FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are in the thick of the Carolina League’s Southern Division race.

Mudcats infielder Jesus Aguilar

With just over a month left in the first half, the Mudcats come into tonight’s game against the Salem Red Sox 2½ games behind the first-place Winston-Salem Dash and one behind Salem.

The teams are coming off a doubleheader split from Tuesday night on a cloudy evening, and Will Roberts (1-1, 4.50) will take the hill for the Mudcats against Ryan Pressly (2-1, 7.13).

The Mudcats nearly come back from the dead in the ninth, but fall short in a 5-4 defeat.

Salem takes a 1-0 lead in the fourth. With one out, Christian Vazquez singles to left, then takes third on Michael Almanzar’s single to center before scoring on a wild pitch.

The Sox triple their lead in the fifth. With two out, Travis Shaw singles to right and scores on Brandon Jacobs’ double to center. Xander Bogaerts follows with an infield single to short, with Jacobs scoring on a throwing error to shortstop Ronny Rodriguez.

It goes to 4-0 in the seventh off Kyle Pedder. Sean Coyle leads off with a double, then scores on Jacobs’ one-out single to left.

And 5-0 in the ninth off Trey Haley, as Shaw draws a one-out walk and later scores on Bogaerts’ single.

But the Mudcats rally off Andrew Jones and come up just short of victory. Jake Lowery leads of with a line-drive double to deep right, followed by Ronny Rodriguez’ single to left. Anthony Gallas follows with an RBI double to left, and then Tyler Cannon reaches on an error to Jones with Rodriguez coming home. Tyler Holt makes it 5-3 with a bunt single, then with two out Jesus Aguilar hits an RBI single to left before Jones gets out of the jam.

Jacobs leads Salem with three hits including the double for two RBI, while Coyle doubles and singles.
Aguilar leads the Mudcats with three hits and the RBI.

They said it …

Mudcats manager Edwin Rodriguez: “At least we went out and battled. We had our chances early in the game, but you have to give (the Sox) credit. They made their pitches. It was good to see we battled out there for nine innings.”

Aguilar: “We tried and hit good, but in the last inning we didn’t have luck. We had guys hit line drives right at people tonight. (Pressly) was very aggressive with the strike zone and did a good job, and that’s why he won.”

Holt: “That’s the way this team plays. We fight for 27 outs. We’ve got a group of guys who care about each other, and we have each other’s backs. Everyone takes their at-bats seriously, so for us to come back doesn’t really surprise me.”

What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats showed some late-inning fight, but still have a little catching up to do in the division race.

Stars of the game
1. Pressly.
2. Jacobs.
3. Aguilar.

Play of the game
Bogaerts’ ninth-inning hit, which provides what turns out to be the clinching run.

Mudcats: Lost 1.
Salem: Won 1.

Season series
Salem leads 5-1.

On deck
Mudcats (Michael Goodnight 1-2, 4.75) vs. Salem (Matt Barnes 1-0, 1.50), Thursday, 7:15 p.m.