Frustrations Boil Over For Generals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 20, 2014, 09:17
Justin Novak, recently selected to the CPL's Select Team to play Team USA, lines a lead-off single into right.
PETERSBURG — In their first home game in almost two full weeks, the frustration of finding themselves behind early while in the midst of their second prolonged losing streak of the season finally reared its head for the Petersburg Generals.
Already trailing by eight runs in the 5th inning to the Edenton Steamers, Petersburg shortstop David Martinez was the first player to show some emotion. After hearing multiple taunts from the Edenton dugout, Martinez asked the umpire for time before unleashing his own words to the Steamers players lining the top step. The second base umpire immediately ejected Martinez for his actions, but that was just the start of the fireworks.
Two innings later, Petersburg once again found themselves in trouble on the diamond. The home plate umpire made a call on a swing-attempt by an Edenton player which was not thoroughly enjoyed by Generals manager Daniel Wood. He immediately raced out to meet the umpire before launching himself into a lengthy tirade to earn his first ejection in his inaugural Coastal Plain League season.
Then, immediately after he left the field, Generals assistant coach Matthew Laney raced onto the field for his own discussion with the second base umpire. When he was satisfied with his own argument, the Generals followed Laney off the field before the game's completion. As it stood, Petersburg trailed Edenton by a 12-2 score which results in their third-straight loss.
However, the story of the game was not the loss, although the losing-streak is of some concern, but instead chronicling the frustration of a team that is tired of losing and being judged by what their predecessors have done in recent years. This is not the same Generals (5-12) team which finished last season with just nine wins in 52 games.
Instead, this is a team which has shown flashes of ability but also a tenacity and scrappiness about them which showed up in the loss to Edenton (15-4) Thursday night.
"Scrappiness comes from aggressiveness and you saw that tonight," Generals center fielder Jeremy Wolf said after the game. "We want to win and we don't want to be embarrassed. This team wants to win and is tired of losing. It's been hard for us to watch."
Through 17 games, it's been an up-and-down season of playing with emotions for the Generals. After dropping their first six games of the season while struggling at the plate to a tune of a .199 batting average, Petersburg seemed to have put it all together during a four-game win-streak.
What was most impressive about the four-game stint was how the Generals won. They didn't clobber teams or put up crooked numbers, but just combined all three phases of the game in a successful way. The Generals' starting staff delivered in every game while the offense recorded the timely hits. It was the perfect blueprint for a success, but it soon faded thereafter.
Nick Christopher has struggled at the plate this season, but knows both he and his teammates' bats will come around.
With the loss to Edenton official, Petersburg is in the midst of a three-game losing streak and had dropped six of its past seven games. While two of the losses have come by the one-run variety, the other four have been non-competitive. Although the players know they have the pieces to be a successful team, the current streak tests their mental fortitude.
"We just have to keep grinding," Petersburg third baseman Nick Christopher said after the game about the mindset. "Baseball is a very mental game. If you get down, chances are you won't be successful, so you have to stay positive ... We've shown signs of being a good team."
Christopher's correct and one could have seen it on display in the 1st inning against Edenton.
The Steamers entered the game with the CPL's No. 2 ranked offense and immediately backed it up on a three-run home run from right fielder Nick Kranick. However, the Generals did not get discouraged after the shock start against Colin Bigelow who entered the game with a team-leading 1.74 ERA.
Instead, the Generals answered in their half of the inning, getting started on an opposite-field single by Justin Novak. With Novak on first, David Martinez stepped up to bat and quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole. However, Martinez would line the 0-2 delivery from Edenton starter Gunner Kines into the left-center field gap for a double, putting runners on second and third with no-one out.
Ryan Owens followed Martinez with another two-strike base-hit — this one to left-field to drive in Novak — putting Petersburg on the board. Then, Wolf grounded into a 6-3 double-play, but picked up the RBI on the ground-out to cut into the deficit.
Jeremy Wolf is fourth on the Generals with a a .289 batting average, but is most concerned about the team putting it all together.
It's innings like the 1st against Edenton and games where they have picked up the clutch two-out hit to grab a win — all five Petersburg wins have come by one-run — which gives the team confidence they can figure out how to put it all together.
"We haven't been a good team of yet, but we can easily be a good team," Wolf said. "We aren't a Petersburg Generals team of the last few years. This is a really good team, we just haven't been consistent as a team yet."
After frustrations mounted against Edenton and Petersburg's struggles continued, the team's character will surely be tested. If the struggles bring them closer as a team, the Generals could find the consistency they've been lacking to turn around the season.