by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It's Game 4 of the Carolina Mudcats' five-game series with the Chattanooga Lookouts, and the home team is on a bit of a roll after winning back-to-back close games.
Tonight is "Pack the Park" night, with N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien and former standout wide receiver Alvis Whitted scheduled to throw out two of the many ceremonial "first pitches." It's also "Thirsty Thursday."
I hear from a club employee that a lot of the lower-level staffers who attended rival schools -I'm guessing maybe that means UNC or ECU given the geography - aren't keen on the idea of wearing Wolfpack red and are settling for Mudcats red instead.
It could be an interesting night since Tim Corcoran, a popular former Mudcat from last season who played for the Durham Bulls a few years ago, is on the mound for the Lookouts.
Corcoran, who played here only the second half of last season after coming off elbow surgery, has been with Chattanooga all season and in and out of the bullpen after signing with the Dodgers in a free-agent tryout in spring training. And he turns out to be the winner as his team scores early and survives 3-2.
Tonight I go with Italian sausage. It's partly cloudy and warm, and I hope the rain I'm hearing about 40 miles away in Western Wake county decides to go somewhere else.
Mudcats lefty Camilo Vazquez runs into some big-time trouble with two out in the third. James Tomlin starts the rally with a walk. He scores on a double to right from Andrew Lambo, who scores on a double to left from Lucas May, who scores on a single to left from Gaby Martinez.
Carolina finally gets on the board in the sixth off Corcoran. Juan Francisco leads off with a single to left, and then with one out Logan Parker singles to left. Chris Denove walks before Shaun Cumberland makes it 3-1 with a single to left.
Corcoran, who played here only the second half of last season after coming off elbow surgery, has been with Chattanooga all season and in and out of the bullpen after signing with the Dodgers in a free-agent tryout in spring training.
Denove cuts the deficit in half with two out in the eighth, blasting a first pitch from Jesus Rodriguez high into the night over the left-field wall.
But Duke alumnus Zach Schreiber, who relieved Rodriguez for the ninth, is solid for his second straight outing when he strikes out the Mudcats' one and two batters after giving up a double to Carson Kainer with one out. It's the first Double-A save of the season for Schreiber, who was released by the Atlanta Braves' organization after spending last season with Richmond. He had been with Inland Empire in the Cal League for his first nine outings of the season.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats manager David Bell: "We seem to play a lot of close games with them and Jacksonville and Tennessee. Maybe it's because we play them so much. Vasquez had good stuff tonight. He had a couple of situations in that one inning when he wasn't able to make the pitch he wanted to. (Friday's) game is important. We need to win every game, but trying to win series-by-series is a good approach."
Corcoran: "I felt good. My sinker was sinking tonight. I'm glad just to still be in the game, and right now I feel 100 percent."
Schreiber: "(To a question on the Lookouts' improvement). I just got here. I felt good tonight after pitching three innings the other night. I was able to come back fast."
What does it all mean?
That the Lookouts are tied for first place with West Tenn in the Southern League's North Division, while the Mudcats and first-half champion Huntsville are tied in fourth place four games back.
Stars of the game
1. Corcoran, for scattering eight hits and allowing just the one run in six innings.
2. Cumberland, for his 3-for-4 night with a double and an RBI.
3. Schreiber, for his first save as a Lookout.
Play of the game
Chattanooga leads 13-12.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Chattanooga: Won 1.
Chattanooga at Carolina, Friday, 7:15 p.m.
Alberto Bastardo (L, 3-2, 4.65) vs. Scott Carroll (R, 0-0, 13.50)