Mudcats stay in playoff race with 4-1 win over Hillcats
ZEBULON – Despite squandering some early scoring chances, the Carolina Mudcats jumped out to a four run lead to back a dominant pitching performance by Nick Pasquale to defeat the Lynchburg Hillcats 4-1 on Friday night to salvage a four game series split. The victory improved the Mudcats record to 31-29 in the second half and stayed even in the playoff race.
Mudcats manager David Wallace was very pleased with the team’s performance in the victory, saying the team really needed the win.
“We really needed this one," Wallace said. "Pasquale stepped up and gave us a great start and we got some good defense behind him.”
Right handed starting pitcher Nick Pasquale took the mound for the Mudcats and dominated through seven innings. Pasquale allowed only one run on six hits and two walks while striking out four. The strong performance gave Pasquale the win, his fifth in his last seven starts, improving his record with Carolina to 6-7 overall.
Overall, Pasquale was very happy with his start, and even though he tired at the end, he felt good about the way he pitched.
“I went out there and pitched a good game," Pasquale said. "I just try to throw what I know I can and I’m confident my defense will make plays behind me.”
Carolina threatened in the first inning, but was ultimately unable to score. Second baseman Joey Wendle walked and third baseman Paddy Matera slapped a single into center field to put two on with two out. However, catcher Tony Wolters struck out to end the inning.
The Mudcats again threatened in the third inning after left fielder Bryson Myles got his second hit of the night and center fielder Jordan Smith was hit by a pitch to put two on with only one out. Wendle however grounded into an inning ending double play to stop the threat.
Lynchburg starting pitcher Jose Lugo completely lost his command in the fourth inning, hitting Matera with the first pitch of the inning, and then nearly hit Wolters on three of four pitches, before reaching on an error. Shortstop Erik Gonzalez reached on a fielder’s choice after hitting a groundball that wiped Matera and Wolters off base. Despite the lack of control, Lugo was able to get through the inning without giving up a run after striking out right fielder Logan Vick.
Wallace said he knew there was no malicious intent behind being hit by so many pitches, and said it’s just a part of the game.
“It was only Lugo’s second start in the league," Wallace noted. "He’s got a good electric, live arm. I didn’t see any of those have any intent. We don’t want to see that, but it’s part of the game."
Pasquale ran into a jam in to the fifth inning after allowing back-to-back singles to put runners on second and third with no outs. After a short conference with Wallace, Pasquale struck out the next batter and got a fly ball for the second out, and a groundout got the final out of the inning without allowing a run to score.
Wallace went out to the mound to help Pasquale keep his composure during the jam and to stay aggressive.
“I just told him to stay aggressive and not try to be too fine and mess around to let it become a bigger situation than it was,” Wallace said. “I told him not to worry because we were going to score some runs.”
Pasquale did not have to wait long for that promise to come true as Carolina loaded the bases in the fifth inning, and finally took advantage of a scoring opportunity.
First baseman Jerrud Sabourin doubled to lead off the inning and designated hitter reached on an error after Lugo’s throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag. Myles was the third Mudcat hit by a pitch on the night to load the bases. Smith hit a two-RBI single into left field to bring home Sabourin and Lavisky, and that would be all for Lugo.
After the reliever entered the game, Wendle lined out for the first out of the inning. A wild pitch allowed Myles and Smith to advance a base before Matera walked to reload the bases. Wolters followed that with a two-RBI double to score Myles and Smith before back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning.
Pasquale ran into trouble for just the second time on the night in the seventh inning. After quickly getting two outs, back-to-back singles followed by a wild pitch put runners on second and third. However, a strikeout ended the inning and the threat.
Pasquale loaded the bases in the eighth inning with two walks and a single with no outs, and that would be all for the starter, who was relieved by right hander Louis Head.
Head got an out on the first pitch thrown, thanks to a diving catch by Matera at third base. A strikeout got the second out of the inning, but a single to left field scored a run. However, Myles threw home and got the runner at the plate for the final out of the inning.
Wallace said with the victory and Salem coming to town, the Mudcats have a huge opportunity in front of them.
“We have our opportunity in front of us," he said. "It’s going to be a fun three game!”
Carolina begins their final home series of the season on Saturday night against Salem with a trip to the playoffs on the line. Right hander Robert Whitenack gets the start. First pitch is scheduled for 6:15 p.m.
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.