Hopewell Aggressive In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 7, 2014, 09:49
Trent Scott delivered an RBI double in the first inning on this swing.
CHESTER — There has not been much going Hopewell's way over the course of their 2014 baseball season. The Blue Devils have pitched well on some nights while struggling to hit and vice versa on others. It's what has led to them dropping six of their last seven games entering a rivalry game against Thomas Dale Tuesday evening.
The Knights, winners of six-straight entering the game, sent Collin Fleischer to the mound against a Blue Devils team he has not lost to in his entire high school career. Throw in the fact Fleischer had already shutdown Hopewell this season — he threw a complete-game shutout of the Blue Devils on April. 3 — and the circumstances looked bleak.
Yet, it was the Blue Devils who struck early while putting the pressure on a Knights team seemingly in a fog after an emotional come-from-behind win one day prior. All it took was a span of nine pitches for the Blue Devils to get their first run of the game as Cameron Hill singled on a 3-2 offering and Trent Scott followed with a blast off the left field fence to drive him home on a 0-2 pitch.
While Fleischer would strike out the next two Blue Devils' batters to end the inning, the damage was done. As the Knights jogged off the field, they were shocked and the Blue Devils took advantage. Squeeze-plays, stolen bases and drag-bunts became common-place as Hopewell put the pressure on the Knights to make plays, forcing them into errors and taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the 3rd inning.
However, the Knights would regain momentum as Hill made a mistake on the mound, delivering a 3-1 pitch in the middle of the plate that Fleischer crushed, handing them a lead they would not relinquish in a 13-3 loss at Matt Gwaltney Field.
"The pitcher got a little bit frustrated on their part and we tried to be aggressive early while the score was close," Hopewell manager Bobby Pershing said after the game. "We had a few base-running mistakes, but they were aggressive mistakes."
And it was being aggressive which forced Thomas Dale into making some uncharacteristic errors in the field. Specifically, Scott reached base in the 3rd inning after hustling out a dropped third strike. He would later score on wild pitch, bringing in another run.
The same would happen for Jordan Lowe who flied out to deep right, but continued to run as the ball would be dropped. Lowe would end up scoring as Brandon Scott would reach base on a throwing error by Corey Johnston. However, mistakes and the inability to string together hits, hurt the Blue Devils' chance of stealing a win.
Pershing stayed aggressive all night long, sending Hill in from third base on a wild throw, but the freshman was tagged out at the plate as he tried to tumble over the catcher. Then, there was a missed sign in the 4th inning which led to Neeyamyah Nunez — who finished the night 1-for-3 — being caught stealing. But a team can live with those mistakes, it's the struggle to hit with runners in scoring position which sealed the Blue Devils' fate.
"It was a couple things that took us out of possible scoring situations, but what I told our guys was we need to try to string some runs together in an inning," Pershing explained after the game. "Scoring one run is nice, but if we could still get some production with runners in scoring position which has been our story all year long, it's a different game."
And it would have been a different game because of the pitching performance of Hill on the mound.
The freshman retired seven Knights' hitters in a row following a lead-off walk in the first inning and looked to be on the verge of getting through another inning unscathed after recording two outs in the 3rd inning. With his pitch-count low and a 3-1 count on the Knights' No. 2 hitter, Hill got him to ground to third base with two outs.
However, Hopewell third baseman Will Avery looked back the runner on second and in that split moment of hesitation, Brian Goodwyn was able to beat out the infield hit and set the stage for what would be Fleischer's home run. It was one of those plays which can go unnoticed in the box score but have a big effect on the game.
Cameron Hill impressed on the mound early and with his bat all game long, lacing a single in the 1st inning.
Because as Hill delivered a 3-1 pitch — the game-plan was to not give Fleischer anything to hit — the fastball leaked back over the plate and he didn't miss it, starting a barrage of eight runs for the Knights in two innings.
However, while the Blue Devils made some mistakes during the game, there was also the maturation of a team continuing to improve in each game. The Blue Devils found ways to score, worked the count against a tough pitcher and took the attack to the Knights by playing aggressive, impressing Thomas Dale manager Chris Marshall.
"We have a lot of respect for Hopewell's baseball program because they always come to play," Marshall said. "They never lay down for us or roll over. I have a lot of respect for coach Pershing and the program."
While the final score did not indicate it, Hopewell continued to grow in the loss. They stood up to the challenge of facing one of the Knights' top pitchers and even took an early lead, but the key is now to build off this success and turn it into wins before the conference tournament.