ZEBULON, N.C. – The Down East Wood Ducks opened their series with a convincing win over the Carolina Mudcats, 15-7 Tuesday night. Down East slugged their way to a 15-run effort on 16 hits for their fourth win in their last five games.
Down East (37-29) opened the scoring in the top of the first against Carolina starter Michele Vassalotti (L, 3-4). After two quick outs, Dustin Harris singled and advanced to third as Cody Freeman and Cristian Inoa were hit by a pitch. A wild pitch plated Harris and the Wood Ducks took the 1-0 lead.
Carolina (40-26) responded in the bottom of the first with a run of their own against Gavin Collyer.
In the top of the third, the Woodies jumped out to a four-run lead. Luisangel Acuña walked and advanced to third on a single by Harris. Acuña scored on a groundout by Freeman for the 2-1 lead and Harris advanced to second. With a runner at second, Inoa doubled to score Harris for the 3-1 lead. Keyber Rodriguez singled in the next at-bat to score Inoa and then Angel Aponte singled home Rodriguez for the 5-1 lead.
The Mudcats plated three run in the bottom of the fourth against Down East reliever Eudrys Mañon, making his Woodies debut, to cut the deficit to 5-4.
Down East blew the game open in the top of the fifth with five runs. Harris led off with a walk and advanced to second on a single by Freeman. After a pitching change, Rodriguez singled with one out to score Harris to push the Wood Ducks lead to 6-4. Aponte singled to load the bases and Alejandro Osuna walked with the bases loaded to score Freeman to pad the lead to 7-4. Following a mound visit, Rodriguez and Aponte scored on a single by Jayce Easley to give Down East a 9-4 lead. With Osuna on third, Easley stole second (35) and Keithron Moss hit a sac fly to increase the lead to 10-4.
Carolina got one back in the bottom of the fifth but still trailed 10-5.
The bats continued to stay hot for the Woodies, adding to their five-run lead in the top of the seventh. Rodriguez led off with a single and went to third on back-to-back wild pitches during the at-bat of Aponte. With a runner on third, Aponte singled to score Rodriguez for the 11-5 lead. Osuna then singled for his second hit of the game and Aponte went to third. With runners at the corners, Osuna stole second and Aponte stole home to push the lead to seven, 12-5.
After four clean defensive games, Down East committed their second error of the game, leading to two more runs for the Mudcats in the bottom of the seventh to bring the score to 12-7.
The Wood Ducks continued to rip through Carolina pitching, adding two more runs in the top of the eighth. After Inoa reached on a fielder’s choice, Rodriguez blasted a two-run home run to give Down East a 14-7 lead over the Mudcats.
The Mudcats sent a position player to the mound in the top of the ninth and Down East tacked on one more run. Osuna was hit by a pitch and went to third on a single by Easley. Moss hit a sac fly to score Osuna to push the Woodies lead to 15-7.
Rodriguez earned the Suddenlink Player of the Game after a 4-4 effort with a home run and three RBI.
Collyer took the no-decision, pitching three innings, allowing one run on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Mañon pitched 2/3 of an inning, allowing three runs on one hit with two walks and one strikeout. Connor Sechler (W, 1-0) earned the win, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings of work. Spencer Mraz pitched two scoreless innings, with two hits allowed and two strikeouts to secure the win.
The series continues tomorrow with a doubleheader, starting at 5:00 p.m. RHP John Matthews (2-3, 6.75) will toe the rubber for the Wood Ducks in game one and LHP Jason Munsch (1-1, 6.75) will get the start for Carolina. Down East has not announced a starter for game two, while the Mudcats will turn to RHP Miguel Guerrero (4-1, 4.17).
Fans can purchase tickets on woodducksbaseball.com, by calling the Wood Ducks Team Offices at (252) 686-5164 or in the Wood Ducks Team Offices located at Grainger Stadium (Mon-Fri – 9am – 4pm). Make sure to follow your Down East Wood Ducks on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook so you don’t miss anything!