Mudcats sweep Wood Ducks in doubleheader

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KINSTON — Tristen Lutz hit a solo home run in the fourth inning of game two, and the Carolina Mudcats posted a five-run first inning in the opener that stood up on the way to a doubleheader sweep of the Down East Wood Ducks at Grainger Stadium on Thursday.

The Mudcats won the opener 9-5 behind a pair of home runs from Payton Henry before riding Lutz’s solo homer and a staff performance to a 1-0 victory in the nightcap. Both games were scheduled for seven innings.

Carolina moved a pair of games above .500 at 59-57 and sits at 20-27 in the second half. The Wood Ducks, first-half champions in the Carolina League’s Southern Division and leaders in the second half, fell to 28-18 in the second half, 78-38 overall.

Each team tallied four hits in the finale, with Lutz hitting his 12th homer of the year off Wood Ducks starter John King in the fourth. Matt Hardy started and allowed two hits before yielding to Phil Bickford, Cody Beckman and Michael Petersen in succession. Petersen pitched the bottom of the seventh and struck out the side for his second save. 

Bickford earned the win as the first arm out of the bullpen, working two innings and striking out three.

King was saddled with the loss for the Wood Ducks, allowing all four Carolina hits and striking out four over five innings.

Pat McInerney doubled for the Mudcats, while Yanio Perez was 2 for 3 to lead the Wood Ducks offensively.

In the first game, Carolina hit a pair of two-run homers in the first inning as part of its five-run first. Mario Feliciano hit his 18th long ball of the season, and Payton Henry added his own two-run shot later in the inning. Devin Hairston bounced into a fielder’s choice for the fifth Mudcats run.

Henry, who was 2 for 3 with four RBIs, added his second two-run homer in the second.

The Wood Ducks closed to within 7-5 in the sixth, using a pair of RBI singles and a wild pitch to close the gap. However, Carolina picked up a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh on a Wes Rogers single into center field and Trever Morrison’s sacrifice fly to right field.

Peter Strzelecki won in relief  for the Mudcats, allowing four hits over 1 2/3 innings in following Noah Zavolas. Zavolas allowed six hits and struck out four in a no decision.

Anthony Bender recorded the four-out save for the Mudcats, allowing one hit for his second save of 2019.

Reid Anderson was reached for nine hits over four innings en route to taking the loss for the Wood Ducks. All seven runs charged to the right-hander were earned.

Lutz and Henry each had three hits for the Mudcats.

Carolina returns to Five County Stadium on Friday to begin a three-game series with the Salem Red Sox beginning at 7 p.m.