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Mudcats lose skipper, but win game over Nationals, 6-4

Mudcats lose skipper, but win game over Nationals, 6-4
Carolina Mudcats in action. (Photo: IBI)
June 11, 2014
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Zebulon, NC-- After losing their skipper early in the game, the Carolina Mudcats pulled together to end a three game slide and win 6-4 over the Potomac Nationals on Tuesday night at Five County Stadium.

Manager Scooter Tucker was ejected from the game in the bottom of the third after a disputed call with first base umpire Cody Oakes.  Erik Gonzalez appeared to beat out the throw on an attempted steal of third base but Oakes ruled him out to the dismay of the Mudcats skipper.

Tucker, normally a very calm manager, exploded after being tossed and got in the face of Oakes before taking a long and slow walk down the left field line to the Mudcats clubhouse.

The ejection seemed to be the result of a culmination of frustrations with poor calls from the two-man crew. 

Tucker did not make himself available for comment after the game.

Hitting coach Tony Mansolino stood in place of Tucker and was well pleased with the effort of his Mudcats players.

"I thought we came out with a lot of energy today," Mansolino said. "We swung the bats well."

In stark contrast to the actual arguments with officials, Mansolino remained neutral when asked about the disputes with the umpires.

"We get competitive and in the heat of the moment, we see things a certain way, and when it doesn't go the way we want, through our competitive nature, we get fired up," Mansolino explained.

He went on to praise the crew and acknowledged that everyone is still working on their craft in advanced A baseball, umpires included.

The win halted a three game skid for the Mudcats who improve to 28-35 on the year. The loss drops Potomac to 35-29.

Michael Peoples (3-6) looked strong in 5.0 innings against the Nationals. The Carolina starter earned the win after he allowed only one earned run off of three hits and two walks.

Potomac's starter Dakota Bacus (2-2) hurled 4.0 innings and gave up four earned runs off of nine Mudcats hits on his way to the loss.

The Mudcats jumped all over Bacus in the bottom of the first. After Todd Hankins and Erik Gonzalez reached first and second with back to back singles, hot hitting Yandy Diaz singled up the middle to score Hankins and Joe Severfollowed it up by plating Gonzalez with his own single. Diaz came around to score on an RBI single from Alex Monsalve later in the inning to make it 3-0.

With runners at first and second, second baseman James Roberts singled to left in hopes of adding to the early lead, but a great throw from Potomac left fielder Oscar Tejeda beat Joe Sever to home plate where he was called out to end the inning.

Carolina hitters combined to tally three runs off of six singles during the opening frame.

Potomac fought back to plate a run in the top of the fourth. Oscar Tejeda hit a leadoff single and was moved to third on a Khayyan Norfork single to right. With runners on the corners, Will Piwnica-Worms scored Tejeda after a long battle with Michael Peoples to cut the deficit to two runs.

But Carolina would get the run back in the bottom half of the inning. A Jeremy Lucas walk and consecutive singles from Alex Monsalve and James Roberts loaded the bases for the Mudcats who looked poised for another big inning. Luigi Rodriguez scored Lucas on a sac fly to center and Monsalve advanced to third to keep the pressure on Bacus and the Nationals. But Potomac would get out of the jam by turning a double play to keep the damage to a minimum.

Washington appeared to be safe at first which had  interim manager, Tony Mansolino, visibly upset with the call. Mansolino could be seen having words with the umpire on the way back to the dugout.

The Mudcats wouldn't leave things up to the umpires in the bottom of the fifth. Todd Hankins reached second with a leadoff double and was scored on an Erik Gonzalez double down the left field line to make it 5-1.

Later in the inning, Jeremy Lucas brought Yandy Diaz in to score from third on a sac fly to left that put Carolina on top 6-1.

D.J. Brown replaced Peoples in the top of the sixth and immediately ran into trouble against the Nationals. Two walks and an error on a fly ball allowed Potomac to load the bases and a single from Mike McQuillan brought two runners in to score.

Benny Suarez was called to replace Brown and came in to face Justin Miller with runners at first and third. The confident right hander tossed three straight fastballs to fan Miller and pull Carolina out of the inning.

Both runs against D.J. Brown came unearned due to the error from right fielder Luigi Rodriguez on a fly ball earlier in the inning.

The Nationals attempted to rally behind a two-out solo shot in the top of the ninth from Pedro Severino but Jacob Lee held Potomac with a strike out of Tony Renda to end the game.

Lee was credited with his first career save.

Mansolino was excited to see his team smack thirteen hits on Tuesday, especially after a slump in the second half of may.

"We've been good all year and we swung the bats well," said Mansolino. "We kept our foot on the gas pedal."

While he is aware that slumps are part of the game, he is hopeful that his hitters are developing  mental toughness that should help them in the coming months.

Carolina will close out their series against the Nationals on Wednesday night at Five County Stadium. Ryan Merritt(6-2, 1.66) is set to start for the Mudcats and will face Potomac right hander Blake Schwartz (0-0, 2.70).

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

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