by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are back in town for a five-game set against the Chattanooga Lookouts, beginning with tonight’s 22nd battle against the Dodgers’ affiliate this season.
There’s a good crowd in the house, and the mascot “Reggy” is on hand to entertain.
Both teams need victories, as there’s less than a month left in the season and the Mudcats are six games out of the lead in the Southern League’s North Division and the Lookouts another game and a half back.
Carolina will send Travis Webb (5-7) to the hill against Chattanooga’s Brent Leach (5-2).
The night belongs to the Mudcats, who outhit the visitors 13-3 in a fight-marred 7-2 romp.
The Mudcats make a statement with a four-run first inning. Jake Kahaulelio draws a one-out walk and advances on Dave Sappelt’s single to center before Mike Costanzo rips a two-run double to right. Then with two out, Devin Mesoraco blasts a 1-0 offering off the scoreboard in left.
Chattanooga halves the lead in the third. Dee Gordon and Trayvon Robinson lead off with back-to-back walks, with Gordon scoring on a grounder to short from Jerry Sands before Corey Smith knocks an RBI single to center.
The Mudcats tack on another in the bottom of that frame as Kahaulelio walks, takes second on Sappelt’s single to left and third on a wild pitch before scoring on a two-out wild pitch.
The hosts put up two more in the fourth to make it 7-2. Webb reaches on a one-out fielder’s choice following Eric Eymann’s single, followed by infield hits from Negron and Kahaulelio before Sappelt’s two-run Texas League single to right.
And things get really nasty in the fifth. Terrero leads off and gets plunked by Leach. He takes a few steps toward the mound and then the benches clear before punches begin to fly. By the time things clear up both of them are ejected along with Smith — who had exchanged blows with Terrero — and Robinson and Chattanooga manager Carlos Subero.
Webb has a quality start, allowing the two runs on three hits in six innings while striking out four and walking six. Sappelt goes 4-for-4 with a double and two RBI, upping his league-best batting average to .362. Mesoraco homers for the second straight night and finishes with two hits and two RBI.
Chattanooga’s three hits are all singles.
Here’s what they said …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “You never want to see (fights) happen. It was one of those things in the heat of the moment. Nobody ever wants to feel like he’s getting thrown at. There’s too much on the line. Whether he was or not, I don’t know, but if you sense that as a player it upsets you. I thought most of our guys handled it the way they should. … Sappelt has just had a consistent approach. He’s hot right now, but it didn’t just happen out of the blue. It’s been a process for him and he’s stayed with it.”
Sappelt: “My approach has been working pretty good. We face the same guys enough times and you know how they’re going approach you, and they’ve been pitching me the same every time I face them. When you see guys so many times you know exactly what they’ve got. That makes it easier on the hitter. … The last time we faced them here there was some tension, and it just carried over to today.”
Webb: “My stuff was good. I had command of my secondary pitches, but I struggled a little bit more with my fastball. Sometimes it works out well. I was able to keep them off-balance with my changeup and my curveball, where my fastball just kind of became a secondary pitch. … I think everybody’s a little tired. We got in at 10 this morning on the bus trip (from Huntsville) and they got in late, too. It’s hot, everybody’s tired. Fuses are very, very short right now.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are still six games behind first-place Tennessee, while Chattanooga is in last place 8 ½ games out.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Mudcats lead 12-10.
Carolina: Won 1.
Chattanooga: Lost 5.
Chattanooga: P Will Savage promoted from Inland Empire. C Alex Garabedian promoted from Inland Empire. Placed C Jessie Mier on the disabled list.
Chattanooga at Mudcats, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Tim Sexton (R, 3-12, 5.06) vs. James Avery (R, 0-1, 6.00)