by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats return to start an eight-game homestand, the first five of which are against the Mobile BayBears.
The Mudcats would need a titanic miracle to gain a playoff spot, with a “tragic number” of 10 and 19 games left in the season.
The heat is gone but there’s a huge threat of rain at first pitch, with lefty Travis Webb (6-8, 5.24) on the hill for the home team while Bryan Henry (6-3) goes for Mobile.
Although it’s a wet one it’s a pretty interesting game until the visitors score seven on seven hits in the ninth and roll to a 13-5 romp.
It’s 0-0 in the middle of the second when the skies open up, and after a rain delay of 99 minutes Bryan Shaw comes in in relief for Mobile.
The Mudcats quickly take advantage of the change. Denis Phipps leads off with a single to center, and then Carlos Mendez strokes a one-out single past second. Jose Castro follows by reaching on a fielder’s choice and picking up the RBI as third baseman Ryan Wheeler fires the ball wildly past second, and then Mendez scores on a wild pitch. Ruben Medina gets a hit on a pinch-hit appearance, and then replaces Webb on the hill.
Mobile evens the score in the third. Bryan Byrne draws a leadoff walk, and with one out Wheeler singles to center. Taylor Harbin brings Byrne home on a sacrifice fly to center, and after Jacob Elmore walks Ollie Linton follows with an RBI single to right.
And the BayBears “explode” for four in the fifth against Lee Tabor. Wheeler draws a leadoff walk, followed by bunt singles from Harbin and Elmore. After Linton hits a sacrifice fly to center, pinch hitter Chris Rahl and Evan Frey hit back-to-back RBI singles before Collin Cowgill’s sac fly to left makes it 6-2.
The Mudcats trim it to 6-3 in the sixth. Mike Costanzo, Phipps and Brandon Yarbrough draw back-to-back-to-back one-out walks before Mendez reaches on a fielder’s-choice ball to third.
And Costanzo slices it to 6-4 in the eighth when he leads off by blasting a 1-1 pitch over the center-field wall.
But Mobile gets plenty of insurance runs in the ninth off Joe Krebs. Harbin leads off with a double, followed by a single to Elmore and a walk to Linton before Harbin scores on a passed ball. Pinch-hitter Sean Coughlin hits an RBI single to right, followed by Frey’s RBI single to center and Cowgill’s two-run double to left. Byrne then hits an RBI double to right. Then with two out Harbin hits an RBI double to left.
The Mudcats tack on one more in the bottom of the ninth as Jake Kahaulelio hits a one-out single to left and scores on Kris Negron’s sacrifice fly to center.
Frey leads Mobile with three hits and two RBI while Cowgill doubles and singles for three RBI in Mobile’s 17-hit attack. Harbin adds two doubles for two RBI and Byrne two doubles with one RBI. Shaw (4-9) is the winning pitcher.
Negron’s double is the biggest hit for the Mudcats, who get hits from eight different players. Tabor (3-2) takes the loss.
Here’s what they said …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “Our offense was good tonight. Ryan (hitting coach Jackson) and I felt like we were going to come back and win. It kind of had that feel to it until they had the big inning. Krebs has done such a good job, you hate to see anybody go through an inning like that. They happen, and it’s not fun to watch. (Federico) Baez threw the ball well for us. Medina struggled in his first inning but came out and had a good second inning, and Tabor did the same thing.”
Mobile manager Rico Brogna: “Our bullpen was really good. Both teams have to burn a starter because of the weather and you know it’s going to be a bullpen night. We knew we were going to have to stretch some guys out and put them in roles they weren’t familiar with, and they did a great job. They did a good job of being ready and I couldn’t be happier with them. Our team is playing with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm, and it’s fun. I’m really happy with the way the guys are playing loose and relaxed.”
Frey: “We played well tonight. After coming out after that rain delay, we had to stay focused and I think we did that. It was a tight game going into that last inning. It’s always good to tack on runs, because you never know when an offense can get hot. It’s nice to be in the race. Everybody has that common goal. It’s something to strive for every night.”
What does it all mean?
That Mobile remains a game and a half out and that the Mudcats are about done anyway.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Cowgill’s two-run double in the ninth.
Mobile leads 5-1.
Carolina: Lost 1.
Mobile: Won 2.
Mobile at Mudcats, 7:05 p.m.
James Avery (R, 0-2, 6.61) vs. Kyler Newby (R, 2-2, 3.33)