Doubleheader sweep puts Pelicans on top of division

pel-skulinaBy scores of 4-1 and 4-2, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, swept their doubleheader against the Winston-Salem Dash at BB&T Ballpark on Wednesday. The two wins move the Birds into the top spot in the circuit for the first time in the second half, placing them a half-game ahead of the Dash in the second half Carolina League Southern Division standings.

Dash right-hander Yency Almonte turned the Pelicans away with three perfect innings to start game one, but the Birds broke open the scoring in the fourth. Chesny Young led off with a double to left, and he scored two batters later when Jason Vosler doubled to right. After a walk, Victor Caratini drove an RBI single up the middle to move Myrtle Beach in front, 2-0.

For the Pelicans (73-48, 32-20 second half), starter Jonathan Martinez also held the Dash hitless through the first three frames. Winston-Salem (61-60, 31-20 second half) collected its first base hit by way of a two-out single from third baseman Trey Michalczewski in the fourth. The Venezuelan right-hander struck out three and walked one in four complete innings of work on Wednesday and took no decision.

Martinez gave way to right-hander Tyler Skulina to start the fifth. In his first appearance since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday, Skulina was greeted by left fielder Nick Basto with a ringing double off the top of the left field wall. He recorded the next two outs, but right fielder Nolan Early shaved the Pelicans’ lead to 2-1 with an RBI single up the middle. Early stole second, but Skulina induced a fly out to preserve the lead.

Skulina (3-4) pitched a perfect sixth inning, and with insurance runs scoring on a solo homer from Kevin Brown and an RBI double by Daniel Lockhart in the visiting seventh, he retired the side in order in the bottom of the frame to cap the 4-1 win. In his first outing with the Pelicans since June 25, Skulina surrendered two hits across his three innings of work, striking out two and not walking a batter.

Almonte (2-2) lasted 6 2/3 innings, surrendering three runs, all earned, on four hits. Jefferson Olacio, who took over with two outs in the seventh, finished with 1/3 innings in the book and allowed an earned run on one hit while walking two and striking out a batter.

The second game of the twin bill began much the way the opener did, with both teams being held hitless through the first three frames. Yet the Birds scored a pair of unearned runs in the third by taking advantage of a pair of Dash defensive miscues. Trey Martin led off with a walk and Lockhart laid a sacrifice bunt up the third base line, but throwing errors by Michalczewski and first baseman T.J. Williams allowed both runners to circle the bases and give the Birds a 2-0 lead.

Dash starter Andre Wheeler retired the side after that, but he was pulled after working three innings in which he struck out three and walked a pair. Both of the runs he surrendered were unearned.

With an RBI double by Basto in the fourth and a sharp RBI two-bagger from Early in the sixth, the Dash tied the game at 2-2 off of Pelicans starter Jen-Ho Tseng. Tseng, who finished with 6 2/3 innings of work and set a new season-high with seven strikeouts, was charged with two runs, both earned, on six hits and a walk and was handed no decision.

Closer Jasvir Rakkar took over on the hill for the seventh and surrendered a two-out double to left, but he stranded the winning run there to force extra innings. In the eighth, the Dash loaded the bases on a single, a double, and an intentional walk, but Rakkar escaped the jam with a strikeout and a ground out.

The next half inning, the Birds loaded the bases on three walks and a sacrifice bunt against reliever Brad Goldberg. Right-hander Euclides Leyer replaced Goldberg and struck out Martin for the second out, but consecutive walks to Lockhart and Young forced in two runs to give the Pelicans a 4-2 lead.

That was enough insurance for sidewinding right-hander David Berg, who came on for the bottom of the ninth and recorded his third save of the year with a shutdown inning to seal the 4-2 win.

With two shutout innings, Rakkar (3-1) picked up the victory while Goldberg (1-3) was saddled with the loss.

The doubleheader sweep moves the Pelicans a half-game in front of Winston-Salem in the second half Southern Division standings with 18 games remaining in the regular season.

The Pelicans wrap up their series with Winston-Salem from BB&T Ballpark on Thursday.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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