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Mudcats come up short in series opener

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ZEBULON — The Mudcats loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Wes Rogers and Payton Henry both struck out with the bases loaded in the final frame as Carolina failed to score again in a 4-3 series opening loss to Fayetteville at Five-County Stadium on Monday night.

Carolina (25-38, 64-68) fell behind 5-0 after the fifth while also being held without a hit by Fayetteville (35-27, 66-65) starter Luis Garcia in the loss. The Mudcats eventually rallied back with two runs and two hits in the sixth and a run in the seventh while making it a one-run game at 4-3. That one-run advantage, however, ended up being just enough though as reliever Riley Cabral worked out of bases loaded, one-out jam in the ninth while closing out his third save for the Woodpeckers.

Cabral (S, 3) started the ninth by giving up a hit to Trever Morrison before committing an error on a sac bunt dropped back to the mound by Zach Clark. Cabral’s throwing error to first moved Morrison to third and Clark to second with no outs in the frame. Cabral then struck out Jackie Urbaez for the inning’s first out before then putting Brice Turang on safely with an intentional walk. Cabral then escaped the ninth with the save as he went on to strike out both Rogers and Henry with the bases loaded to end the game.

Cabral earned the save in the series opening Fayetteville victory and Garcia (W, 6-4, 3.17) earned the win. Garcia worked through five no-hit innings and struck out 10 while leading the Woodpeckers to the road victory. He also worked around four walks, including two walks and a hit by pitch that loaded the bases for Carolina the third. Garcia also struck out Henry to end the third while quieting the Carolina rally.

Fayetteville’s Chandler Taylor went 3-for-4 in the game with a two-run homer in the first while putting the Woodpeckers up early in the game. That home run came off Carolina starter Matt Smith and stretched Smith’s streak of consecutive starts with a home run allowed to five straight. It was also his 16th homer allowed this season.

Smith (L, 4-12, 3.75) allowed Taylor’s homer in the first and left with one man on the in the fifth while reaching his pitch limit in his start. That runner later scored after reliever J.T. Hintzen gave up a two-out RBI double to David Hensley in the fifth. In all, Smith allowed three runs on six hits over four and a third innings. Smith also walked three and struck out two while reaching 80 pitches (46 strikes).

Hintzen gave up Hensley’s double, but went on to work through a scoreless sixth and seventh. Hintzen pitched through two and two-thirds innings with a run and three hits. He also walked two and struck out three. Robbie Hitt then worked the eighth and ninth with four strikeouts and a walk. He also struck out the side in the eighth.

The Mudcats began their comeback bid in the sixth with both their first hits and first runs of the game. Their first was a single to left-center by Henry off reliever Leovanny Rodriguez. That hit was preceded by a walk from Rogers and followed two batters later by a two-run double from Rob Henry as Carolina cut the Fayetteville lead to 4-2. Rogers then brought in Carolina’s third run of the game in the seventh with a flare double down the right field line while scoring Turang and making a 4-3 game.

Rodriguez allowed three runs on three hits over an inning and two-thirds out of the bullpen for Fayetteville. He was followed in the seventh by Cesar Rosado, who went on to work through an inning and a third with a walk and a strikeout. Cabral then finished the game with the scoreless ninth.

The loss was Carolina’s second straight and dropped the Mudcats to 2-2 in the final home stand of the season. The victory, meanwhile, moved the Woodpeckers into first place in the Southern Division second-half standings.

The series was scheduled to continue Tuesday night. Game time was after The Enterprise went to press.

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