by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats will be on the road on Sunday, so the big annual Independence Day celebration is tonight.
But they’re definitely packing the park for what should be a huge fireworks show for the club’s traditional largest crowd of the season, with the crowd announced at 8,661. It’s the fourth largest crowd in stadium history. Tonight is the 20th anniversary of the first Mudcats game played in Zebulon.
Travis Webb (2-6) will take the hill for the Mudcats tonight against Tom Koehler (10-1), who was the winner in the opening game of this six-game series and is the winningest pitcher in the Southern League. Carolina is looking for its fourth win in the half-dozen.
Jacksonville is, of course, hoping to win both halves in the South Division under skipper Tim Leiper, who is a former Mudcat and a former N.C. State assistant coach.
The fans get a good baseball game all around and the home team wins 3-1.
The Suns take the lead in the first, as Ryan Curry leads off with a double to right and scores on Brandon Tripp’s one-out single down the left-field line.
The Mudcats get to Koehler for two runs in the fourth. Sean Danielson leads off with a single to right, followed by Dave Sappelt’s single to left and Mike Costanzo’s single to right to load the bases. Devin Mesoraco then works the count for a bases-loaded walk before Brandon Yarbrough gives Carolina the lead with a fly ball to right.
Carolina adds another in the seventh as Yarbrough leads off with an infield single to the right side off Kris Harvey and advances on a walk to Eric Eymann and Jose Castro’s fielder’s-choice bunt to the catcher before Yarbrough scores on a wild pitch.
Webb has a very solid outing, going seven innings and allowing the run on two hits with six strikeouts against a pair of walks. Federico Baez gets the save after Joe Krebs sets it up in the eighth.
Koehler gets a quality start in the loss.
Danielson has a double for the Mudcats’ only extra-base hit along with a single, an RBI and a run scored. Yarbrough, who plays left field instead of his regular catcher’s spot, also has two hits with the RBI and scores a run.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Webb pitched great, we had some good situational hitting and some good defense. I love watching those games. What a great crowd! And both teams played a solid baseball game. We’re playing as well as we have all year right now. We’ve started the second half against a couple of good teams, and that says a lot about the way we’re playing. We’ve played good games, and that’s what it’s going to take for us, doing a lot of things right.”
Webb: “I was just trying to get ahead in that first inning and they put a couple of balls in play. After that I settled down and started hitting more spots. My fastball and changeup were working well — I was throwing my two-seam away and then my changeup that was coming in late. I was excited tonight. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve played in front of a crowd like that. (Koehler) beat me last time out five days ago, and I was just looking to have a quality start and keep my team in the game.”
Yarbrough: “It was a great win. It was good to win the series and get us a little closer to first place. They’re a good team. Our pitchers are throwing well. Even though I was in the outfield I was able to stay in there with them. Everybody pitched well for us tonight.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats have a big series win and are at .500 through 12 games of the second half.
Play of the game
Yarbrough’s sac fly for the go-ahead run.
Stars of the game
Jacksonville leads 12-9.
Carolina: Won 1.
Jacksonville: Lost 1.
Mudcats at Chattanooga, 6:15 p.m.
Scott Carroll (R, 1-3, 2.17) vs. TBA