Generals' Offense Struggles In Fifth-Straight Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 21, 2014, 22:40
Aaron Hatch tossed six strong innings while surrendering just two runs in the loss.
PETERSBURG — After suffering a blow-out loss to Edenton Thursday night in a game which ended early after both Generals' coaches were ejected, it was fair to question whether the Petersburg players would have the right mindset in the ensuing days. While the response hasn't resulted in any wins, it's a promising step in the right direction for a team going through its second prolonged slump of the season.
Just one day after being dropped by a 12-2 score by the Steamers, Petersburg traveled to Edenton to play the very same team and held an early lead before squandering it in the late innings to lose 8-6. But the two-run loss gave enough hope the Generals could pick up just their second win in the last nine games.
And for the first four innings, it seemed to be a likely result. Wilmington struck first in the 1st inning as a lead-off walk came around to score to put Petersburg in an early hole. However, the Generals would answer in the 3rd inning as Jerrod Groves' infield single jump-started a mini-rally.
Groves would be sacrificed over to second base on a bunt from Justin Novak and reached third base on an infield single off the bat of DJ Martinez. Then, center fielder Ryan Owens reached base on a 5-4 fielder's choice, allowing the Generals to tie the game. Unfortunately, it would be the last of the Generals' offense.
Petersburg would manage just one hit over the last six innings of action and the Sharks tacked on two additional runs, scoring in the 4th and the 8th innings to send Petersburg to a fifth-consecutive loss in a 3-1 decision.
"Obviously the other night here against Edenton got a little crazy and they took it to us. We turned around and went back to them the next day and played well," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said of his team possibly turning the corner. "I thought we did some positive things by getting some key hits and moving runners ... I think we have a good club and we aren't even done with the first half."
There is a lot of baseball left to be played for Petersburg (5-14) and that's why Aaron Hatch's performance on the mound and the team's overall response to a difficult loss a few days ago is so promising.
Entering Saturday's game, the Generals pitching staff ranked last out of 14 teams in the Coastal Plain League with a 7.12 ERA. Meanwhile, Hatch had not exactly gotten himself off to the best start either, pitching to a 7.79 ERA in five appearances, three of which starts.
Thomas Stallins had one of the Generals' four hits on the a night their offense remained in a slumber.
Yet, even without his best stuff, Hatch was able to give his team both length and a solid outing against the weak-hitting Wilmington (11-12) lineup which ranked last in total offense. Hatch rarely faced much trouble against the Sharks even while falling behind on numerous hitters. The 6-foot-2 right-hander out of Winston-Salem State University was routinely able to fluster the Sharks with an ability to change speeds and location while making the key pitch when needed.
It was most evident in the way Hatch induced two double-plays in the 2nd and 3rd innings to halt any potential scoring opportunity for Wilmington. Hatch's performance was exactly the type the Generals needed and it impressed Wood after the game.
"He did a great job. He didn't have his best stuff and fell behind a lot, but he made some quality pitches which got him out of some big jams," Wood said of Hatch's 6-inning, 5-hit, 3-strikeout and 2-runs allowed outing. "That's also kudos to our defense to stay ready and remain focused because it's really easy to fall asleep when there is constant three-ball counts ... It was a huge reason why we were able to remain so close."
However, remaining close is only part of the battle and truth be told, this was a winnable game for the Generals.
The Sharks, losers of four of their last six games, were ripe to be beaten, but it was the Petersburg offensive failures which led to another loss. The Generals allowed Sharks' starting pitcher Beau Dees to set the tone from the opening pitch. Dees pounded strike after strike through the zone as the Generals batters watched each pass by.
As Dees continually fired strikes, the Generals hitters — already struggling with a .236 team batting average — fall into deep holes before anyone could blink their eye. It resulted in an offensive power outage as the Generals recorded just four hits and pushed across just one run.
Connor Andrus slams his bat in frustration, symbolizing the team's day at the plate.
In fact, over the final six innings of play, Petersburg managed to have just two base runners and had 13 batters set down in order. The lack of offense is concerning on its own, but Wood also sees a team starting to press at the plate. He knows his team wants to prove they are not the Generals teams of old, but the additional pressure isn't making playing the game any easier.
"They are absolutely pressing and when you do that, you're putting too much pressure on yourself," Wood explained. "You're trying to do too many things instead of just focusing on what you can control. Obviously you can't control what Petersburg has done in the past, the only thing you can control is what's happening now ... These guys are continuing to work and not rolling over. As long as they continue to do that and continue to grind, this will turn around. We're too talented not to."
A baseball season is filled with many peaks and valleys, testing even the most mentally tough individuals. The Generals are experiencing one of those valleys over the past couple of weeks, but one hit, one pitch and one run could be all it takes to start experiencing those peaks once again.