292 at Sarasota.
Huntsville begins the day on a six-game losing streak while the first-half South Division champion Barons have won 10 in a row. But for the Mudcats the news from Alabama is not good. Huntsville breaks the drought under pressure and wins 8-3.
Carolina now absolutely has to win.
Reports have the tarp off and they’re ready to go.
Carolina takes a 2-0 lead in the second, as Zack Cozart hits a one-out single to left, followed by Logan Parker’s RBI double to center and Eric Eymann’s RBI single to center.
But the bottom of the frame is not good for the Mudcats. Marquez Smith leads off with as homer to left, and after Blake Lalli doubles and Russ Canzler walks Welington Castillo blasts a three-run homer to left center and the Smokies lead 4-2. With one out Smit gets pulled for Sean Watson, who finally gets out of the jam.
Things get worse for Carolina in the third, as Smith hits another leadoff homer and then Russ Canzler homers with one out to put Tennessee ahead 6-2.
Carolina’s big inning is the fifth, as the Mudcats score on a Castro double, Chris Heisey’s sacrifice fly and Todd Frazier’s single to slice the deficit to 6-5.
But Tennessee adds a run in the sixth and another in the seventh to make it 8-5 and set up the Mudcats’ last gasp. Castro has a two-out single in the ninth to score a run and become the tying runner on first, but Smokies closer Brian Schlitter gets Heisey to fly out to left and no doubt the Stars get to celebrate on the trip back to Huntsville.
The Mudcats will start second-half play at Five County Stadium on Monday night at 7:15 against the Jacksonville Suns, with the lovely and talented Lisa Sorg making another special appearance for Triangle Offense. I’ll be finishing the Bulls’ series for the ProJo, and back in Zebulon on Tuesday night.