Dash Turn Three, Drop One: Triple play not enough to overcome Mudcats

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Dash pitching stranded 11 runners on base, but the offense was never able to put anything much together and they dropped the first game of the series to the Carolina Mudcats, 2-1.

Kade McClure, 2017’s sixth-round draft pick, has been nothing but solid for Winston this season (and for Kannapolis, and for every team he’s pitched for in his entire professional career so far). That continued on Friday night, when he labored at times through long at-bats and gave up some hard hits and some cheap ones, but allowed just two runs to cross the plate over his six innings. 

It wasn’t a bad start by any means, but certainly wasn’t his best start of the season, and he didn’t have his best control. Despite walking only one, he did throw a wild pitch and hit a batter, and eight hits allowed over six innings can snowball into a bad outing. The value in today’s outing came from McClure not allowing that snowball to start rolling, and Dash defense also had a hand in that. 

In the very first inning, the first batter reached on a throwing error and the second hit an infield single to put runners on first and second. The third swung and missed at strike one, then hit a ground ball directly to third on the second pitch. Mitch Roman nabbed it, touched third base, threw to second, one out; Tate Blackman caught, turned, threw to first, two outs; it settled into Andrew Vaughn‘s glove just in time, three outs, Dash triple play.

McClure allowed a deep home run to left field in the seventh and walked a batter, who was stranded. Another run scored in the third, a two-out double scoring on a subsequent single. The next batter singled as well, and McClure stranded both. Two singles, a wild pitch, and a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases in the fifth, but all three were stranded. He gave up a one-out single in the sixth… if you can believe it, the runner was stranded.

Supplementary pitching had a similar experience to McClure: more baserunners allowed than is really comfortable, but all of them stranded, marooned far from home. Andrew Perez, last year’s eighth-round pick who’s been nothing but excellent since his late June promotion from the Intimidators, allowed two singles but left them both on the basepaths. Will Kincanon, who’s just getting better and better as the season goes on, opened the eighth with a walk, then continued on with three straight outs. In the ninth, he allowed a leadoff single (is this all on purpose? Was there a LOB competition among pitchers tonight?), then struck out the side, like he was proving a point. The Mudcats got it.

At the plate, the Dash did their own fair share of leaving runners aboard. The first inning was promising, Steele Walker leading off and immediately following the team’s triple play by hitting his own triple, you know, the kind where you end up on third. In the next at-bat, Roman singled him in, but didn’t get too far himself. And that was it for the scoring; they threatened several times, but nothing else crossed the plate. 

Their greatest missed opportunity came in the seventh, when Johan Cruz and JJ Muno walked to start the frame, Blackman bunted them both over a base, and Evan Skoug walked to load them up. Walker struck out swinging and Roman grounded out to end the inning. They also had life in the ninth, Cruz reaching on a weird high bounce of a ground ball; Muno and Blackman struck out, but Skoug walked to keep things alive for one more batter. Walker swung so hard a couple of times that the crowd gasped, but he grounded to first, making it a close play but not close enough.

Walker and Roman both singled twice with an extra-base hit, the triple for Walker and a double for Roman. Andrew Vaughn singled in his last at-bat of the day, a sharply-hit ground ball through the right side (he hit all of his ground balls today sharply, which came back to bite him when one turned into a double play). Everything that came off his bat, came off at about 120 mph. Cruz singled and walked, Blackman singled, and Skoug walked twice.

The Dash will return for an early Saturday game, Konnor Pilkington on the mound and a start time of 4 pm.

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