On the 232nd birthday of the United States, Hickory came away with an 8-4 win over Columbus on Friday, a thorough effort in front of an electric season-high crowd.
With 5,283 fans in attendance at L.P. Frans Stadium for the Independence Day showdown between the Crawdads and Catfish, Hickory starting pitcher Bradly Clapp contributed another solid effort before rookies Jordy Mercer and Matt Hague provided the punch in the Crawdads' eighth win over the Catfish in 11 meetings this year.
Clapp tossed five frames, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits and three walks, striking out a pair en route to his second win of the season. After starting 0-6 this season, Clapp has now gone 2-0 in his last four appearances, including an ERA of 2.63 in his last five starts. It also marked his first home win of the year.
While Clapp kept the 'Fish on a line, Mercer and Hague delivered crucial blows in the contest.
First, Mercer snapped a 1-28 slump with a two-out, two-run double in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie.
Then in the sixth inning, with Hickory ahead 5-2 and looking for the knockout, Hague delivered a two-out, three-run double in his first bases loaded at-bat of the year to give the Crawdads their biggest lead of the night at 8-2.
Columbus' Mike McCormick pounded a two-run home run in the top of the ninth, but the Catfish would never seriously threaten the Hickory lead.
Mercer finished 2-4 with his two RBIs. Hague ended 3-5 with his three runs driven in. Also contributing to the Crawdads cause were Erik Huber, who went 0-4 but scored twice after reaching via walk and fielder's choice, and Matt Cavagnaro -- he went 1-1 and drew three walks, also scoring twice.
With Clapp earning the win, Columbus' Brian Flores took the loss, dropping to 7-4 after surrendering five runs (all earned) on five hits and four walks in four innings.
The win broke a two-year Fourth of July losing streak for the 'Dads, whose last Independence Day triumph came in a 3-2 victory also over Columbus at L.P. Frans Stadium on July 4, 2005.
The crowd of 5,283 shattered the park's official capacity of 4,292 and comfortably trumped the season's previous largest crowd, the 4,802 that came to see local product Madison Bumgarner pitch for the Augusta GreenJackets on April 24.
Hickory now holds a chance to win the four-game series Saturday night in the series and homestand finale. The Crawdads will look to win their first four-game set since taking three from the Catfish at L.P. Frans Stadium from May 20-23.
Hickory will send RHP Duke Welker (1-5, 4.66 ERA) to the rubber to face Columbus RHP Jeremy Hall (2-2, 4.20).
In a continuing celebration of Fourth of July Weekend, the Crawdads will also have fireworks after Saturday night's game, which begins at 7. In addition, the first 1,000 fans at the game receive a free baseball cap.
For tickets and more information, call the Crawdads at (828) 322-3000 or explore www.hickorycrawdads.com.
GAME NOTES: Game time was 3:14. Attendance was 5,283. ...The season-high crowd pushed the Crawdads above 2,000 average attendance for the first time this season. Now only four South Atlantic League teams (Kannapolis, Hagerstown, Savannah, Columbus) own an attendance average of fewer than 2,000 fans per night. ...Hickory became the eighth SAL team to pass the 400-run threshold with its eight runs Friday. The Crawdads entered the game with 396 runs scored in 2008. ...The last time Bradley Clapp had won at L.P. Frans Stadium before Friday was July 22, 2007 against the Hagerstown Suns. ...Austin McClune hit a double in the seventh inning, his first extra-base hit since a double May 24 against the Rome Braves. Meanwhile, Matt Cavagnaro stole a base in the sixth inning, his second of the year and first since May 27 against Rome. ...Hickory enjoys the rare scheduling superfecta in 2008 of playing at home on Opening Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and the last day of the season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.