FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Even with a two-game losing streak and coming off a wrong-way shutout, the Carolina Mudcats are in first place in the Carolina League’s Southern Division with less than a month left in the season.
That’s a far cry, of course, from their worst record in baseball in the first half of the campaign.
Tonight’s opponent is another playoff contender, the Potomac Nationals who lead the Northern Division by six games and have the best record in the league.
Southpaw Shawn Morimando (7-10, 3.07) goes for the Mudcats against Paul Demny (0-0, 3.86) on a pleasantly warm evening.
Despite striking out 19 times, the Mudcats take advantage of three key Potomac errors to pick up an unlikely 5-3 win.
The Mudcats score four runs with an odd rally in the second. Paddy Matera walks, and after singles from Tony Wolters and Bo Greenwell, Erik Gonzalez draws a one-out bases-loaded walk. Then Charlie Valerio lifts a sacrifice fly to left that Brandon Miller muffs, and the Mudcats score three on the play.
Morimando gets the quality start with six shutout innings, allowing six hits and striking out two against a pair of walks.
The P-Nats rally in the eighth off Josh Martin. Caleb Ramsey leads off with a single to right, followed by Michael Taylor’s blast high over the left-field wall.
Carolina adds some insurance in the bottom of the frame, as Wolters leads off with a single to right and scores on Jordan Smith’s sac fly to center.
Potomac rallies in the ninth off Rob Nixon. Justin Miller leads off with a walk, followed by a single to right from Randolph Oduber. Cutter Dykstra reaches on a fielder’s choice on a bouncer to short, but second baseman Joey Wendle loses the ball and allows Miller to score.
The win comes despite the fact Potomac finishes with 13 hits to the Mudcats’ five.
Wolters finishes with three hits and scores the two runs, while Bryson Myles extends his hitting streak to 18.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Wallace: “That was weird. That’s definitely a game we don’t win in the first half, but in the second half we’re finding ways to win. They gave us some outs and we took advantage of them. Shawn has been battling a pitch count in a lot of games. But when he gives you six scoreless innings that’s always nice to see.”
Morimando: “Getting that lead was huge. It’s great any time your offense can get you four runs in one inning. After that I just kept pounding the zone with my fastball, and my defense kept making plays behind me.”
Walters: “I guess I was lucky and I was swinging at the right pitches, picking the right ones to hit. Shawn was really good. He got ahead of guys. He established his fastball at the beginning and worked hard.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats could start getting used to this first place thing.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
The dropped fly ball that allowed the Mudcats to score three.
Mudcats: Won 1.
Potomac: Lost 1.
Potomac leads 9-6.
Mudcats (Joe Colon 3-3, 3.52) vs. Potomac (Sammy Solis 2-0, 2.65), Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.