FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON Checking in on the Carolina Mudcats, who are trying desperately to stave off elimination from playoff contention in their final season in the Southern League.

Mudcats infielder Neftali Soto

The Mudcats come into tonight’s action on a warm and pleasant evening in third place in the North Division, nine games behind the first-place Chattanooga Lookouts. Carolina’s “tragic number” is six.

Tonight’s opponents, the Jacksonville Suns, are in even worse shape, 11 ½ games behind the runaway leader Mobile Bay Bears in the South. N.C. State alumnus Andy Barkett is the Suns’ skipper.

Josh Ravin (0-0, 7.62) will take the hill for Carolina against Jeff Allison (3-4, 6.50).

The Mudcats get off to a good start but not so good of a finish, as the Suns score the last six runs to win 8-4 and take the tragic number to five.

Carolina puts up a run in the first, as Henry Rodriguez hits a one-out double to right and scores on Cody Puckett’s single to left.

Jacksonville evens the tally in the second, but Didi Gregorius makes it 3-1 in the second by following Eric Campbell’s one-out double with a blast over the Catfish Corner wall in right.

The Suns cut it back to 3-2 with one out in the fourth, on Kyle Skipworth’s one-out homer to right. Carolina makes it 4-2 in the bottom of the frame on three singles including Quintin Berry’s RBI safety.

But Jacksonville rallies for four runs in the fifth to oust Ravin. Kevin Mattison’s triple and Jake Smolinski’s double highlight the inning.

Two sacrifices and a Campbell throwing error at third help Jacksonville tack on two runs in the eighth.

Skipworth adds a single while Kyle Jensen has a double and two singles as the only multi-hitters in the Suns’ nine-hit attack.

Gregorius goes 3-for-4 with two RBI to lead Carolina, while Campbell has three hits including two doubles and Puckett doubles and singles with an RBI. Neftali Soto chips in two hits.

Kyle Kaminska (1-1) is the winning pitcher in relief while Ravin takes the loss.

They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “The ball wasn’t carrying quite like it does sometimes, but we swing the bats pretty well. Gregorius is an exciting player. He has a bright future. He’s a smart kid and a good athlete. We didn’t make a couple of plays we should have, but those are just things that happen in baseball. We needed to pitch better, too.”

Gregorius: “I just made good contact on that home run. Nothing special for me. (Moving up to Double-A 26 games ago) I had to make a couple of adjustments with my batting stance because they were throwing a lot of off-speed stuff to me.”

Soto: “We just keep grinding it out and playing our best. My season has been pretty good, being aggressive, but I could have hit better for average. I don’t know how I hit so many home runs (26). I’ve just been trying to hit the ball.”

What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats need a run of heroic proportions to catch the Lookouts now.

Stars of the game

1. Skipworth.
2. Jensen.
3. Gregorius.

Play of the game
Skipworth’s homer.

Series record
Jacksonville leads 11-5.

Mudcats: Lost 1.
Jacksonville: Won 1.

On deck

Mudcats (Justin Lehr 0-1, 4.94) vs. Jacksonville (Brad Hand 10-3, 3.43), Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.