by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are on a hot streak and have a chance to go over .500 in the second half with a win tonight.
With three straight victories, they’re also in position to clinch the six-game series against the Jacksonville Suns, who won the first-half championship of the Southern League’s South Division.
Carolina’s ace pitcher Matt Klinker was called up to Louisville, leaving Daryl Thompson (0-2) to come straight off the disabled list to start for the Mudcats tonight. Florida State alumnus Elih Villanueva (7-4), who has been selected for the Southern League All-Star Game, will go for Jacksonville.
Jacksonville breaks the streak and wins 3-1.
Carolina gets on the board in the first inning, as Denis Phipps is hit by a pitch and takes second on Kris Negron’s infield single, third on Dave Sappelt’s fly to right and home on Mike Costanzo’s fielder’s-choice ball to second.
And it stays that way until the fifth, when the Suns get two. Chris Hatcher reaches on a one-out fielder’s choice ball before Villanueva reaches on Costanzo’s error at third. Greg Burns then scores both runners with a single to right.
Jacksonville stretches it to 3-1 in the ninth as Brandon Tripp leads off by launching an 0-1 pitch just over the “Catfish Corner” short porch in right.
And it’s a pretty simple story. Each team finishes with four hits and the Mudcats commit three errors. The best news is that it’s over in 2:20.
Villanueva goes 7 2/3 innings and allows a run on four hits, with five strikeouts against two walks. J.C. Marinez gets his fourth save of the season.
Thompson lasts five innings and gives up a pair of unearned runs on three hits, striking out three without a walk.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Our defense has been very good all year, and tonight we made a couple of mistakes. The fielders have been helping our pitching all season. You just can’t give up extra outs and we did tonight.”
Jacksonville manager Tim Leiper: “Good win and a good clean game. Elih had a great game. Great defense, especially in the infield, and Martinez was awesome at shortstop. We got that big hit in the eighth from Tripp. It didn’t hurt that they had that error, but we’ve been doing a good job taking advantage of mistakes.”
Villanueva: “It was a good bounce-back from my two previous outings. It was great pitching tonight after that 95-degree weather a few days ago. It was a good little break from the summer heat.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are back to under .500.
Play of the game
Stars of the game
Jacksonville leads 12-8.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Jacksonville: Won 1.
Jacksonville at Mudcats, Saturday, 7:15 p.m.
Tom Koehler (R, 9-1, 3.21) vs. Travis Webb (L, 2-6, 6.05)