By Brian Attridge
When the calendar page turns from March to April every year, it marks the sign of two important things – the beginning of Spring weather and the return of America’s pastime, baseball. With flurries whipping around Camel City last week, Mother Nature wasn’t quite ready for either one. Friday night was a different story at BB&T Ballpark, one of the crown jewel edifices of Winston-Salem. On a pristine, 84-degree night, with the unique Winston-Salem skyline sprouting like Spring flowers over the asymmetrical outfield walls, baseball officially returned to Camel City in 2013.
Coming off a roller coaster 2012 season with a disappointing record of 69-71, but hosting the California-Carolina All-Star game, the Dash looked to build on Minor League Baseball’s best home record since 2010 (134-77). Despite a festive mood at the ballpark, the Dash ultimately fell to the Carolina Mudcats on Friday night by a score of 9-7 in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,963 fans.
After getting swept by the Mudcats last weekend in Zebulon (NC), the Dash roared back in Frederick this past week, earning a sweep against the Keys to even their record to 3-3. The Mudcats’ bats have been hot since the season opened last weekend. In the second inning, Carolina put the first run on the board after catcher Charlie Valerio singled home designated hitter Tony Wolters. The Dash evened the score in the bottom of the inning courtesy of catcher Kevan Smith’s opposite field solo homerun to the right field boxes.
The bats for both teams remained sizzling in the third inning. Dash starting pitcher Chris Bassitt labored through the inning, yielding three runs on four hits that allowed eight hitters in the Mudcats’ lineup to have a plate appearance. Dash center fielder Courtney Hawkins, ranked as the 68th best prospect in all of Minor League Baseball heading into season, had a different say in the matter. The parent club of the Dash, the Chicago White Sox, has high hopes for Hawkins, and he demonstrated why by clubbing a monster 366-foot two-run shot over the left field grass hill in the bottom half of the inning to bring the Dash within one, 4-3.
While the Mudcats momentarily cooled down in the fourth, the Dash kept swinging the bats much to the chagrin of Carolina starter Jacob Lee. Designated hitter, Mark Tracy, son of former MLB manager Jim Tracy, lined a double down the left field line to bring-in right-fielder Mark Haddow to tie the game at 4.
The see-saw battle was far from over in the fifth inning. On back-to-back doubles by Wolters and first baseman Jerrud Sabourin, the Mudcats regained the lead, 6-4. However, the Dash were not going to let the evening end without taking the lead. First baseman Grant Buckner’s two-run double in the six tied the game up once again. To tip the scale in Winston’s favor, third baseman Chris Curley tapped into a fielder’s choice, which allowed the Dash’s seventh run to cross the plate, making the score 7-6 in favor of the home team.
Playing villains to the sold-out crowd at the ballpark, the Mudcats were able to piece together consecutive singles in seventh inning off Dash reliever Max Peterson. Mudcats left fielder Bryson Myles then poured the night capper on the festivities, mashing a three-run homer to left field, putting the Mudcats in the driver’s seat for good, 9-7. A trio of Mudcat relievers – Owen Dew, Enosil Tejeda, and Jeff Johnson – shut down the Dash hitters in the final three innings, with Johnson notching his second save of the season.
The loss dropped the Dash to a record of 3-4 on the young season. The sold-out crowd didn’t have to leave the ballpark with sad faces as an impressive fireworks display ended the opening game festivities. If Friday night’s game foreshadows anything, then Dash fans will surely be treated to an entertaining spring and summer full of baseball.
- After this weekend’s series against Carolina, the Dash will be home for an eight game home-stand beginning Thursday, April 18th.
- The Dash fell to 2-2 in home openers at BB&T Ballpark.
- With Friday night’s win, the Mudcats improved their record to 5-2, best in the Carolina League.
- Last season, the Dash owned the Mudcats with a record of 14-6, including an impressive 8-2 record at BB&T Ballpark.
- Chris Beck (0-1, 0.00 ERA) will start for the Dash on Saturday, while Shawn Morimando (0-0, 0.00 ERA) goes to the hill for Carolina. Game time is 7:00 p.m.
- In the Sunday matinee at 2:00 p.m., it’ll be Terance Marin (0-0, 4.15 ERA) for Winston-Salem versus Will Roberts (0-1, 10.50 ERA) for the Muddies.