by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Back for Game 3 of the Mudcats' first series of the second half, and it's already been a very crazy day. And that's just the baseball part.
I had already planned out the trip from USA Baseball's National Training Complex to Zebulon, but in about the fourth inning of the game involving uberphenom Bryce Harper I get one of many, many unrelated cell phone calls during the game.
It's Durham Bulls publicist Matt DeMargel, reminding me of a commitment to talk about my career with a group of students from a journalism class he teaches. At 4:30 p.m., with the Mudcats' game at 7. Fortunately there are five and not 20, so everyone gets to ask questions. I hope they got an object lesson in what 31 years of this all means.
Anyway, it means I now need to do by best impersonation of a moonshine runner to get to the game in time. Not on time, but in time. That means about an hour before the game. I need to decompress.
Go get some more fried chicken and French fries, and it's time to get it all started.
(Former Mudcat Scott Cousins, pictured, ends up having a great night in a 10-5 comeback victory.)
I promised another Theron Todd story, and that will come later this week.
The Mudcats are having a special promotion, admitting free employees of the ConAgra plant in Garner that had the recent fatal explosion as well as first responders who were on the scene.
Tonight the one North Carolinian who plays for the Suns, UNC Wilmington and Kinston High alum Chris Hatcher, is starting at catcher.
This one starts quickly, as Jacksonville's Bryan Petersen, a former Mudcat, singles to right and fellow former Mudcat Chris De La Cruz walks before Logan Morrison's double makes it 2-0.
But the visitors' big start doesn't faze the Mudcats. Sean Henry leads off with a homer off the scoreboard in left for the second night in a row, although this time it's on an 0-1 pitch instead of the first toss by the Suns' starter. Jose Castro singles and Chris Heisey walks, and then Todd Frazier bounces a 3-2 pitch off the bottom of the scoreboard to put the hosts up 4-2.
Henry makes some more magic happen in the fourth, drawing a two-out walk and then stealing second and third before continuing home on Hatcher's throwing error to make it 5-2.
Jacksonville cuts a run off the lead in the seventh, as former Mudcat Kevin Randel walks and later scores on Petersen's two-out single to left.
The Suns tie it up in the eighth. Mike Stanton draws a one-out walk before Cousins launches a 3-2 Ruben Medina offering deep into the night over the right-field fence to knot things at 5-5.
And the ninth is a disaster for the home team, as Logan Ondrusek's uncanny streak of 33 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run comes to an end in a big way. Former Carolina catcher Brad Davis starts it off with a double to right, followed by Petersen's bunt single to the left side. Morrison draws a one-out walk, followed by Stanton's two-run double to right to chase Ondrusek. Former Mudcat Lee Mitchell then greets Ramon Geronimo with a two-run single to left and it's 10-5.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats skipper David Bell: "Ondrusek was throwing the ball well the whole time. Give them (Suns hitters) credit - they put together some great at-bats. "
Jacksonville manager and 2007 Mudcats skipper Brandon Hyde: "(Adalberto) Mendez really stepped up. Striking out Frazier (with one out and the bases loaded in the seventh) was huge. We had some really good at-bats in the late innnings. Cousins has been swinging the bat well for the last couple of weeks. "
Cousins: "Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time. Mike Stanton had some great ABs in front of me in the eighth and ninth, and he showed why he's at this level at such a young age (19). I just picked up the RBIs."
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are a game out of first place in the Southern League's North Division. Ditto for Jacksonville in the South.
Stars of the game
1. Cousins, with a homer and a double for four RBIs over the final two innings.
2. Petersen, for his three hits with a run scored and an RBI.
3. Winning pitcher Kasey Olenberger, for striking out one and allowing just one hit in the final two innings.
Play of the game
Cousins' two-run homer in the eighth.
Mudcats lead 7-6.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Jacksonville: Won 1.
Jacksonville at Mudcats, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.
Aaron Thompson (left, 3-8, 4.23) vs. Tom Cochran (left, 1-0, 3.20)