by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It’s Game 4 of the Carolina Mudcats’ latest five-game series with the Chattanooga Lookouts, and both teams are getting into must-win situations.
The heat goes on, as it’s 93 degrees at game time and the crowd is going to be small.
Scott Carroll (3-6) is on the hill for Carolina, while Chris Withrow (3-8) pitches for Chattanooga.
It’s Game 3 of Luis Terrero’s five-game suspension following Saturday’s fight, while Chattanooga’s Corey Smith is serving the last of his three-game sentence.
The teams combine for 30 hits over an excruciating 3:46, and the visitors hold on for a 12-10 win.
It’s obvious from the start that some runs are going to be scored tonight.
Chattanooga puts up four in the first. Dee Gordon triples and Elian Herrera walks before Trayvon Robinson hits a two-run double to left center. Smithfield-Selma High alum Jerry Sands follows with an RBI double to right, and with two out Eddy Perez hits an RBI double to center.
The Mudcats answer with three in the bottom of the frame. Kris Negron leads off with a double to left, followed by Sean Henry’s single to right before Dave Sappelt hits an RBI grounder to short. With two out, Devin Mesoraco rockets a 1-2 pitch off the scoreboard in left.
Carolina then takes the lead with a two-out rally in the third. Negron singles to left and then Henry singles to right before Sappelt rips a two-run double to right.
Chattanooga lowers the boom in the third. Robinson leads off with a single to center, followed by Sands’ single to right and Kyle Russell’s RBI double to right. After Jaime Pedroza is hit by a pitch, Perez reaches on a fielder’s choice with the out at home. But Matt Wallach hits an RBI single to right before Withrow launches a 1-1 offering over the left-field wall for a grand slam and a 10-5 lead.
But the Mudcats tighten it up again in the fifth. Mike Costanzo leads off by lifting a 2-2 pitch over the former Catfish Corner wall in right. Mesoraco follows with a single to left, and with one out Jake Kahaulelio singles to left before Castro walks. With two out Negron hits an RBI single to left center, and then Henry hits an RBI single to second with Castro scoring on the ensuing error to make it 10-9.
Chattanooga tacks on another in the seventh, as Gordon greets Jerry Gil by walking with one out and scores on Sands’ two-out single to left.
The Mudcats cut it to 11-10 on the eighth, as Costanzo is hit by a pitch with one out, advances on Mesoraco’s single to center and scores on Brandon Yarbrough’s double to right.
But Chattanooga adds an insurance run in the ninth when Gordon leads off with a triple to right and scores on a wild pitch.
Withrow’s slam turns out to be huge, of course. Gordon adds the pair of triples and scores three runs, while homeboy Sands finishes with two doubles and a single for two RBI. Javier Solano is the winning pitcher, while Jon Huber picks up his 13th save of the season for Chattanooga.
Mescoraco leads the Mudcats with the homer and two singles for two RBI, while Henry chips in three hits including a double for two RBI and Negron three hits including a double with an RBI.
Here’s what they said …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “We’ve had a lot of games like this against this team. I was happy with the way we came back and gave our best effort. They really swung the bats well. I didn’t think Carroll had bad stuff at all, but they didn’t miss anything. Withrow can swing the bat. He’s a good athlete, but you don’t see that very often.”
Chattanooga manager Carlos Subero: “It was one of those long games. It was great to see the guys battle. They scored but we kept getting the extra runs to give us a little cushion. We got the outs when they counted. You don’t like to give up 10 runs, but we got some good work out of our bullpen at the end. Withrow is a good hitter for a pitcher, and he had a grand slam last year so we weren’t that surprised.”
Sands: “It was a long one, but luckily we came out on top. It’s always fun to come home and play in front of family and friends. There’s a little added pressure but it’s still fun. I’ve still got to go out and do what I need to do. I felt all right. I’ve been in a little slump and I’m trying to get back into it. But I’m squaring balls up and hitting balls hard. That’s what I need to do, start hitting balls hard and hopefully they’ll fall.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats have dropped to eight games out.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Withrow’s grand slam.
Mudcats lead 13-12.
Carolina: Lost 2.
Chattanooga: Won 2.
Chattanooga at Mudcats, Wednesday, 7:15 p.m.
Rubby De La Rosa (R, 1-0, 0.00) vs. Tom Cochran (L, 7-5, 3.03)