Hopewell Lineup Punchless In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 14, 2014, 17:06
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — The Blue Devils baseball team started the season on the highest of highs as they won their first two games of the season in decisive fashion. Hopewell received two great pitching performances out of Trent Scott in a complete-game effort and Cameron Hill's 16-strikeout masterpiece. Yet, the Blue Devils have struggled to put it all together since.
Hopewell lost two consecutive games against Thomas Dale and Prince George with their hitter's flailing at the plate, losing by a combined 28-0 score line. While the Blue Devils found a temporary reprieve with a win over Meadowbrook last week, they quickly fell back to earth in a 14-1 loss to Colonial Heights.
However, the Spring break baseball tournament provided Hopewell a chance to wipe away their past failures and turn around their season before the stretch run and for the first five innings of action, it seemed likely. The Blue Devils took advantage of their rare scoring opportunities against a tough Clover Hill squad by scoring one run in the second inning and one in the third to hold a 2-1 lead entering the top of the 5th inning.
But that's when the game unraveled.
Freshman pitcher Cameron Hill lost command of the strike zone in his second inning of work in relief, walking the first two batters of the inning before committing a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt attempt by the Cavaliers' Ronnie Sherman which allowed two runs to score. It would be all the momentum Clover Hill needed to add four more runs to take a decisive 7-2 victory at Shepherd Stadium.
"The thing that was our downfall was a couple of errors kind of opened the door for them," Hopewell manager Bobby Pershing said after the game. "We gave them the extra outs and that was our undoing. But overall, I'm pleased with our performance since we've been struggling lately especially on defense ... I thought our defense overall was better. I think the guys see now that if you make plays, it keeps the game in perspective."
The loss was all the more surprising given the type of boost Hopewell received out of its recently maligned pitching staff. With three games in four days and with a limited number of arms on the roster, Pershing decided it would be best to piece together the game inning by inning.
Taking the ball for the start of the game was Neeyamyah Nunez and the lefty found himself resembling Houdini on the mound with his ability to pitch out of trouble. The sophomore retired the first hitter of the game before surrendering back-to-back singles to Clover Hill's No. 2 and 3 hitters, putting runners at the corners with just one out.
But Nunez regained his composure to strikeout Stephen Baugham, the Cavaliers' clean-up hitter, before getting Adam Angeloff to groundout to end the inning. Then, in the second frame, Nunez found himself in a two-out bases loaded jam. However, he again made the perfect pitch to end the threat as Brett Jones lofted an easy fly-ball out to center.
Nunez's effort was followed by scoreless innings out of both Will Avery and Scott to get Hopewell through five innings with the lead. Even Andy Howe, who was charged with surrendering three runs in the 7th, found himself escaping Hill's jam relatively damage free, giving the staff something to build off of.
"Our game plan was to use it as a pitching day and try to not let their good hitters see anyone pitcher maybe two times in a row to keep them off guard a little bit," Pershing said of his pitchers. "And for the most part it worked."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
However, the bigger problem for Hopewell has been the lack of production from their offense.
The Blue Devils recorded just two hits in the entire game against Clover Hill, barely making solid contact on many pitches. Jeremiah Rivera's lead-off triple in the third inning marked Hopewell's first hit of the game and he was driven in on a Cameron Hill groundout out to short. But that would be the last hit Hopewell recorded until the 6th inning when Trent Scott led off with a double.
But instead of being able to capitalize with a runner in scoring position, the Blue Devils went down in order to end the inning with three successive strikeouts by Roman Acord, Jordan Lowe and Will Avery. It is just the continuation of a trend which is evidenced by the Blue Devils being outscored by opponents 58-29 this season.
"We had a couple of opportunities with runners in scoring position and didn't get them across," Pershing said of his offense. "I thought that today we hit the ball well with no one on and then when we got people on, we couldn't get the bat on the ball."
After pitching well and compiling some timely defense, Hopewell needs to have their bats awaken to put the complete package together. If they do, the recent string of four losses in five games can turn around in a few at-bats.