by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s the fourth game of the Carolina Mudcats’ five-game set with the Huntsville Stars, and the home team still has a chance to win the series.
And they’re going to have to do it on a scorching hot day.
Good news is that it’s a battle between the teams’ ostensible ace pitchers, with lefty Tom Cochran (2-2) going against the Stars’ Amaury Rivas.
There’s a nice touch before the game starts as Cochran’s dad Tom, who is celebrating a birthday, fires the ceremonial first pitch.
And it’s a very good day for the Cochrans and the Mudcats, as the southpaw gets a very high-quality start in the 5-1 decision.
There are zeroes in the run columns until the Mudcats explode for five in the third. Denis Phipps singles, followed by a walk to Chris McMurray. Then with one out, Kris Negron’s single to left loads the bases. Jose Castro hits an RBI single to right, followed by Dave Sappelt’s two-run single to left. With two out Jake Kahaulelio hits an RBI single to center, with two errors from center fielder Lorenzo Cain helping Sappelt around the bases.
Huntsville finally scratches in the seventh. With one out the Stars get singles from Chuckie Caufield and Dayton Buller, and then an RBI single from pinch hitter Lee Haydel to end Cochran’s solid outing and bring on Daryl Harang.
The Stars load the bases with two out in the eighth before Harang leaves the mound for Jerry Gil, who strikes out four of the five batters he faces to collect his first professional save.
Cochran allows seven hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six against three walks. Kahaulelio is the only Mudcat with two hits in the seven-hit attack.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “It would be nice to win some games here before the end of the half to establish some momentum for the second half. This is a nice 10-game homestand where hopefully we can get some work in and get ourselves strong and fresh and hopefully playing well. Cochran was tired at the end because it was so hot, but he just did a great job.”
Cochran: “It was hard the first couple of innings just trying to establish a strike zone. But after the hitters got me five runs in that one inning it was time to put it in cruise control and throw as many strikes as I could. Hopefully the guys on the other team would swing and get themselves out. I just wanted to keep our guys off the field and let them hit as much as they could and try and wear out the other team’s pitcher. I know I lost nine pounds during the game. It was a hot day. It’s good that we have such great trainers.”
Sappelt: “That’s how it works sometimes. When you get a chance for a big inning you have to take it. We hadn’t had a big inning like that one in about two weeks. With this heat everybody’s mind isn’t always there. When somebody makes a mistake, you’ve got to take advantage of it. ”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats have a little momentum back with a chance to win the series.
Play of the game
Sappelt’s heads-up baserunning to score from first during the Stars’ snafu.
Stars of the game
Carolina: Won 2.
Huntsville: Lost 2.
Huntsville: Placed OF Drew Anderson on the disabled list.
Huntsville at Mudcats, 12 p.m.
Josh Butler (R, 0-2, 5.14) vs. Matt Fairel (L, 0-2, 9.00)