KODAK, Tenn. (smokiesbaseball.com) -- The Tennessee Smokies returned home from a ten-game road trip in winning style, defeating the Carolina Mudcats 8-5 on Thursday Night. The Smokies out-hit the Mudcats 12-11 in front of 2,331 fans at Smokies Park. Steve Clevenger lead the Smokies’ attack going 4-for-4 with 3 RBI on the night. The win puts the Smokies at 14-7 on the season.
The Smokies bats came out swinging in the first. Ryan Flaherty drove in D.J. LeMahieu with a double to right center, and then Clevenger singled to score Flaherty to extend the lead, 2-0. Carolina answered with four runs in the second—three of them coming after a costly two-out error at second base keeping the inning alive and giving the Mudcats the early 4-2 lead.
After Flaherty and Rebel Ridling singled to start the bottom of the third, Clevenger again came through with an RBI single scoring Flaherty. A Matthew Spencer hit by pitch loaded the bases, and Marwin Gonzalez scored Ridling on a sacrifice fly to center. To end the inning, Spencer was caught in a rundown and tagged out but not before Clevenger could score from third, giving the Smokies a 5-4 lead.
Carolina came back to tie things up in the top of the fourth when Chris McMurray scored on an Alberto Cabrera wild pitch. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the middle of the Smokies order inflicted more damage. Flaherty started things off with a walk, and Ridling doubled for his third hit of the night. Clevenger singled to score Flaherty and Gonzalez came through with a two-out single to score Ridling, putting the Smokies back up 7-5.
The Smokies tacked on a run when Spencer doubled to drive in Clevenger in the seventh, then turned to their defense to preserve the 8-5 lead. With two outs and Carolina threatening in the eighth, pitcher Hung-Wen Chen made a barehanded stop on a hard ground ball up the middle, keeping the Mudcats off the board.
Chen and Marco Carrillo combined to work four scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing only four hits. Marco Carrillo worked out of a jam in the ninth to record his first save of the season. Cabrera (3-0) got the win going five innings, allowing five runs (two earned), while striking out seven.
The series will resume Friday night, as LHP Chris Rusin (1-0, 5.60) takes the mound for the Smokies against RHP Daryl Thompson (0-2, 6.75) for the Mudcats. First pitch is slated for 7:15 P.M. For tickets or more information, visit www.smokiesbaseball.com, or call (865) 286-2300.