Hopewell Grabs Early Lead, But Falls Late
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 20, 2014, 21:56
Trent Scott eyes his 1st inning double off the left field fence during Hopewell's loss to Dinwiddie.
HOPEWELL — All season long, Hopewell's baseball team has played great in spurts only to see failures to do the little things cost them a win. The Blue Devils' struggle with runners in scoring position and inability to advance runners over and put the ball into play to score others has been the story of the season. However, the story changed against Dinwiddie.
While the Blue Devils have not been as successful as they aimed to be prior to the season starting — they had won just one of their last 10 games entering play — they are starting to break through as the season comes to a close. All it took was three innings to be completed for Hopewell to prove they have come a long way over the 15-game season.
It all started with Neeyamyah Nunez's double down the right field line to lead off the 2nd inning to put a runner on base, and allow his teammates go to work. Freshman catcher Jordan Lowe stepped into the batter's box, got his sign and laid down a perfect sacrifice-bunt to advance Nunez to third base. Then, senior Andy Howell worked the count to 2-2 before pulling the ball to the second baseman, allowing the Blue Devils to take an early lead.
Hopewell would build off their 2nd inning success in the 3rd inning as well with Cameron Hill and Trent Scott reaching base before scoring on a Roman Acord groundout and a two-out, two-strike single from Will Avery to take a 3-1 lead. However, that would be the last of the Blue Devils' production at the plate as the Generals tacked on five additional runs, sending Hopewell to a 6-3 loss.
"We still made too many mistakes in order to win against a good team, but based on how we performed early in the season to now, I think we've gotten a whole lot better," Hopewell manager Bobby Pershing said after the loss. "We can play good baseball ... we had crucial hits with runners in scoring position, but we also had a couple of situations where we couldn't get anything across, but we're getting better at it."
And it starts with the play of their top-of-the-lineup, most specifically Cameron Hill and Trent Scott.
While Hill did not have his best game of the season, he still managed to find himself on base on three separate occasions — he went 1-for-2 with two walks — to help set-up chances for his teammates to drive him in. Yet, Scott topped him with his production on a day the team aimed to send out its seniors on a high-note.
Scott completed a 3-for-4 night at the plate with a double in the first inning, one run scored and nearly beat out a hard-hit ball to shortstop in the bottom of the 7th inning to keep a Blue Devils' rally alive. His effort was made even more impressive with the way he tracked the ball all the way through the strike zone before unloading with quick wrists to turn on pitches on the inner half of the plate.
Additionally, his unwavering passion for the game and desire to fight until the last pitch — he battled to a 3-2 count in the 7th inning — is what truly impressed his manager even though he was called out at first after hustling down the line.
"I thought Trent had a bang-bang play right there at the end," Pershing said of his No. 3 hitter. "The shortstop made a really good play and it could have gone either way. Unfortunately, Trent wasn't able to be rewarded for his hustle, but it is what it is."
While his team fell to the Generals, Bobby Pershing's squad may have turned the corner.
But the game also could have represented a turning point for Hopewell.
For the Blue Devils to have success in the Conference 26 Tournament next week, they will need production from their entire lineup which they were able to get against the Generals Tuesday night. While it won't show in the hits column, Hopewell was able to both advance runners and drive them in as evidenced by Howell and Acord's RBIs.
Also promising was the two-strike hit from Will Avery and the continued hot-bat of Nunez which the Blue Devils need to lengthen their lineup. It all adds up to a team that has confidence they can make some noise during the tournament, but also knows they need to be at the top of their game while not taking other teams lightly.
"I would like to get into conference play and take care of business early to take the pressure off ourselves," Pershing said of next week's tournament. "We are approaching it from a standpoint of us needing to go out there and playing the way we need to play and let things fall as they will."
For the pieces to fall into a winning puzzle, Hopewell must continue to build off their recent play by coming through in clutch situations and play effective small-ball. If they can accomplish that, the Blue Devils have a chance to capture a conference crown.