Mudcats beat Red Sox in pitching duel 3-1, snap skid
Todd Hankins had half (3) of the Mudcats combined hits (6) in Sunday's win.
ZEBULON, NC – The Carolina Mudcats made a three-run second inning hold up as they snapped a season-high four-game losing streak in a 3-1 victory over the Salem Red Sox on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, the Mudcats brought their season record back to .500 (20-20).
The three-run second inning was the first lead the Mudcats had held since Tuesday, when they defeated the Lynchburg Hillcats 13-5.
Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker was glad to see his team score some runs and pick up the win.
“Scoring runs has been our biggest problem over the last few games,” said Tucker. “The defense again was solid, but the second inning was big to finally put some runs on the board.”
Left-hander Shawn Morimando got the start for the Mudcats and cruised through six innings, allowing only one run on three hits, three walks and four strikeouts.
Morimando picked up the win for his efforts, bringing his season record to 5-2, and a perfect 4-0 in day games.
Tucker was very pleased with Morimando’s start, saying several of his pitches were working very well.
“He had a really nice start,” said Tucker. “His secondary stuff, his changeup was working really well. I thought that was the difference, being able to keep them off balance.”
Morimando was very happy with his start, saying he thought it went really well.
“I was able to go out there and throw some pitches and hit where I wanted,” said Morimando. “My fastball was hitting in the right spots. I threw a ton of change-ups, and after the third, I started throwing more breaking balls. Overall, I thought it was a really good outing.”
Offensively, and in the field, the star of the day was second baseman Todd Hankins, who went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, as well as a couple of miraculous defensive plays.
Tucker said being patient at the plate has allowed Hankins to bounce back from a rough start to the season.
“Today, he was being selective at the plate and waiting for a pitch to hit,” said Tucker. “He wasn’t trying to do too much. The pitch he hit up the middle pretty much describes his day, just staying on the ball and not trying to over swing. The play he made was just exceptional.”
Hankins echoed what Tucker said, saying he’s just not trying to do too much.
“I’m just trying to stay within myself and not try to do too much,” said Hankins.
The first hit of the game came with one out in the second inning on a single up the middle by center fielder Logan Vick. After third baseman James Roberts was hit on the hand by a pitch, catcher Ryan Battaglia slapped a RBI double to left field to give the Mudcats a one-run lead.
With runners on second and third after Battaglia’s double, Hankins cracked a two-run double to left-center for a 3-0 lead. Hankins stole third on the next pitch to put a runner on third with only one out, but Carolina was unable to bring him home.
After getting two quick outs, Salem pitcher Simon Mercedes walked designated hitter Alex Monsalve and Vick to put two on, but a fly out to center field by Roberts stranded the runners to end the inning.
Morimando walked the leadoff man in the fourth inning for the Salem base runner of the afternoon. After walking the second batter, a double play wiped away two, but Salem still had a runner on third with two outs. A short fly ball ended the inning to keep the Red Sox off the board.
A walk and a single put two on for the Mudcats with no outs in the fourth inning. A strikeout by shortstop Yhoxian Medina would be the end for Mercedes, who went 3.1 innings, giving up three runs on four hits and five walks.
Back-to-back strikeouts would strand both runners after the pitching change to keep the score at 3-0 after four frames.
Morimando surrendered his first hit of the afternoon on a single up the middle to lead off the fifth inning. After striking out the next batter, a lucky bounce over the first base bag led to a double to put runners on second and third with one out. A RBI groundout broke up the shutout to cut the lead to two.
A walk put the tying run on base and runners on the corners, but a ground ball to second base got the lead runner to end the inning without causing any more damage.
Morimando said the thought of a no-hitter never crossed his mind, saying he was just taking it a pitch at a time.
“I just take it one pitch at a time,” said Morimando. “I don’t try to look at what has happened in the last few innings, but what I’m doing right then.”
After allowing a leadoff single in the sixth, Morimando proceeded to pick-off the runner to wipe the bases clean. A strikeout and fly out to right field ended the inning without allowing another base runner.
Right-hander Grant Sides relieved Morimando in the seventh and worked around two walks in the inning thanks in part to a spectacular play by Hankins where he dove just to get to the ball, and flipped on the throw to get the out at first to end the inning.
Hankins said the play was mostly on instinct, and nothing you can practice.
“I saw off the bat it was headed my way, and when Grant (Sides) hit it with his glove, it kicked away,” said Hankins. “I changed directions real fast, and I knew the only play I had was to bare hand it. My momentum was taking me towards our dugout, so I just had to jump and dive at the same time. It’s one of those plays you can’t practice, but just do it off of instincts.”
Big, left-hander Elvis Araujo took the mound in the eighth inning, and pitched around a leadoff walk and a hit that put runners on the corners with one out to escape the jam. A perfect ninth inning shut the door on the Red Sox to close out the win and pick up his second save of the year.
After an off day on Monday, the Mudcats will return to action on Tuesday at Wilmington. Right-hander D.J. Brown will get the start in the opener against the Blue Rocks.
Zachary is a senior at NC State where he is majoring in communication-media, with minors in journalism and theatre. You can follow him on Twitter @RealZachFrancis.