by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON One last trip across Wake County for the Carolina Mudcats' rainy season finale.
And the team just got hot too late.
David Bell's club comes into its 139th game on a seven-game winning streak, despite the depletion of the team for much of the second half. Early on in the half there were players who absolutely had to go to Triple-A after making mincemeat of the Southern League, while over the past couple of weeks the Cincinnati Reds have been bolstering their Louisville roster in preparation for the Governors' Cup Playoffs.
Louisville is at Durham in the first round on Wednesday and Thursday, so if you're going to be suffering from Mudcats withdrawal it's a last chance to see a whole lot of Carolina's best 2009 players this season. SL All-Stars Travis Wood, Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco are playing for the Bats as is Chris Heisey, who was simply the best player in the league this year.
In case you're interested, I'm scheduled to cover those games for the Louisville Courier-Journal.
The game starts 36 minutes late because of rain. And they've shut down the Italian sausage, so I'll be having chicken on the last getaway day. The Braves win 5-0 to make that long bus ride home seem a little shorter. Everybody is on fast forward today as game time is 2:01.
Mississippi doesn't take long to get started, as Jon Owings launches Jeremy Horst's first pitch of the game out of the yard about 20 feet inside the left-field foul pole.
The score stays right there until the seventh, when the visitors strike for two.
Brandon Hicks leads off with a double to right, scoring on Greg Creek's one-out double to left. Creek then comes home on Travis Jones' two-out single to right.
Mississippi scores another in the eighth, as Chris Anderson slaps a leadoff double to left, followed by pinch-hitter Stephen Marek's single to left and a ground ball from Owings to score the run.
The Braves get their last one in the ninth off Josh Beal, as Hicks leads off with a homer to left.
After the game Mudcats slugger Yonder Alonzo (pictured) gets the call to Louisville for his Triple-A debut. That makes for 17 current Bats who played at least part of the season for Carolina.
Heisey and Frazier share the club's Willie Duke Award for spirit and dedication while catcher Korey Feiner - also currently in Louisville - gets the Ed Hales award for spirit, dedication and community commitment.
Rookie skipper David Bell's next assignment is as manager of the Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League. On that roster will be Heisey, Cozart, Alonzo, and pitchers Phillippe Valiquette, Sean Watson and former Mudcat Logan Ondrusek. Games run from Oct. 13-Nov. 21.
Here's what they said ...
Bell: "The main thing I learned this season was that it's a team game, and being the manager is a lot like being a player. You have to let the guys know you care about them. We had a really good group of guys in our clubhouse, and I give the Reds a lot of credit for the type of players who are in the organization."
Alonzo: "I'm pretty excited about going up. We'll see how it goes when I'm there. I'm looking forward to playing in those parks, and I'm hoping to get my first ring."
Cozart: "I know it's a big honor to play in Arizona. I'm really glad I'll be playing for D.B. We didn't win as many games as we wanted to this season, but we had a great bunch of guys and that made it a lot more fun."
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats still had a decent finish by winning seven of their last eight, and that Mississippi gets that seemingly shorter bus ride.
Stars of the game
1. Owings, for the homer and two RBI.
2. Hicks, for the homer and a double with two runs scored.
3. Horst, for 7 1/3 decent innings on the season's final day.
Play of the game
Owings' leadoff bomb that set the tone for the day.
Carolina wins 7-3.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Mississippi: Won 1.
Carolina: 1B Yonder Alonzo promoted to Louisville.
Carolina at Birmingham, April 8, 2010
TBA vs. TBA