The Lynchburg Hillcats lost for the third straight day Saturday at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, North Carolina, falling to the Carolina Mudcats 5-3 and putting their playoff hopes in serious trouble.
Despite tallying nine hits, including three by Tyler Freeman, and getting a pair of RBIs from Jonathan Laureano, the Hillcats (58-68) still squandered scoring opportunities by stranding 11 runners.
Carolina (64-66), meanwhile, made 10 hits count, scoring two runs on doubles. The Mudcats also scored on two groundouts and took advantage of a Hillcats error for another run.
The sixth inning proved the difference for the Mudcats, who turned a 2-1 lead into a 4-1 advantage.
Lynchburg reliever Yapson Gomez loaded the bases without recording an out to start the inning, and the Mudcats scored when Laureano committed an error trying to make the throw to first for a fielder's choice out. Zach Clark grounded into a double play next, but Eddie Silva — who reached on a single — made it home from third.
Lynchburg pulled within 4-3 an inning later when it turned four singles into a pair of runs, but that's as close as it got, and Carolina tacked on a run for good measure on a groundout in the bottom half of the seventh.
Brice Turang (3 for 4), Wes Rogers (2 for 3) and Payton Henry (2 for 3) combined for seven of the Mudcats' 10 hits.
Kirk McCarty (3-6) took the loss, allowing two runs (both earned) on five hits in his five-inning start. He walked two batters and struck out seven.
Nelson Hernandez (11-9) earned the win in his long-relief appearance. He went five innings, scattered four hits and gave up two runs (both earned), striking out one and walking one.
With just nine games left to play in the 2019 campaign, Lynchburg sits seven games back of Salem in the second-half Northern Division standings — which determine the final postseason berth out of the North — and is on the brink of elimination.
The Hillcats, who play Carolina in the finale of a three-game series Sunday at 2 p.m. at Five County Stadium, entered the season having appeared in the Carolina League playoffs eight straight times.