The Duke Puts Hickory Back in the Saddle, 2-1
Welker worked into and out of trouble throughout his five shutout innings, prevailing despite numerous obstacles en route to his first win of the season.
Hickory (25-23) saw Columbus (20-27) load the bases with two outs in the first inning before a Welker strikeout bailed the 'Dads out of trouble. The Catfish would proceed to put at least one runner in scoring position each of the first four innings, but Welker escaped unscathed each time.
Meanwhile, Hickory plated the only two runs it would need in the bottom of the third inning.
Bobby Spain and Tom Hagan led off the frame with back-to-back doubles, Hagan's scoring Spain to break a scoreless tie. After a Danny Bomback single moved Hagan to third, a Keanon Simon RBI groundout drove Hagan in to give the Crawdads a 2-0 cushion.
With his double, Spain extended his hitting streak to 14 games, the longest active streak in the South Atlantic League and tied for the fifth-best run this season. Hagan, meanwhile, would later single to make him the only Crawdad with multiple hits in the game.
Columbus' only run would come in the top of the eighth inning, when Greg Sexton's sac fly drove in Shawn O'Malley to cut Hickory's lead in half.
After reliever Matt McSwain retired the side in order in the ninth, including back-to-back strikeouts to end the game, Hickory stood on the preferred end a 2-1 score 24 hours after dropping a game by the same tally.
Welker earned the win for his first victory of the year, improving to 1-1. He finished with five innings of shutout ball, allowing four hits, two walks and striking out two. It was the first time Welker pitched beyond the fourth inning this year and the first home start for the right-hander since opening night on April 5.
Alex Cobb took the loss for Columbus, dropping to 6-3 after allowing two runs (both earned) on six hits and two walks in six innings, striking out five. It was a rematch of a Welker-Cobb duel May 12 at Columbus, one that saw Cobb earn the win before Welker returned the favor Thursday.
McSwain earned the save for Hickory, becoming the fifth different member of the Crawdads staff to record a save this season.
Hickory improved to 8-7 in one-run games this year, while Columbus dropped to 3-7. Hickory has won nine of its last 10 games, the first time this year the Crawdads have had that many victories in a 10-game span.
The Crawdads will attempt to win their third straight series, and second in a row over Columbus, by sending top prospect RHP Brad Lincoln to the mound Friday night.
Lincoln (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will make his second start of the year and his first at L.P. Frans Stadium since leaving an August 6, 2006, start with an oblique injury and missing all of 2007 recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He will take on Columbus LHP Glenn Gibson (1-6, 6.12 ERA), who already has a loss against Hickory this year in a 7-5 Hickory win May 13.
Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. with postgame fireworks in store. Tickets are available right here at www.hickorycrawdads.com or by calling the Crawdads ticket office at (828) 322-3000.
GAME NOTES:Game time was 2:20. Attendance was 2,486. ...It was the fifth time this year Hickory has played a nine-inning game in 2:20 or fewer. The Crawdads' shortest games are 2:12 (4/10 @ Greensboro; 4/30 @ Savannah). ...Tom Hagan is now 7-14 with four RBIs, three runs and three doubles in his four games against Columbus. ...Harrison Bishop combined with Matt McSwain for another impressive effort out of the Crawdads bullpen. Hickory relievers have allowed just eight earned runs in their last 36.2 innings for a collective 1.96 ERA. ...Bobby Spain is now two games shy of Jose De Los Santos' team-high 16-game hitting streak in 2008. The South Atlantic League high belongs to Greenville's Mike Jones, owner of a 28-game run this season.