FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are playing something close to sudden-death baseball as they play the finale of their five-game home series against the Montgomery Biscuits.
The Mudcats, the worst team in the Southern League in the first half, trail the first-place Chattanooga Lookouts by 6 ½ games in the North Division. And tomorrow will present the proverbial golden opportunity, as the Mudcats are preparing to leave for a five-game series with the Lookouts beginning Tuesday.
Montgomery is second to the in-state rival Mobile Bay Bears in the South Division, but the deficit is nine games with 21 to play.
The Mudcats hit hard early and hold on, winning 6-5 to take the set 3 games to 2 and move to within six games headed into the must-win series.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Time to check in again on the Carolina Mudcats, who are going to need a miracle to make the playoffs in their final season in the Southern League but are having a respectable second half.
Montgomery, which has about half of its first-half team now playing with the Durham Bulls, is in second place in the South Division but seven games behind the first-place Mobile BayBears.
Justin Lehr (0-1, 3.74) will be taking on the Biscuits’ Shane Dyer (6-7, 4.67) on what is fortunately a mild 74-degree night.
The Mudcats struggle early but pour it on the rest of the way, sending the home fans happy with a 9-4 victory.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in again on the Carolina Mudcats, who have had a huge improvement since finishing far and away in last place in the Southern League in the first half.
They’ll come into their second game of the home series with the Jackson Generals — known last season as the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx — on a five-game winning streak and in second place in the SL’s North Division.
So David Bell’s Mudcats, who got a fresh infusion of talent at the break with first-round catcher Yasmani Grandal the centerpiece, are not only fun to watch again but may be ready to make a playoff run.
Pedro Villareal (3-1, 4.50) will go tonight on a fairly mild evening against Generals lefty James Paxton (0-0, 3.86).
The streak ends tonight but not without a fight, as the Mudcats come back from an eight-run deficit to get the tying run to the plate before succumbing 10-7 and dropping two games out of first place.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Sometimes one of the best things in life is a second chance, and the Carolina Mudcats get one starting tonight.
But the second half begins tonight with the opener of a five-game home series with the Huntsville Stars.
Huntsville was the Mudcats’ worst tormentor in the first half, winning all five games in the series in Alabama.
Tonight will mark the Mudcats debut of catcher Yasmani Grandal, the first-round pick out of Miami last year who spent the first half of this season at Bakersfield. Grandal, a member of Team USA’s World Baseball Challenge champions in 2009, hit .296 with 10 homers and 40 RBI in 56 games in the California League. Chris Coddington was sent down to Bakersfield.
And joining the club from Louisville is former Mudcat closer Chris Mobley, while Jason Braun goes to the temporarily inactive list.
Ace Matt Klinker (3-4, 3.60) will start the game for Carolina, while Michael Fiers (3-2, 3.27) goes for the visitors.
This half will start on the right foot, as the Mudcats score the first three runs and hang on for a 3-2 victory.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats mercifully come into their final home series of the first half, taking on the Tennessee Smokies who are the hottest team in the Southern League.
The Mudcats have had several transactions today. Infielder Jose Castro is on the disabled list with a hyperextended left knee while Clayton Shunick — the right-hander out of N.C. State — has been sent down to Bakersfield. Right-hander
Matt Klinker has been sent down from Louisville, while infielder Henry Rodriguez has been promoted from Bakersfield.
Additionally, the rehab assignment of fireballing southpaw Aroldis Chapman continues and he is expected to pitch a late inning tonight.
Pedro Villareal (2-0, 4.91) will go for the Mudcats tonight while lefty Brooks Raley (2-5, 5.10) starts for Tennessee.
Tennessee scores the first five runs and pounds out 13 hits including three homers, rolling to a 9-3 win.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are definitely having a tough first half this season.
But they have an opportunity tonight. Having won two of the first three games of the five-game series, David Bell’s club could win its first series since July of 2010 — that’s 17 straight — with a victory tonight.
James Avery (3-5, 4.40) will take on Lookouts lefty Michael Antonini (2-6, 4.17), who leads the Southern League in losses.
The opportunity gets away, as Kyle Russell homers twice and doubles twice for four RBI in a 9-3 Chattanooga win.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats may be in last place in the Southern League, but it’s possible they’re starting to right the ship.
It’s back to the top of the rotation for the pitching staffs tonight. The Mudcats will send Daryl Thompson (0-2, 6.46) against southpaw Matt Moore (1-2, 5.18). Thompson is the only member of the Mudcats’ roster on the Cincinnati Reds’ 40-man, while Moore has led the minor leagues in strikeouts each of the last two seasons.
Moore and the Montgomery bullpen keep the Mudcats’ bats quiet most of the night, and the Biscuits roll to an 8-1 win to even the series.
FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats come home to start their five-game series with the Montgomery Biscuits in serious need of some wins.
Montgomery is a little better at 7-14 as the Tampa Bay Rays farm club visits North Carolina for the first time this season. On the Biscuits’ roster and playing right field tonight is UNC alumnus Reid Fronk.
The Mudcats will go with Matt Klinker (0-1), who was the team’s ace last season and started this campaign at Louisville before being sent down for some more seasoning.
Montgomery will counter with southpaw Frank De Los Santos, who is yet to have a decision this season.
On this night the Mudcats get a rare easy one, as four pitchers combine to allow just four hits in the 7-0 shutout.
Seventy-eight degrees and clear are the conditions as David Bell begins his third season as manager with an unlikely 20 returning players on the roster.
With the weirdness of the unbalanced Southern League schedule, unless they return in the league championship series this will be the Diamondbacks affiliate Mobile BayBears’ last visit to Eastern Wake County.
Daryl Thompson, the Mudcats’ one member of the Cincinnati Reds’ 40-man roster, will get the opening night start against Wes Roemer who is making his Double-A debut.
The night turns out to be a kick in the shin for the Mudcats, who give up five in the top of the ninth in a 7-4 loss.
Scratch that. An extremely familiar look.
No fewer than 20 of the 24 active players for third-year manager David Bell’s club spent time in Zebulon last season.
Only infielder Neftali Soto, pitcher Mark Serrano and catcher Kevin Coddington — all of whom were at lower levels in the Reds organization last season — and outfielder David Cook - who was at Round Rock in the Texas Rangers organization - were in the Mudcats’ home clubhouse for the first time for Media Day on Tuesday.
“It’s really good to be back,” said Bell, who will be joined again by pitching coach Tim Brown and hitting coach Ryan Jackson, the former Durham Bull and Duke All-American. “I’ve had some good players for the last two years here and a lot of them are back. I’m very comfortable with the group we have here and know them well.
“I was telling them today it just has a feel of being a special season here. Having that experience at this level, several guys with two and three years — it’s just a good mix. But it doesn’t do a whole lot of good talking about it until we go out and play.”