The Mudcats pulled within 1.5 games of first with the series opening victory
Buies Creek – Troy Stokes Jr. hit a three-run home run in the third, Jake Gatewood matched a career high with four hits and Isan Diaz hit his ninth homer of the season as the Mudcats defeated the first place Buies Creek Astros 9-8 in game one of a four game series at Jim Perry Stadium on Wednesday night.
Carolina (28-24) led 9-7 entering the ninth and escaped with a one run victory after Stokes, Luis Aviles and Max McDowell caught the tying run at the plate with a 7-6-2 putout to end the game. The victory pulled the Mudcats to just 1.5 games back of first, behind the Astros (30-23) in the Carolina League Southern Division standings.
The final play started with runners at first and third and with Dexture McCall ripping a double to the left field corner off closer Nate Griep. Jake Rogers scored on the double, but Alex De Goti was caught at the plate while attempting to score from first and the Mudcats held on for the 9-8 win.
The game saw three lead changes with Carolina leading 1-0 after one, 4-3 in the third and 6-5 after the fourth. The Mudcats also led 8-7 after the fifth before Diaz put them up 9-7 with a solo home run to start the sixth.
Quintin Torres-Costa (5-1, 4.24) pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh and earned the win after holding the Astros to just two runs and two hits over three innings. He also walked two and struck out four in the victory.
Jon Olczak (H, 2) pitched a scoreless eighth and Griep (S, 10) eventually earned his league leading tenth save despite allowed two hits and one run in the ninth.
The Mudcats led 1-0 after the first, but the Astros came back with three in the second to take a 3-1 lead. Spencer Johnson had a two-run triple for the Astros in the second and was 1-for-4 in the game for Buies Creek.
Stokes brought Carolina back from the early 3-1 deficit with a three run home run down the left field line off starter Ryan Hartman. Stokes was 1-for-2 with two runs, three walks, three RBIs and his seventh home run of the season.
Hartman (0-1, 14.73) allowed six earned runs over three and 2/3 innings and took the loss in what was his first game with the Astros this season. He also walked four and struck out one in his debut.
The Astros came back with two in the last of the third off Mudcats’ starter Trey Supak and led 5-4 as the game moved to fourth. De Goti had a RBI double in the third for the Astros and was 2-for-3 with three runs in the game.
The lead changed again in the fourth when the Mudcats came back with a two run frame while taking a 6-5 lead. Trent Clark started the fourth with a walk and scored moments later on a game tying triple from Aviles. McDowell then followed with a sacrifice fly to lift Carolina into the 6-5 lead. Clark walked three times and scored once, Aviles was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and his first triple of the season.
Supak pitched through fourth and allowed four earned runs (five total) on seven hits in his Carolina League debut. He also walked one, struck out seven and threw 85 pitches in the game. He did manage to hold the Astros scoreless in the fourth and his shutdown frame effort was rewarded as the Mudcats scored two more runs in the fifth.
Gatewood opened the fifth with a leadoff double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Aviles. Gatewood was 4-for-5 with two singles and two doubles in the game for the Mudcats. He leads the league with 20 doubles this season.
Diaz capped the Carolina scoring later in the sixth with his solo home run while lifting the Mudcats into a 9-7 lead. The home run was his ninth of the year and was hit off reliever Brett Adcock who pitched the final four innings for the Astros with a run allowed on three hits and two walks. Howie Brey also pitched for Buies Creek and allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit over an inning and 1/3.
The Mudcats and Astros will continue the series tonight (Thursday) at Jim Perry Stadium in Buies Creek with the first pitch at 7:00 p.m. The Mudcats can pull within a half game of first with a victory in game two of the series.