By Darren Headrick / Carolina Mudcats (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ZEBULON, N.C. —Ryan Merritt matched a career-best with eight innings on Sunday afternoon and the Carolina Mudcats rewarded the effort with a 6-1 victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at Five County Stadium. The Mudcats (3-1, 32-39) collected 12 hits. The Pelicans slip to 2-2 in the second half and 46-26 overall.
Merritt (7-2) takes home his first win since May 22 by limiting the Pelicans to a run on three hits. Preston Beck was the only batter to reach for Myrtle Beach before the eighth inning. Beck finished with a single and walk against Merritt. The southpaw finished his day after 87 pitches. He walked one and struck out five.
Victor Payano (3-4) absorbed the loss after allowing a run on seven hits. He walked one and fanned a batter.
The Mudcats staked a 1-0 lead off Payano in the third. Levon Washington began the inning with a single and moved to second on a base hit by Todd Hankins. Washington advanced to second on a double play. Yandy Diaz chopped a single over the head of shortstop Hanser Albero to plate Washington as part of four RBI on the day.
Merritt held the advantage through six innings before Carolina’s explosive offense erupted in the seventh. The Mudcats scored five runs on five hits against Cody Buckel and Cody Ege. Alex Monsalve started the frame with a single and stole second. A single by Luigi Rodriguez advanced Monsalve to third. Buckel bounced a wild pitch, scoring Monsalve.
With two out, Hankins and Erik Gonzalez drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Diaz delivered the knockout punch with a three-run double to the left corner. Joe Sever followed with a single to right that score Diaz for a 6-0 lead.
Luis Mendez ended Merritt’s shutout bid with a two-out double in the eighth. Jose Cardona managed to score from first by avoiding the tag at home.
The Mudcats go for their first series win against the Pelicans since 2012 on Monday night. First pitch at Five County Stadium is set for 7 p.m. and gates open to fans at 6 p.m. Tickets and other information are available by calling the box office at (919) 269-2287 or by logging on to carolinamudcats.com.