Glad to see their five-game losing streak come to an end, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers sent aside the cold stretch with a 4-2 win over the Carolina Mudcats on Thursday night. Over an evening that went in multiple different directions, Fayetteville had 12 hits, a speedy ejection, and another 17 strikeouts on the mound, combined between just two pitchers. As the franchise-long skid closes, Fayetteville avoids being swept for the second consecutive series and can turn their attention to the rest of their roadtrip.
The game got going in a peculiar direction as Bryan De La Cruz grounded out to shortstop against starter Matt Smith. The leadoff man was audibly frustrated at being called out at first base, and his frustration was backed up when replay showed De La Cruz had beaten the throw by a step. In the heat of the moment, hitting coach Jason Kanzler was ejected for the second time this season, only one batter into the game. Missing their hitting coach, Fayetteville was of course slow to recover at the plate, and went down quietly over the first two innings against Smith.
Making his second start of the season against Carolina, Enoli Paredes was hoping for the same success he saw in mid-April when the right-hander struck out a career-high nine Mudcats. Unfortunately, Enoli didn't find that success in the first inning, as he allowed the first two runners of the frame to reach safely. Following a strikeout, Paredes earned a weak ground ball to the left side for a routine double play, but a throwing error allowed a run, unearned, to score before the inning closed. Finding himself in another bind in the second inning with runners at second and third with only one out, Paredes finally locked in, as the flamethrower sent down eight consecutive batters to make it to the fifth inning.
As Paredes built his own momentum on the mound, the Woodpeckers offense found their time to shine in the third inning. The frame started with a bang from Miguelangel Sierra, as the infielder launched his fourth home run of the season to left field to tie the game. Fayetteville was in no way done with Matt Smith at that point, however, as they collected an extra three base hits, including an RBI double by Colton Shaver and a sacrifice fly by Seth Beer. Knocking Smith (1-3) out of the game early, Fayetteville took a 3-1 lead into the fourth inning. In the fourth, the Woodpeckers added an insurance run against Christian Taugner when Beer singled with two outs to score De La Cruz from second base. Leading the Carolina League with 31 runs knocked in this season, Beer is ahead of second place by four RBI.
Working with the new lead, Paredes (2-1) racked up strikeouts aplenty in route to nine total to match a career high that was also against Carolina. Taking the lead in the sixth inning, Cristian Javier carried the torch with ease, logging a pair of scoreless innings to start. Hitting a snag in the eighth inning, Javier allowed a walk and a double to open the frame. Those baserunners eventually became a run when Peyton Henry grounded to third base to score a run and cut the lead to two runs. Javier, emboldened by the blemish to his day, fired strike after strike past the Mudcats for the rest of the night. Cristian struck out the final five batters of the night to pick up the rare four-inning save and close the game for Fayetteville.
With the win, Fayetteville now holds a 16-18 record on the year, but were unable to gain any ground in the South Division standings as the first half of the season approaches its midway point. As the Woodpeckers continue their six game roadtrip, they turn their attention to the Frederick Keys tomorrow. The Keys have been on a quality stretch since they last saw Fayetteville, but the Woodpeckers have won all six games with the Keys so far this year. First pitch for the series opener at Nymeo Field will come at 7:00PM on Friday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.