Baseball: Ben Carhart sparks Cougars with homer, then gets promoted

All in all, Wednesday was a pretty good day for Ben Carhart.

The Cougars catcher got it started with a two-run, first inning homer that helped the Cougars to a 6-3 win over Quad Cities, and then was informed by the coaching staff after the game that he was headed to High A Daytona.

This will be Carhart’s second stint in Daytona. He played third base there last year and hit .297 as part of a Cubs team that won the Florida State League championship.

“It’s bittersweet almost,” Carhart said. “I have been here all year and have a relationship with every guy here. It’s been awesome and one of the best years I’ve ever played baseball. I can’t be more excited, and I’m excited for these guys, I’ll be cheering them along the rest of the way.”

Carhart came to the Cougars to make the transition from the infield to behind the plate, and along the way hit .269 in 102 games, knocking out five homers and driving in 43 runs. His opposite field homer off River Bandits starter Andrew Thurman (5-8), Carhart’s first since July 11, bounced off the top of the wall in right field and then went over to give the Cougars an early 2-0 lead.

“I rarely swing at first pitches, but there was a guy (Danny Lockhart) on third and I told myself that if he throws a pitch up I’ll just try and get it into the air,” Carhart said. “The infield was at midway depth, and I wanted to get something into the outfield for an easy sacrifice fly, and it worked out.”

The River Bandits plated three runs against starter Paul Blackburn in the top of the third, but the Cougars responded with four in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good.

After Victor Caratini tied the game with an RBI single, Jeimer Candelario drew a bases loaded walk to make it a 4-3 game, and Jeffrey Baez followed with a two-run double to push the lead to 6-3.

With just six hits on the night, the Cougars had very few chances but made the most of them as they went 3-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

“Bouncing back and scoring four after they scored three, at this level their momentum is just shut down,” Cougars manager Mark Johnson said.

Blackburn entered the game looking to join teammate Daury Torrez as a 10-game winner, but lasted just four innings as he allowed three runs on five hits. He was picked up by an outstanding performance from the bullpen, though, as Michael Heesch and Francisco Carrillo combined to retire 15 of the 16 hitters they faced in their five innings of work.

Heesch was credited with the win, moving to 3-1 on the season, as he punched out four River Bandits in his three perfect innings of work, while Carrillo earned his second save, striking out three over the final two innings.

The three-game series concludes at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Duane Underwood (5-4) will make the start for the Cougars.

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