The Woodpeckers offense returned to their power-packed roots on Wednesday afternoon, but a poor day from the pitching staff ultimately cost Fayetteville the middle game of their series with Carolina, dropping the Education Day contest, 10-7. Fayetteville knocked two more home runs on the day, and racked up another 13 strikeouts on the mound, timely hitting and plenty of runners in scoring position for the Mudcats did Fayetteville in, as the Woodpeckers see their franchise-worst losing streak extend to five games.
Just as they did in the series opener, Fayetteville struck quickly against the hosting Mudcats. Facing Nelson Hernandez for the third time this year, things opened with the first two batters reaching safely for Fayetteville, and they closed when Jake Adams drove them both in with a double to left field. Hernandez struggled against Fayetteville prior to this outing, allowing three runs in his two other starts against the Woodpeckers. Carolina won each of the two games that Hernandez started against Fayetteville, and quickly took control for this contest as well.
Moving to the bottom of the frame, Carolina pounced on starter Shawn Dubin. Five of the first six batters in the first inning reached safely against the right-hander, with four of them coming home to score before Dubin was able to record two outs. Just narrowly escaping the first inning, Dubin was only given a short break in the dugout as the Fayetteville offense went down quickly in the second inning. Dubin (0-2) was unable to maintain control in the second frame, as he walked a batter and hit three others, allowing two more runs to score before being yanked with only five outs collected.
Jacob Billingsley came out from the bullpen for Fayetteville and pitched well enough to buy time for Fayetteville to chip away at the lead. As Billingsley tossed a scoreless third and fourth inning, Seth Beer brought home a run in the third inning, his league-leading 29th RBI this season, and Bryan De La Cruz took it a step further in the 4th inning with his third home run of the season, cutting the four-run deficit all the way to one, 6-5.
As the momentum shifted toward Fayetteville, Carolina summoned Matt Hardy from the bullpen to try and stop the Fayetteville offense. Hardy (5-0) completed that challenge with ease, retiring all seven batters he faced in the relief appearance, and working in a string of 10 consecutive batters sent down by the Mudcats pitching staff. As the Fayetteville offense once again settled, the Mudcats rebuilt their lead at the plate, finally plating one run against Billingsley, and eventually peppering Tommy DeJuneas for a pair of runs as DeJuneas allowed four of the first five batters in the sixth inning to reach safely. The offensive push from Carolina made it a four-run game once again, 9-5.
With a new pitcher on the mound for Carolina in Michael Petersen, Fayetteville got back to work. After the first two batters were retired, a pair of pitches got Fayetteville a bit closer in the contest, when Beer was hit by a pitch, and Adams followed with the second two-run home run of the day for Fayetteville. Adams finished going 2-for-4 with four runs driven in, his second time this season driving in at least four runs in a single game. Still trailing by two, the offense for Fayetteville ended there, however, as Clayton Andrews faced the minimum while tossing two scoreless frames to pick up the save. Carolina added a run for good measure in the eighth inning from a triple and an RBI single hit by Mario Feliciano.
As Fayetteville sees their losing streak extend, they are still left eight games out of first place in the South Division with Down East also losing today. Needing a win to avoid being swept for their second straight series, Fayetteville will get time to rest before the series finale tomorrow at Five County Stadium, with first pitch coming at 7:00PM.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.