Mudcats rally to upend Blue Rocks 6-4
Carolina scored 5 unanswered runs to pull off the comeback over Wilmington.
ZEBULON, NC - The Carolina Mudcats rallied from an early deficit to defeat the Wilmington Blue Rocks 6-4 on Thursday night at Five County Stadium. The Mudcats used a four-run fifth inning to take the lead, and they never looked back.
Carolina put together three consecutive singles from Alex Monsalve, Luigi Rodriguez and James Roberts to load the bases early in the bottom of the fifth. Yhoxian Medina singled to left to score Monsalve and advanced the runners to start the comeback. With the bases still loaded, Todd Hankins sent a deep fly ball down the line in left that curved foul at the last second, and robbed the Mudcats of their second grand slam of the season. But the at-bat continued, and with a full count, Hankins sent a RBI single up the middle to score Rodriguez to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Yender Caramo replaced starter Jonathan Dziedzic later in the inning but it did not faze the Mudcats. Erik Gonzalez singled to left to take the lead and score two more runs. An error on a pickoff attempt during the following at-bat allowed Gonzalez to reach third, but an Anthony Gallas groundout ended the inning.
All told the Mudcats plated four runs in the bottom of the fifth and finally put the offensive slump behind them.
The victory ends a five-game skid for the Mudcats, and gives the ball club some confidence before they travel to league-leader Myrtle Beach on Friday.
Manager Scooter Tucker was happy to see his guys bounce back after falling into a slump as of late.
"After losing five in a row, the guys came out with a lot of energy today," Tucker said. "They were pulling for each other and they picked each other up so that they could get some timely hits."
In his first start since being transferred from Lake County, Adam Plutko (1-0) settled down after a rough first inning to pitch 6.0 innings in which he allowed four earned runs off seven hits. The right-hander from UCLA struck out six Blue Rocks batters, and gave up only one walk en route to his first win with the Mudcats.
Without having seen too much of the right-hander, Tucker came away from tonight's game with excitement.
"He is certainly a guy who mixes it up a lot. He threw a lot of secondary pitches and a lot more than I was expecting," Tucker noted. "The reports we have on him are that he is a strike thrower and he pitches to contact and he will give you a good outing which he did tonight."
The tough first inning may have come due to some pregame jitters from the young pitcher.
"Early in the game he was up in the zone and getting hit a lot. It looked like he settled down a little bit there and started working the ball down and if he does that then he will be fine," Tucker said.
The Mudcats bullpen pitched a combined 3.0 innings of relief without allowing a single base runner.
Louis Head earned the save for Carolina by keeping the Blue Rocks at bay in the final inning.
Wilmington starter Jonathan Dziedzic (5-3) took the loss after hurling 4.1 innings, while giving up five earned runs off seven hits and fanned four Mudcats batters.
The Blue Rocks made sure that they welcomed Plutko to Advanced-A baseball by putting three quick runs on the board in the first inning. After a Jack Lopez walk and Bubba Starling single, Michael Antonio doubled off the wall in left to score one. Cody Stubbs followed it up with a bases clearing single that scored two more runs to make it 3-0.
Carolina got one run back in the bottom of the second, and ended their twenty seven inning scoreless drought in the process. Jeremy Lucas sent a well hit ball to deep center for a double to open things up. Monsalve moved Lucas to third with a groundout and a Rodriguez groundball scored the runner to the delight of the Mudcats fans.
Stubbs extended the Wilmington lead in the top of the fourth with a solo shot over the wall in right as he continued to build on his impressive night.
Carolina wasn't satisfied with the big fifth inning and added to their lead in the bottom of the seventh. Speedy second baseman Medina reached first after he pressured the Blue Rocks into a rushed throw on his ground ball to short. LeVon Washington made Wilmington pay on the following at-bat with a double that sailed just past the outstretched glove of the center fielder Starling. Medina put on the jets and narrowly missed the tag from Cam Gallagher to score from first for the final run of the night.
With the win Carolina improves to 23-28 on the season while Wilmington drops to 27-25.
Tucker hopes that tonight's win can be the start of a better stretch for his ball club over the next few weeks.
"Things kind of went our way tonight," said Tucker. "Maybe we can build on it, get a little momentum, and finish this first half strong."
Daniel is a communication and broadcast media major at North Carolina State University.