ZEBULON, NC (WNCT) – For the second consecutive game, the Wood Ducks turned a blowout into a tight contest in the top of the ninth just to come up short, 7-5 to the Mudcats. With the defeat, the Wood Ducks have lost three in a row on the heels of winning back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday.
Down East also tied a season-high in home runs hit with three from three different players: Luis La O , Michael O’Neill , and Josh Altmann . The power display also created a five-way tie for the team lead in homers with four apiece for those three with Jairo Beras and Josh Morgan .
Emerson Martinez took the hill still looking for his first Carolina League and entered the third in a scoreless game. Cooper Hummel was making his 2017 debut in the Brewers system and surely didn’t look like it, leading off the inning with a double off the wall in left-center. He would score on a Trent Clark sac fly two batters later.
In the top of the fourth, the Woodies responded with an RBI double from Morgan to score O’Neill. Prior to the knock, O’Neill swiped second for his 12th stolen base of the season to tie him for the league lead.
Carolina’s offense continued in the fourth and thrived with two outs all game. Troy Stokes Jr. hit a two-strike, two-run home run to set the score at 3-1. Then, Martinez had two strikes on Weston Wilson before he singled to extend the inning for Hummel. The switch-hitting catcher would proceed to tag a triple to right-center to score the fourth run for the Mudcats.
In the fifth, Trent Clark would add one more run with his fourth home run of the season – a solo shot to center. The Woodies would respond in the sixth, when La O connected on a solo shot down the left field line. Otherwise, they could not solve Mudcats’ starter Cody Ponce in his seven innings of work.
Jacob Shortslef relieved Martinez after six and fired a 1-2-3 seventh with two strikeouts. He began the eighth in similar fashion with back-to-back strikeouts. Yet it was Wilson again who managed a two-out single to prolong the inning for Hummel. He turned on the second pitch he saw from Shortslef for a two-run homer to right to cap off a 3-for-3 day at the plate.
Entering the ninth, the Wood Ducks trailed 7-2 but began the inning with a bang from O’Neill’s solo homer down the left field line off Quintin Torres-Costa. Morgan just missed a home run himself, lining out off his hands to deep left. Carlos Arroyo reached after he was hit by a pitch from Torres-Costa to bring Altmann to the plate for his home run to left.
Suddenly the game was 7-5 with one out for the nine-hole hitter Tyler Sanchez up. Carolina brought in its closer for the second time in as many games to seal the win, retiring Sanchez and Pinto in order to kill the rally.
The Wood Ducks (15-25) return home to Grainger Stadium for a seven-game home stand with four against the Buies Creek (25-16) and three against the Mudcats (21-19). Friday night’s first pitch is schedule for 7:00 p.m. for Food Truck and Firework Friday.