Mudcats fall in extra innings 10-2 to Red Sox
Carolina lost a tightly contested game on Thursday as the Salem Red Sox scored eight runs in the top of the tenth inning to secure a 10-2 victory over the Mudcats.
ZEBULON, NC — The Mudcats dropped a heartbreaker 10-2 to the Salem Red Sox in extra innings on Thursday night. A disastrous tenth inning that included four Mudcats’ errors, ultimately, cost Carolina the game.
After a strikeout to begin the inning, the Red Sox loaded the bases in the top of the tenth.
Jonathan Roof reached base on a fielding error by Todd Hankins and was advanced to second after Carson Blair was walked. David Chester grounded out to short, but Erik Gonzalez committed the second error of the inning, which allowed the runners to reach safely and loaded the bases.
Carolina’s Rob Nixon struck out Kevin Heller to record the second out of the inning, but a base hit to right from Reed Gragnani scored two runs to give Salem a 4-2 advantage. Carolina seemed to unravel from there, surrendering six more runs due, in large part, to a series of infield errors and walks that put the game out of reach.
Mudcats manager Scooter Tucker thought the team played well, but was disappointed with the tenth inning collapse.
“We played well for nine innings, but you can’t give up extra outs. We let some guys get on base and it snowballed from there,” said Tucker.
Carolina, who had failed to hit a home run in their home park through six games, found some power early on though. Leadoff man Hankins blasted a shot over the twenty-five foot left field wall in the first inning to give Carolina a 1-0 lead.
Right fielder Antohny Gallas followed it up in the second inning with his own solo shot to left, his third of the season.
The Salem Red Sox found an answer in the second inning behind some timely hitting. David Chester struck a leadoff double to right that was followed up by a Gragnani single to left.
Chester, the 6’5”, 270-pound clean-up hitter, advanced to third on the single, but was never a threat to score from second. With runners on the corners, Salem third basemen Mario Martinez flared a ball just over the head of Hankins to score Chester.
Salem failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the third and fourth innings, leaving multiple runners stranded. After two quick outs in the third, Salem got a single from Jonathan Roof, and a double from Blair that moved Roof to third. A pop-up to center fielder Logan Vick ended the inning and got Carolina out of a jam.
In a near copy of the third inning, Cole Sulser recorded two early outs, but gave up two consecutive singles that put runners on the corners. A meeting at the mound calmed Sulser, and a strikeout of Dreily Guerrero kept runs off the board.
Carolina had their bats working against the starting pitching of Salem, but also left runners on base. The Mudcats hit into three double plays through four innings of play, and left six runners stranded for the game.
The Red Sox managed to tie the game in the fifth with a home run of their own. With two outs already in the books, Salem catcher Carson Blair hit a moon shot to left field that tied the game at 2-2.
With a rising pitch count, Sulser found himself in some trouble again in the top of the sixth. Red Sox right fielder Kevin Heller hit a line-drive double down the right field line and gave Salem another scoring opportunity. Sulser got Gragnani to strike out swinging and relied on his defense for out number two. A Mario Martinez ground ball to Mudcats shortstop Erik Gonzalez caught Heller in a run down, and allowed Carolina to get the lead runner out. Ryan Dent flied out to center to end the inning.
Carolina had a chance in the eighth to keep the game from going to extra innings, but, ultimately, came up short. Vick grounded a ball to first and Salem first basemen Chester looked to have a routine play, but let the ball hit off his glove and into foul territory. Vick rounded first and slid safely into second base. A Gonzalez ground ball to short and poor base running allowed the Red Sox to get the lead runner, Vick, out at third. Jeremy Lucas popped up to end the inning and left the game tied at 2-2 going into the ninth inning.
“He was trying to be a little more aggressive than he needed to be in that situation,” Tucker explained of Vick’s out. “But we talked about it and that’s the growing pains of this level of play.”
Right-hander Sulser went 6.0 innings and allowed two runs on ten hits, while striking out four. A solid outing was complimented by a Carolina defense that backed up their pitcher on numerous occasions to keep Salem runners from scoring.
Mudcats pitching coach Steve Karsay was pleased with his starter’s performance.
“He did a nice job of making pitches when he needed to tonight with guys on base,” said Karsay. “He’s one of those guys who will compete, he has a good four-pitch mix, and he moves the ball and locates to both sides of the plate, while staying down in the zone.”
Red Sox starting pitcher Corey Littrell pitched 6.0 innings, while allowing two runs on seven hits. Littrell recorded three strike outs and one walk in the process, but gave up two home runs. He was relieved going into the seventh, by Austin Maddox (1-0) who earned the win after pitching 3.0 innings of scoreless baseball, and just one hit.
Outfielder Luigi Rodriguez was activated from the disabled list by the Cleveland Indians on Thursday and was assigned to Carolina. Rodriguez went 1-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
Carolina (8-6) begins their series with the Fredrick Keys (6-8) on Friday night, and looks to bounce back after the tough loss. The Mudcats D.J. Brown is set to take on Branden Kline in a battle of right-handers.
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.