by Mike Potter
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are in last place and seven games out of first in the Southern Division of an unbalanced Carolina League.
Carolina will go for the series win tonight, sending southpaw Mike Rayl (3-5, 4.07) against Wilmington’s Sugar Ray Marimon (3-0, 2.13).
The Mudcats rally for five runs in the eighth inning to break a tie, prevailing 7-2 to take three wins in the four-game series.
Wilmington draws first blood in the second, as Brett Eibner leads off by launching a 1-2 offering high over the left-field wall.
The Mudcats tie the game in the bottom of the frame. Jesus Aguilar leads off with a double to right and scores on Jake Lowery’s two-out double to right.
Carolina takes the lead in the third. Anthony Gallas leads off with a single to left and later scores from third on Giovanny Urshela’s grounder to short.
But the Blue Rocks tie it in the eighth off reliever Dale Dickerson, as Whit Merrifield launches a one-out, 2-1 offering high over the left-field wall.
The Mudcats go back ahead in the eighth off Santiago Garrido. Urshela leads off with a single to center, followed by Aguilar’s single down the left-field line. Delvi Cid comes on to pinch-run for Urshela, scoring when Jeremie Tice hits a double off the top of the Catfish Corner fence in right. Lowery follows with a two-run single that just gets by a diving second baseman Merrifield, and Ronny Rodriguez follows with a two-run double to left center.
Both starting pitchers are solid. Rayl goes seven innings and allows one run on four hits while striking out eight against one walk.
Marimon lasts six and allows two runs on five hits, striking out eight against a walk.
Lowery finishes with a pair of hits including the double for three RBI, while Tice doubles and singles with an RBI and Aguilar chips in a double and a single.
They said it …
Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez: “Rayl’s secondary pitches were working and that was the difference for him. He was spotting his fastball with some movement, too. That was the difference between tonight and previous outings. It was a good pitchers’ duel. Marimon has been pitching well all season. We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game and we battled. But we got some clutch hits in the eighth. Tice is the guy in the middle of the lineup that makes the difference.”
Rayl: “I felt pretty good tonight. I had a lot of things working and my fastball had a lot of life. It’s OK that I didn’t get the win. As long as we come out with a ‘W’ at the end that’s all that matters. We’ve got pretty good momentum, and I hope it can continue on the road trip.”
Lowery: “I felt better at the plate tonight. I’ve been struggling, but I’m just trying to keep it simple. Our pitchers have been coming out throwing strikes and getting ahead early lately. As long as they know our game plan is to get ahead and stay ahead, it’s working out for us.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats are on a little roll, but would need a minor miracle to win the first half.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Tice’s double in the eighth.
Mudcats: Won 3.
Wilmington: Lost 3.
Mudcats lead 6-4.
Mudcats (Will Roberts 2-2, 4.62) at Winston-Salem (Jon Bachanov 4-0, 2.94), 7 p.m.