Missed Opportunities, Sloppy Play Doom Hopewell
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Apr 18, 2014, 13:14
Cameron Hill has been a bright spot offensively for Hopewell during the team's recent offensive malaise.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — After a dismal effort against Clover Hill Monday morning, Hopewell's baseball team aimed to revert back to winning form against a tough Henrico squad Thursday. And after scoring two runs in the first inning to take an early lead by being opportunistic, it looked like the Blue Devils would be able to overcome the Warriors.
However, the good-start would not last over the final innings of play as the Blue Devils would fail to convert in key chances to take control of a game which was theirs to be won. Hopewell would fail to convert on a bases-loaded, no one-out chance in the third inning with the middle-of-the-order due up. Instead, a pop-out by Roman Acord and strikeout from Jordan Lowe followed.
Hopewell would push across one run on Will Avery's walk, but the opportunity was wasted. It was that type of game for the Blue Devils who battled all game long, even having the bases loaded with one-out in the final frame, but could not take advantage.
The Blue Devils' inability to hit with runners in scoring position, coupled with an eight-error nightmare which gave Henrico more outs, was too much to overcome in a 12-7 loss at Shepherd Stadium.
"There was a couple of innings where we made an error to start and both cases it was a play we should have made," manager Bobby Pershing said after the loss. "Give Henrico credit. Around the errors we made, they put the bat on the ball and got some key hits at key times. It's things we keep preaching to our guys to do in order to stay competitive."
But that has been where this Blue Devils squad has struggled all season long.
The Hopewell lineup has not clicked from No. 1 to No. 9 all year and it has hurt them on the scoreboard as they have now been outscored by a 70-36 margin through the early part of the season. Yet, it hasn't been for a lack of opportunities.
The Blue Devils have created chances to score, but have not been able to pick up the key hit in the critical situations. In fact, Hopewell scored two runs in the first inning and it could have been even more. Rivera reached base on a hard-hit grounder to third base which resulted in an error and was immediately chased home on an opposite-field line-drive from Cameron Hill on a 2-1 offering.
Hill would be chased in after advancing on a fly-out and scoring on an errant throw, but Hopewell's lineup would be retired in order the rest of the way. Then, in the 4th inning, Hopewell again found themselves the beneficiary of some sloppy infield play by the Warriors.
Hill, who finished the morning with a 3-for-5 performance and two RBIs, would once again come through with a base-hit as the Blue Devils found themselves with the bases loaded. But again, an inning which saw five Blue Devils reach base, ended with just three runs scored on one hit.
"We got the bases loaded for the middle of the order and don't get any runs across until there are two outs and then the only way we do is from a walk," Pershing said of the sputtering offense. "When we are in situations like that and don't get anything from the middle of your order ... all those things go hand-in-hand of not being able to win games."
But while the Blue Devils have struggled to get into a rhythm after winning their first two games and struggling ever since, there was still a sense of pride within them as they attempted to stage a comeback in the final frame.
Instead of sending up his normal lineup, Pershing sent up numerous pinch-hitters in the 7th inning and it started a rally. The Blue Devils loaded the bases after Lowe began the frame with a strikeout. Then, with two outs, Rivera worked a four-pitch walk to force in a run and set the stage for Hill to come through.
The team's hottest hitter stepped up to the plate with extreme confidence and jumped on the very first offering as he pulled it down the right field line and into foul territory. Then, Hill eyed yet another fastball — this one on the outer half of the plate — and fouled right back to the protective screen behind the dish.
Hill, already antsy after missing two good pitches to hit, started to swing at a breaking-ball on an 0-2 pitch and could not hold-up as he was called out on strikes, ending the game and the Blue Devils' rally.
"That was in typical fashion to end that game," Pershing said of how the season has gone. "I had one of my better contact hitters up, he just missed the first one in that at-bat and if we get a hit there, a couple of runs, pretty much anything can happen."
Pershing may have been discussing the direction of the game, but it could have easily been in reference to his team's season. Hopewell has dropped five of its last six games, but all it takes is one hit to turn a season around.