by Mike Potter
They go into the second game of a five-game home set on a little winning streak, and have pulled to within two games of .500.
The opponent is the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, who are in second place in the Southern League’s North Division now only 1 ½ games ahead of the Mudcats.
Dustin Ackley, taken by the Seattle Mariners with the second pick in last June’s draft, is West Tenn’s second baseman while the manager is Tim Laker who was an original Triple-A Durham Bull in 1998. Carl Willis, who lives in Durham now, is also in the dugout as a roving pitching instructor for the Mariners' organization.
It’s a warm and cloudy night, with Dutch lefty Alexander Smit (1-2) on the hill against West Tenn’s Michael Pineda (3-1). The Diamond Jaxx even the series, outhitting the Mudcats 12-9 in a 7-4 win.
There’s a scary delay with two out in the West Tenn 2nd, when a pitch gets away from Smit and plunks Nate Tenbrink in the head. He’s down for about 20 minutes, with arms and legs able to move, before being taken away by ambulance.
Carolina takes the lead with a three-run fourth. Jake Kahaulelio reaches on an error to third baseman Alex Liddi, followed by a walk to Sean Henry and a two-run double to center from Mike Costanzo. With one out, Brandon Yarbrough singles down the right-field line to make it 3-0.
But the Diamond Jaxx strike right back in the fifth. Leury Bonilla draws a leadoff walk, followed by a double to left from Scott Savastano. With one out Carlos Peguero hits a two-run double to right, and with two out Johan Limonta rockets an 0-2 pitch out over the wall in right to make it 4-3.
West Tenn tacks on another run against Daryl Harang in the seventh. Jose Yepez started the rally with a two-out double to center, followed by Ackley’s RBI double to left.
And the Diamond Jaxx add some more in the eighth. Savastano and Lo lead off with back-to-back singles, and with one out Alex Liddi hits a two-run double to right center.
Both teams make some noise in the ninth, but neither gets a run across.
Lo leads the visitors with three hits while Yepez and Savastino double and single. Pineda gets a quality start and the win.
Costanzo and Yarbrough each double and single with an RBI, with Costanzo recording two RBI and Yarbrough one.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Harang did a good job out of the pen, and Jerry (Gil) was pretty good. Smit did well. You wonder how much the delay might have affected him later on, but he threw the ball well up until the end. That was scary when he hit the guy. I’m just glad it’s not more serious.”
Laker: “Tenbrink has a concussion — it was a little scary. He had a little glossed-over look in his eye and looked a little out of it. The trainer thought it was best to have him checked out by the doctors. Five hits wasn’t very good last night and we did a pretty good job tonight. Usually we play like we hit. We haven’t played the best defense all year, but when we hit well we win.”
Ackley: “There are a lot of new things to learn, playing second base. Hopefully I’ll get more comfortable there. If I hit bad, I concentrate on defense. I’m in the game all the time and I think that’s good. We’ve got great pitching, so when we hit we usually win games. We’ve got the best pitching I’ve seen so far.”
What does it all mean?
That both teams have a lick in so far, setting the stage for a pretty good series.
Play of the game
Stars of the game
Carolina: Lost 1.
West Tenn: Won 1.
West Tenn: none.
West Tenn at Mudcats, Friday, 7:15 p.m.
Steven Hensley (R, 5-1, 1.58) vs. Scott Carroll (R, 0-1, 1.80)