by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats host Game 4 of their five-game series with the Birmingham Barons, and with a four-game losing streak they're pretty much playing for pride in the series.
If they don't start a winning tear pretty soon, they could be playing for pride in the Southern League's North Division standings as well. Carolina's "tragic number" is 14 for elimination from the playoff race.
Birmingham, of course, is running away with the best record in the league.
There are ominously dark clouds in the sky before game time, but it becomes obvious that there isn't going to be a threat of rain.
Grab an Italian sausage and let's play ball.
This time the Mudcats hit Birmingham starter Kyle McCulloch early and hard, striking for four runs in the second inning. And the run of timely hitting is a beautiful thing for a decent home crowd to watch, eventually leading to - yes indeed, boys and girls - an 8-1 Mudcats romp.
With one out, Sean Henry reaches on an infield hit, followed by Stephen Chapman's single to right. Carson Kainer follows with an RBI single to left. With two out, Korey Feiner hits a two-run single to right. And after Jake Kahaulelio (pictured) reaches on an infield single to third, Shaun Cumberland brings home Feiner with a hit to left to make it 4-0.
Birmingham finally gets one off Camilo Vazquez in the fifth, as Lee Cruz leads off with a double to left and scores on John Shelby's two-out single to left.
But the Mudcats pound on the visitors, this time with John Lujan on the mound.
Carolina scores four runs on four hits, with the biggest one Kahaulelio's two-out, two-run double to right that made it 7-1.
Greg Atencio then announces his presence with authority in the ninth when he strikes out the Birmingham side, and the Mudcats finally get to have a happy clubhouse.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats manager David Bell: "That was great, the way we played tonight. Camilo did a great job tonight. Kahaulelio can really swing the bat. And Feiner just got back from off the disabled list - with all the injuries he's had this season he has done a great job getting ready to play."
Kahaulelio: "I just feel really comfortable with this club. It's a great group of guys, and I was with a lot of them in Sarasota last year. I like hitting leadoff, but as long as I'm in the lineup I don't really care where I hit."
Vazquez: "I thought it was a pretty good outing. My fastball was working really well. Feiner called a great game. I didn't feel any pressure."
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats trail first-place Chattanooga by eight games.
Stars of the game
1. Kahaulelio, with a pair of hits including a two-run double.
2. Vazquez, for picking up the victory that ended the four-game slide.
3. Feiner, for calling a solid game and getting two hits with two RBI.
Play of the game
Feiner's two-run single in the second.
Birmingham leads 6-2.
Carolina: Won 1.
Birmingham: Lost 1.
Carolina: IF Juan Francisco promoted to Louisville. IF Jake Kahaulelio promoted from Sarasota. C Korey Feiner returned from disabled list. Catcher Jake Long sent to Sarasota.
Birmingham: C Donny Lucy placed on disabled list. C Miguel Gonzalez promoted to Birmingham from Bristol.
Birmingham at Carolina, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Johnnie Lowe (R, 0-2, 9.82) vs. Alex Smit (L, 2-2, 3.89)