With Winston-Salem trailing by two in the eighth inning, Courtney Hawkins launched a three-run homer that propelled the Dash to a 5-4 victory over Carolina on Sunday afternoon at Five County Stadium.
Hawkins fell behind 0-2 against Mudcats starter Ryan Merritt (9-3), who entered play with the Carolina League’s best earned run average (1.82). He then clubbed a hanging breaking ball beyond the wall in left to give Winston-Salem (13-12, 43-51) its first lead since the third inning.
Cleuluis Rondon and Jacob May set the stage for Hawkins’ heroics with a double and walk, respectively. Keenyn Walker followed with a sharp groundout before Hawkins unloaded his 14th home run of the season. Hawkins has now driven home 62 runs, second-most in the Carolina League.
Carolina (15-10, 44-48) could not muster a rally against Kyle Hansen (6-4), who held the Mudcats hitless over two and a third innings of relief for his team high-tying sixth victory.
As a result, Winston-Salem pulls within two games of the Mudcats for the top spot in the Southern Division’s second half standings. The Dash snapped a four-game skid in Zebulon, while Carolina’s overall win streak came to an end at five games. Winston also became the first club to score more than three runs against Merritt in one game this season.
The Mudcats tallied a run in the fourth, fifth and seventh to take a 4-2 lead after Winston-Salem recorded a run in the second and third. Joey DeMichele’s RBI single knotted the score at one, and Walker pushed across the Dash’s second run with a groundout.
With J.B. Wendelken on the disabled list, the Dash had to turn to the bullpen trio of Brad Goldberg, Sean Hagan and Hansen to work against the potent Carolina offense. Goldberg matched a season high with six punchouts over three and two-thirds innings, while Hagan logged the next three in front of Hansen’s late-inning dominance. Both Goldberg and Hagan surrendered two runs.
Winston-Salem can clinch a four-game split with the first-place Mudcats on Monday morning at 11. The Dash send Tony Bucciferro (6-8, 4.06 ERA) to the hill against fellow right-hander Michael Peoples (6-7, 4.60 ERA). Pregame coverage begins at 10:45 HERE.