by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s the finale of the Carolina Mudcats’ three-game road series with the Montgomery Biscuits, and the home team is playing for both momentum and pride.
It’s still hot as usual but not oppressive, and there’s the usual big Friday night crowd in the house in anticipation of post-game fireworks.
Travis Webb (4-6) is on the hill for the home team while Montgomery counters with Jake McGee (2-5) in a battle of lefties.
It’s a close game throughout, but the Biscuits sweep the series with a wet 4-3 victory in 10 innings.
The Biscuits get on the board with two out in the first, as Cody Cipriano launches a 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall.
The Mudcats tie it in the bottom of the frame as Mike Costanzo draws a leadoff walk, advances on singles from Devin Masoraco and Dave Sappelt and scores on Eric Eymann’s one-out sacrifice fly to right.
Montgomery gets an ugly run in the fourth as Emeel Salem leads off with a walk, steals second and continues to third on a throwing error by catcher Mesoraco, and scores on Henry Wrigley’s one-out single to left.
And Carolina ties it again in the bottom, as Mesoraco slugs a one-out triple to right and scores when Sappelt follows with a double to right.
But the Biscuits take the lead again in the seventh. Cipriano draw a one-out walk, followed by a single to left that chases Webb and brings on Ruben Medina. The runners advance on a wild pitch before Chris De La Cruz strokes an RBI single to left.
The Mudcats tie it again in the eighth. With one out Kris Negron singles up the middle, then takes third on Felix Perez’ single to center. Luis Terrero works the count to 2-2 and there’s a one-hour rain delay. Ryan Reid’s final pitch is Terrero’s RBI grounder to short.
Montgomery wins it in the 10th off Jerry Gil. Shawn O’Malley draws a leadoff walk, takes second on Salem’s bunt to first and scores on Rashad Eldridge’s single to left.
De La Cruz leads Montgomery with four singles and an RBI. McGee is very solid in his six innings, allowing two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts against a walk. Sergio Espinosa (1-2) gets the win and Paul Phillips his seventh save of the year.
Webb gets a quality start, going 6 1/3 and allowing three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts against two walks. Gil falls to 3-4.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “It’s tough to lose three games like that. They’re good games to be a part of, but they’re harder to lose sometimes. They got the big hit when they needed it. Those things come in spurts sometimes. They can really pitch, too.”
Montgomery manager Billy Gardner Jr.: “We played well this series, played hard and found a way to win. Any of the games could have gone either way. Both teams played hard and it was a real good series. A pitch and a play here or there and it could have been different. Eldridge has really solidified our defense in center field (since coming down from Durham.) He covers ground out there and really helps our pitching staff. He brings a lot of energy to the table and has been able to get big hits for us.”
Eldridge: “I was just looking to drive the run in so we wouldn’t have to keep playing. Sweeping this series feels great. It gives us a boost of confidence that we can keep winning games in the late innings.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats have a little work to do to get their momentum back.
Play of the game
Eldridge’s game-winning hit.
Stars of the game
Montgomery leads 6-2.
Carolina: Lost 3.
Montgomery: Won 3.
Chattanooga at Mudcats, Saturday, 7:15 p.m.
TBA vs. Matt Fairel (L, 3-3, 5.31)
Montgomery at Tennessee, 7:15 p.m.
Jeremy Hall (R, 4-5, 3.35) vs. TBA