(HUNTSVILLE) - Turning a foregone conclusion into actual reality, Alberto Concepcion belted a 10th inning home run to give the Carolina Mudcats a 6-5 victory over the Huntsville Stars, to eliminate them from the Northern Division pennant race, Sunday.
With only the Tennessee Smokies in the way, the Mudcats trimmed their magic number to clinch the title to three. The Smokies stayed in the race with a 10-1 win over Chattanooga.
Seven of Carolina's 12 victories over the Stars this year have come by a single run.
Gaby Sanchez, 5th among Southern League batting leaders, led Carolina's offense with two doubles and four RBIs, including a bases-loaded double in the 7th inning that opened up a 2-1 margin.
The Stars valiantly rallied in the bottom of the 9th, tying the game at five. Building on a fielding error by all-star Chris Coghlan, playing 3rd base instead of his customary 2nd base position, Alcides Escobar lined a single to right, moving Guilder Rodriguez to second. Escobar's league-leading 175th hit puts him one shy of tying the club record held since 1997 by D.T. Cromer.
After relief pitcher Todd Doolittle struck out Angel Salome on a 3-2 pitch, pinch-hitter Michael Garciaparra singled to center to load the bases. Chris Errecart then doubled to left to make it 5-3, Carolina and after closer Chris Mobley struck out Mike Bell for the second out, Freddy Parejo singled in two more runs to tie the game. The inning ended when Parejo was caught stealing with a 3-1 count on pinch-hitter Martin Maldonado.
Steve Bray took the loss after starting the 10th in relief of Robert Hinton, the Stars' 4th pitcher. After retiring leadoff man Andrew Jenkins on a grounder back to the mound, Concepcion jumped on an 0-2 pitch for a home run off a middle-wall ad banner in left field, his first since July 5.
Bray drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the 10th, but Mobley retired the Stars on just three pitches to win the game. Michael Brantley bunted into a force play at second base and with a 1-0 count on him, Rodriguez hit into a 4-6-3 double play.
Mobley, who had earned six saves against the Stars this year, the most since Dale Thayer did the same for Mobile in 2005, earned the win to improve to 5-3. Bray goes to 1-3 with the loss.
Willie Glen, Carolina's starter, did not allow a hit until Parejo opened the 6th with a single to center. He scored on a double by pitcher Donovan Hand.
Hand entered the game in the 5th in relief of starter Mike Jones, who gave up the Mudcats' first two runs in the 1st inning. Jones gave up just two hits over four innings, but walked five.
Weather permitting, Brae Wright (6-10) will face left-hander Graham Taylor (2-0), Monday night.