by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Time to check in again on the Carolina Mudcats, who are going to need a miracle to make the playoffs in their final season in the Southern League but are having a respectable second half.
Montgomery, which has about half of its first-half team now playing with the Durham Bulls, is in second place in the South Division but seven games behind the first-place Mobile BayBears.
Justin Lehr (0-1, 3.74) will be taking on the Biscuits’ Shane Dyer (6-7, 4.67) on what is fortunately a mild 74-degree night.
The Mudcats struggle early but pour it on the rest of the way, sending the home fans happy with a 9-4 victory.
Montgomery takes a 2-0 lead in the first in an odd inning that includes right fielder Cody Puckett gunning Cole Figueroa down at the plate.
But the Mudcats take control with back-to-back three-run innings. Henry Rodriguez’ double and an RBI single from Bill Rhinehart are the key hits in the first, and an RBI single from Quintin Berry the linchpin of the second.
Montgomery gets one in the fourth when John Shelby leads off with a single and steals second before scoring on
David Wendt’s one-out single. And the Biscuits chip in another in the sixth as Isaias Velasquez leads off with a double and scores on Shawn O’Malley’s one-out sac fly.
The Mudcats make it 7-4 in the sixth on Neftali Soto’s 26th homer of the season, then add another in the seventh before Eric Campbell completes the scoring with another homer in the eighth.
Brandon Hynick (2-3) picks up the win in relief.
Rhinehart leads the Mudcats by going 4-for-4 with three RBI. Soto adds his homer and a single.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “It was a good game. We were real aggressive offensively. Justin did a good job after the first inning keeping them there for us, and our bullpen has doing a pretty good job the last couple of weeks with the exception of last night. We’re a much better offensive team than we were early in the season. We’re going to need one of those 8-10-game winning streaks to get us into the playoffs, but right now we have a chance.”
Rhinehart: “As a team, we just connected on defense, hitting and pitching tonight. Hopefully we can get a few games going and get on a win streak. We’ve still got to play Chattanooga. We just have to take it one game at a time and see what happens. I’m just hoping to have quality at-bats and see what happens.”
Campbell: “I’m seeing the ball a lot better right now. I had been struggling, pulling off balls in Mississippi. But (hitting coach Ryan) Jackson saw something in my back leg that we kind of tweaked a little bit and it’s been good ever since. Things are going pretty well right now.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats still have a heartbeat in the race for a playoff spot.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Soto’s homer in the sixth.
Montgomery leads 5-3.
Mudcats: Won 1.
Montgomery: Lost 1.
Mudcats (Pedro Villarreal 5-2, 5.15) vs. Montgomery (Alexander Colome 1-1, 3.18, Sunday, 2 p.m.