FIVE COUNTY STADIUM/ZEBULON The Carolina Mudcats are definitely having a tough first half this season.
With a 13-30 record coming into tonight’s contest against the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Mudcats have the second worst record in Organized Baseball. Only the Clinton Lumber Kings of the Class A Midwest League have a worse record.
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.
Chattanooga takes a 2-0 lead on four straight hits in the second. Russell leads off with a double to left followed by Brian Cavazos-Galvez’ infield single to third, Wilberto Ortiz’ RBI double to left and Matt Wallach’s RBI single to right.
The Mudcats halve the lead in the bottom of the frame as Neftali Solo leads off by launching a 2-0 offering over the wall in left.
Carolina ties the score in the third as catcher Kevin Coddington reaches on an error to shortstop Elian Herrera and comes home on Quintin Berry’s one-out double to left.
But Chattanooga takes a 3-2 lead with one out in the fourth as Russell launches his first pitch over the wall in left.
Russell strikes again in the sixth, following Alfredo Silverio’s two out single with another homer to left.
Cody Puckett then ends the Mudcats’ 10-game homer drought with a two-out solo to left in the bottom of the frame to make it 5-3.
And then Chattanooga puts it away with a four-run eighth. With one out, Herrera doubles to left and Silverio walks. Russell then hits an RBI double to right, followed by Cavazos-Galvez’ two-run double to left and Ortiz’ RBI single to center.
Russell scores four runs. Cavazos-Galvez doubles and singles with two RBI and scores twice while Ortiz doubles and singles with two RBI.
Antonini has the quality start, going six innings and allowing three runs — two earned — on four hits with five strikeouts against a walk.
Avery goes 6 2/3 and takes the loss. Berry leads the Mudcats at the plate with a double and a single for one RBI.
They said it …
Mudcats manager David Bell: “I thought we were hanging in there and had a chance, but we had one tough inning. The ball was carrying really well tonight. We were right in there until the eighth.”
Puckett: “I was up there just looking for a pitch to hit. I mean two strikes, just trying to make contact. Luckily I hit it on the barrel and got good backspin on it and got it up in that wind. We just need to stay focused throughout the game. It seems like we play well for 3-4 innings, but we’ve got to do a better job keeping it up.”
Soto: “I felt good at the plate. When you get a pitch right down the middle you have to take advantage of it. We’ve been playing good, but we’ve had some struggles. That’s just part of it. We’re getting there. We’re not happy, but we’re working hard and looking forward.”
What does it all mean?
That the Mudcats will have to win on Tuesday to get that elusive series win.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Russell’s homer in the sixth.
Chattanooga leads 5-4.
Mudcats: Lost 1.
Jacksonville: Won 1 1.
Mudcats (Brandon Hynick 0-0, 0.00) vs. Jacksonville (Chris Withrow 0-4, 5.23), 7:15 p.m.