Didier Fuentes threw the first pitch of the 2023 season for the Augusta GreenJackets at SRP Park in North Augusta, SC. on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News.
Didier Fuentes threw the first pitch of the 2023 season for the Augusta GreenJackets at SRP Park in North Augusta, SC. on Tuesday, April 11, 2023. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News.

Three outs on base paths loom large in GreenJackets’ one run loss April 18

(Story courtesy the Augusta GreenJackets)

NORTH AUGUSTA – Augusta rallied from an early deficit to tie the ball game in the middle frames but could not take the lead late in a close 4-3 loss to the Carolina Mudcats at SRP Park Thursday.

The GreenJackets have had their best series on the bases of the season, but two picked off runners and a chaotic last play of the game curtailed hopes for a rally. Both the tying run in the ninth and go-ahead run in the seventh were erased on miscues.

Carolina scored first for the only time in three games this series, using a pair of two out walks and a three-run blast from DH Luis Castillo to take an early lead against starter Didier Fuentes in his 2024 SRP Park debut. The ‘Jackets found one unearned run against Mudcat starter Bishop Letson, who lasted three innings due to a preset pitch count. Jacob Godman worked a leadoff walk in the third and scored on a two out error off the bat of Diego Benitez when third baseman Miguel Breceno misplayed a bouncer.

Fuentes settled in after the first frame and worked a total of 4.1 innings with no further damage for his second consecutive no decision. He was succeeded by Beau Philip, who kept Carolina off the scoreboard through seven. Meanwhile, Augusta tied the ballgame in the fifth against Yujanyer Herrera, with an RBI triple from Isaiah Drake and a single from Benitez. Concerningly, Drake was then removed from the game after appearing to injure his hamstring running to third.

Those two runs were all Herrera would surrender in five innings, earning the win out of the ‘pen to move to 2-0 on the year. He controlled the run game brilliantly as well, picking off Leiker Figueroa in the fourth and Cam Magee in the sixth, both of whom were looking to break early and steal a base.

Carolina broke through in the eighth, thanks to speed and hustle from left fielder Yhoswar Garcia. Garcia was caught stealing twice early but made up for it in spades. He led off the frame with a soft line drive to right that he turned into a double by challenging the arm of Jace Grady successfully. Garcia then stole third when Beau Philip was replaced by Zack Austin, and scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Yophery Rodriguez. It made for a tough-luck loss for Philip, who gave up just two hits in a strong three frames of relief.

Jeferson Figueroa came on and earned his first save but not without controversy. With two outs in the ninth, Kade Kern, who had entered the game to replace the injured Drake, chopped a bouncer to third that he beat out at first as the throw went beyond the first baseman Tayden Hall. Kern turned towards second on the errant throw but did not try to move up. Nevertheless, a snap tag was applied by Figueroa who was backing up the play, and umpire Tyler Green punched out Kern for “attempting to advance”. Carolina was the beneficiary, and became the first team in the league to reach double digit wins on the year. They are now at 10-2, while Augusta falls to 6-6.

Carolina will look to claim at minimum a series split tomorrow in a battle of highly touted 2023 draft picks. #33 overall pick Josh Knoth gets his second start of the year after being drafted out of the New York high school ranks. He will face off against Garrett Baumann, fourth round pick from Hagerty High School in Oviedo, Florida, who is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA in two starts on the year.

The GreenJackets are home all week long against the Carolina Mudcats, with tickets still available through Sunday. The fun-filled week includes Teacher Appreciation Day, Dinosaur Day, and Augusta Rams Night, where the ‘Jackets take the field in special jerseys honoring the 1954 Augusta Rams and Leonard Hunt, the first Black player to play professional baseball in Augusta.  

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