Carolina Mudcats have cycled to top of standings

08/01/2014 12:00 AM

07/29/2014 4:16 PM

Jerrud Sabourin recently got to check off something that’s on every ballplayer’s bucket list.

On July 19 in Myrtle Beach, the Carolina Mudcats’ first baseman hit for the cycle in a 17-2 annihilation of the Pelicans, the first time a Mudcats player had done it in 12 seasons. And generally it’s a pretty rare thing. For a point of comparison, there have been 285 no-hitters pitched in the Major Leagues (under the traditional rules) and 304 cycles.

The 24-year-old Indiana alumnus and fourth-year pro had six at-bats that night, flying out the first time before a rocket to right on an inside fastball that was his third homer of the season. He then singled twice, tripled to the right-field corner in the in the seventh and hit a ground-rule double to left with one out in the ninth.

“I remember everything,” said Sabourin, who through Wednesday was hitting .297 with four homers and 29 RBI for Carolina in 69 games with a 12-game stint at Double-A Akron in the middle. “It was just a good night of hitting, and I got a little bit lucky. I honestly wasn’t thinking about it. On my last at-bat I knew I needed a double, but I was trying to keep the same approach and just hit the ball hard.

“I’m feeling good about my hitting. I’ve progressed and my numbers are going up. It’s promising and I’m refining my game.”

Manager Scooter Tucker said Sabourin’s approach to the game should be an inspiration to his teammates. “He goes about his business like a professional,” the skipper said. “He’s always prepared physically and mentally to play. He brings some experience, and he’s unselfish. He plays outfield when we need him to, and guys see that. He’s been good for us.”

Hitting coach Tony Mansolino said he likes Sabourin’s mental approach.

“He has settled into himself, knowing himself,” Mansolino said. “Sometimes first basemen feel like they have to hit home runs to play in the big leagues. And he would be lying through his teeth if he said it didn’t cross his mind. He’s human. It happens to everybody. The more Sabes settles in, the more we’ll see how he hit the night of the cycle and the last two or three weeks.”

Sabourin spent all of last season with the Mudcats, hitting .260 with three homers and 54 RBI and playing in the Carolina-California All-Star Game for a team that was a non-factor in the playoff race. This season the Mudcats never got rolling in the first half, going 29-38 and finishing with the weakest record in the league. But through Wednesday, they were tied with the Pelicans in the Southern Division second half race, 21-18, and had the second best season record in the division. If they finish ahead of both Winston-Salem and Salem, they’ll be in the playoffs and the first Mudcats team in post-season play since 2007.

“(The team) is learning the game of baseball better, and progressed in terms of knowing what to do in each situation,” Sabourin said of the improvement. “We’ve done a good job of getting better and hitting better.

“Our improvement speaks to everyone’s maturity. Our pitching has gotten a lot better too, and they’re a huge reason why we’ve had so much success in the second half.”

Tucker said the improvement is mainly due to some good perseverance from his club.

“I don’t know that there have been big changes,” Tucker said. “We’ve done some things better. Our defense has been better and we’ve had some more timely hitting, but I think the biggest factor has been confidence. They’ve expected to compete every night, and for me that’s the biggest thing.

“I like the (two halves) format. If a team starts off poorly the first of the year, it doesn’t bury them the entire year. It gives them comfort. Everybody gets a second shot, so to speak. And a lot of change happens at this level. The team that starts the season sometimes doesn’t look much like the one that’s in the playoffs.”

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