FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON It's Game 1 of the Carolina Mudcats' series with the Chattanooga Lookouts, and the first time I've been able to make it out here in 20 days.
I had scheduled a multi-day event with some extended family to coincide with a hole in the Durham Bulls schedule before I was shown the door by the Incredible Shrinking Herald-Sun in May, so I was away for the whole series the last time Chattanooga was here July 15-21.
Chattanooga won that series, although the Mudcats won the final two games of the five-game set.
Incidentally, seems budget cuts are everywhere. There's a new system for obtaining sodas that has been the talk of the press box. But at least they're free, so if that's the worst thing that happens to me for a while life is pretty OK.
Anyway, I'll go with the Italian sausage tonight, fortunately the rains are holding off now and it's game time.
There are a couple of local favorites on the visiting roster tonight. Duke alumnus Zach Schreiber, who was with the old Richmond Braves all last season, is in the Lookouts' bullpen along with Tim Corcoran, who was a Mudcat most of last season and was with the Durham Bulls in 2004-05.
Chattanooga gets to Lee Tabor pretty quickly in the first inning, scoring two runs en route to its 3-0 victory. Adam Godwin (pictured) leads off with a single to left, advances on James Tomlin's sacrifice bunt to first and scores on Andrew Lambo's single to right. Josh Bell singles to left center and Lucas May hits a two-out single to right center before Juan Gonzalez draws the bases-loaded walk to make it 2-0.
Godwin goes on to have an interesting evening, as he is on the wrong end of not one but two controversial calls. In the first, he tries a diving catch on Carson Kainer's sinking liner to right that internal replays show was clearly a good catch but Kainer is able to turn into a double.
Then in the fifth he is ruled first safe - and then on second thought, out - when Tabor fields a grounder toward first and applies the tag. On his way back to the dugout while manager John Valentin is arguing Godwin apparently utters a magic word, as first-base ump Matt Schaufer gives him the heave-ho.
Chattanooga adds another run in the eighth. Tomlin draws a leadoff walk, and with one out Bell is hit by a pitch. That closes the book on reliever Jerry Gil and brings on Enerio Del Rosario, who gives up a single to Gabe Martinez that makes it 3-0.
And that's the way it ends.
Here's what they said ...
Mudcats manager David Bell: "It was just one of those nights. Their starter (Steve Johnson) did a great job and we never could get anything going."
Valentin: "Steven really threw the ball well, you know? Pretty much everything was working for him tonight. All our pitchers did a good job."
Godwin: "There's a reason they don't show the replay (on that 'no catch'). Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. It just happened to be me in the field and me at the plate when (the controversial calls) happened. He said I was tagged out - the home plate ump said the guy got the tag on me. I figured once I was tossed I might as well get my money's worth."
What does it all mean?
That the Lookouts lead the Southern League's North Division by half a game over the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, and that the Mudcats are still in last place and now five games back.
Stars of the game
1. Steve Johnson, for allowing just three hits while striking out seven against one walk in his quality start.
2. Bell, for a double and a single with an RBI.
3. Del Rosario, for four strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings.
Play of the game
In the Chattanooga sixth, Stephen Chapman gunned down the Lookouts' Bell at the plate for the second out of the inning.
Chattanooga leads series 12-10.
Carolina: Lost 2.
Chattanooga: Won 2.
Carolina: RHP Logan Ondrusek promoted to Louisville. IF Jake Kahaulelio promoted to Carolina from Sarasota.
Chattanooga at Carolina, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.
Jesus Castillo (R, 6-7, 4.82) vs. Matthew Klinker (R, 3-2, 3.23)