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Carolina Mudcats sweep Salem Red Sox in cold doubleheader

Carolina Mudcats sweep Salem Red Sox in cold doubleheader
Photo credit: Tony Lastoria/flickr
April 16, 2014
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ZEBULON, N.C. — On a cold night in mid-April, the Carolina Mudcats put the freeze on the Salem Red Sox to win 4-0 in the opening game of Wednesday’s doubleheader.

Later on, the Carolina Mudcats pulled out a 2-1 come from behind win to secure their second straight victory over the Salem Red Sox to finish the day’s games. Ollie Linton’s fourth inning score proved to be the difference in what was a tight game throughout.

Linton made an incredible play as a base runner in the fourth and managed to single-handedly give the Mudcats the lead. After reaching base on a walk, Ollie Linton utilized his speed to steal second and force Salem catcher Jayson Hernandez into an error on a poor throw to second. The throw got away from the Red Sox and gave Linton a chance to get up and scamper to third. Salem shortstop Ryan Dent threw to third in an attempt to catch Linton but his throw was inaccurate and went into the Mudcat’s dugout, giving Linton a free pass to home plate and the go ahead run.

Another strong outing from Ryan Merritt in the first game and a stellar game from Erik Gonzalez secured the win for the Mudcat’s in their return to Zebulon.

Despite temperatures in the 40s, Erik Gonzalez managed to lead the Mudcats to victory in one of his best games of the season. In seven innings of play, Gonzalez was a home run away from hitting for the cycle. He went 3-4 with an RBI and scored two runs in the process.

“He’s been playing well, and there’s nothing surprising about it,” said Manager Scooter Tucker.

“I tried to look for good pitches to hit,” said Gonzalez.

He went on to admit that he wanted to swing for the fences in his first at-bat in the sixth in hopes of completing the cycle.

“My last at bat, my first pitch, I tried to hit a home run,” Gonzalez said through a sly grin.

Ryan Merritt (2-0) went 5.2 scoreless innings and allowed only two hits while striking out six Salem batters. He has continued to shine as a starting pitcher for the Mudcats and has allowed only one earned run in just over 17 innings of play.

Manager Scooter tucker was impressed with Merritt’s performance on the mound.

Tucker went on to say that “Merritt continues to throw strikes and he continues to throw his secondary pitches with success. He keeps improving and he keeps working and good things happen.”

Ryan Merritt credited his success to his growth and experience as a pitcher.

“I’ve just been taking in everything and learning as much as I can. I’ve built upon those and it’s helped me find success in my starts this season,” said Merritt.

Elvis Araujo was credited with the save after pitching 1.1 innings of relief without allowing a single base runner.

The Mudcats stayed patient in the batter’s box throughout and never let Salem starter Luis Diaz (1-1) get into a rhythm. Carolina batters took Diaz into deep counts by fouling off pitch after pitch. James Roberts forced a 12 pitch at-bat in the second before finally being walked. With a rising pitch count and runners on first and second, Diaz was replaced by Kyle Martin in the fourth after pitching 3.2 innings and allowing one earned run off five hits and three walks.

Carolina leaped out to an early lead over the Red Sox in the first inning. With two outs already recorded, the Mudcat’s Erik Gonzalez drove a triple to the gap in left center and put pressure on Salem. Hot-hitting catcher Jeremy Lucasscored Gonzalez from third with a flare over the second baseman’s head to give Carolina a 1-0 lead. It was the first earned run allowed all season by Red Sox starter Luis Diaz.

After a stretch of three scoreless innings, Carolina scored again in the bottom of the fifth. Logan Vick earned a leadoff walk and managed to make it to third with some savvy base running. During Erik Gonzalez’s at-bat, Vick stole second and took third after Salem catcher Carson Blair’s throw reached the outfield. Erik Gonzalez recorded his third hit of the game and brought Vick around to score making it 2-0 in favor of the Mudcats.

The Mudcats continued to put runs on the board in what was a tough fifth inning for Salem. After two consecutive Mudcat outs, Erik Gonzalez stole second base and advanced to third later in the at-bat on a wild pitch from Kyle Martin. Left fielder Anthony Gallas sent a ball down the right field line to score Gonzalez and extend the lead to three runs.

Two consecutive outs to lead off the sixth inning didn’t prevent Carolina from putting the game out of reach. First baseman Charlie Valerio blasted a ball to deep center that went over the head of Salem’s Matty Johnson and earned himself a standing triple. A Todd Hankins sac fly scored Valerio and gave Carolina a comfortable 4-0 lead going into the final frame.

Manager Scooter Tucker felt good after the first win of the night.

“We got some timely hitting and some great pitching. It was just a little bit of everything, overall just a good game,” said Tucker.

Carolina was without pitcher Dylan Baker who left Sunday’s game against Potomac after suffering a lower right leg injury. LeVon Washington also remained sidelined with an upper body injury.

Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.

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