From staff reports
In Zebulon, North Carolina, the Lynchburg Hillcats put together a dominating performance on the mound to stave off elimination and beat the Carolina Mudcats 5-2, avoiding the series sweep Sunday at Five County Stadium.
After giving up a run in the second inning to the Mudcats, who cut Lynchburg’s lead to 3-2 on a bases-loaded walk issued by starter Juan Mota, the Hillcats shut down Carolina hitters.
Mota and relievers Felix Tati, Justin Garza and Aaron Pinto combined to throw seven shutout innings and retire the next 21 batters.
Leugim Castillo broke up the streak in the bottom of the ninth when he singled with two outs, but Pinto sewed up the Hillcats victory with a three-pitch strikeout for the final out.
Pinto earned his second save after his scoreless inning, and Mota (3-3) picked up the win after tossing five innings.
Mota and Pinto allowed one hit apiece, while no batter could record a hit against Tati or Garza.
Mota had trouble early throwing strikes, issuing two walks to start his appearance in the first, which also featured Pat McInerney’s sacrifice fly that put the Mudcats up 1-0. He then gave up a one-out single, walk and hit by pitch to three consecutive batters to set up the bases-loaded walk that cut the Hillcats’ deficit to one run, but tightened up after that.
The Hillcats’ three-run second inning, made possible by several Carolina mistakes, proved to be the difference.
Lynchburg took advantage of two errors and two wild pitches in the inning to go up 3-1. In the sixth and seventh innings, Jonathan Laureano and Gavin Collins each recorded an RBI double to give the Hillcats two insurance runs.
The ’Cats stayed alive in the playoff chase with the win but still sit seven games back of Salem in the second-half Northern Division standings — which determine the final postseason qualifier out of the North — with eight games to play. One more loss and a Salem win would end the Hillcats’ streak of seven straight years making the Carolina League playoffs.
After an off day today, Lynchburg will return to City Stadium to take on Wilmington. Game 1 of the four-game set is slated for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.