Mudcats giveaway late lead, fall to Pelicans, 5-4
Carolina (22-25) had Myrtle Beach (31-17) against the ropes, but could not close.
ZEBULON, NC – Despite leading 3-0 through seven innings, the Carolina Mudcats allowed the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to score five times in the final two innings to win 5-3 on Sunday night.
With the score tied at three in the top of the ninth inning, the Pelicans scored twice with the bases loaded on a walk and a hit batsman to grab their first lead of the game.
Trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, the Mudcats got shortstop Yhoxian Medina to third base with two outs. Medina scored on a balk to cut the lead to one, but that would be as close as Carolina would get.
Mudcats hitting coach, Tony Mansolino who is filling in during the absence of manager Scooter Tucker, said the Mudcats might have led for the majority of the game, but it is only the end result that ultimately matters.
“We out played them for seven innings but they won in two innings,” said Mansolino. “Certainly in the last three days we have played right with them. They have a heck of a bullpen. People always talk about their hitting, but the more I watch them, their pitching is great.
Mansolino said the Mudcats have played well against a great Pelicans ball club, and the team is happy with how they have performed.
“We swung the bats well against them, and you take out a couple of innings, and we are really happy with how we have played them,” said Mansolino.
Looking to end a personal four-game losing streak, right-hander D.J. Brown took the mound for the Mudcats and had his best start since his last win, giving up only two hits in five innings of work. Brown also tied a season-high with four walked batters, but struck out a season-high six.
Despite allowing a leadoff single and two walks, Brown was able to keep the Pelicans from scoring in the opening inning.
Mansolino said, while Brown pitched well, there is still plenty of room for growth.
“He threw the ball well tonight, and he didn’t even play that well,” said Mansolino. “He got behind in a lot of counts, but he’s got good enough stuff to be able to fight back.”
Brown echoed what Mansolino said, saying while he is pitching well, he has plenty to learn.
“Overall, I kept the team in the game,” said Brown. “I had more walks than I would have wanted, but the team made some plays behind me. It was a close game. Hopefully next time it can be different.”
Carolina was able to jump on Pelicans ace Chi Chi Gonzalez early, plating two in the first inning.
Shortstop Medina led off the home half of the first with an infield single, but was thrown out at second attempting to steal. Center fielder Todd Hankins laced a triple, his second of the year, just over the glove of Myrtle Beach center fielder Chris Garia. Left fielder LeVon Washington brought him home with a bloop RBI single that fell between three Pelicans players to give the Mudcats the early one-run lead.
With Washington on first base, catcher Alex Monsalve slapped his first triple of the year to give Carolina a 2-0 lead at the end of one.
Hankins said stopping at second base never crossed his mind.
“When I saw at second base the center fielder still didn’t have the ball, I knew I could get three,” said Hankins.
Hankins has been used all over the field this season, playing at second base, third base, left field and now center field.
“I’ve gotten used to it now,” said Hankins. “It’s my third year playing different positions. I feel comfortable playing anywhere in the outfield and second or third. It’s one of my qualities in my game that I think makes me a good player.”
Brown seemed to have lost his command in the third inning after walking the first batter and allowing a single by the next batter to put runners on the corners with no outs. However, after a pop-up got the first out, a ‘strike-em out, thrown-em out’ ended the inning to keep the Pelicans off the board.
Hankins bunted his way on base with one out in the fifth inning and advanced to second on a throwing error, but was stranded there to end the inning.
Right-hander Grant Sides relieved Brown in the sixth inning and pitched around a walk and a single to keep the Pelicans off the board for another inning.
After neither team had scored since the Mudcats put two on the board in the bottom of the first, second basemanTorsten Boss launched a shot over the right field wall to give Carolina a three-run lead.
Right-hander Jacob Lee relieved Sides in the eighth and struggled from the beginning, allowing a game-tying three-run home run in just one-third of an inning.
Lee allowed a lead-off double, and a one-out walk to set up the three-run shot.
Righty Louis Head took over for with one out in the eighth, and easily got the next two batters to keep the damage to a minimum.
The Mudcats walked the bases loaded with two outs in the eighth inning, but designated hitter Ryan Battaglia grounded out to third to end the inning, but set up the top of the order for the ninth inning.
The Pelicans loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, just as the Mudcats did in the bottom of the eighth, except Myrtle Beach was able to capitalize. A walk and a hit batsman, both with the bases loaded, brought in a run apiece to give the Pelicans a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Head was handed the loss, falling to 0-3 on the season.
Carolina concludes their first series of the season against the Pelicans on Monday. Right-hander Michael Peoples gets the start for the Mudcats who look to win the series.
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.